We loaded up the little Jamestown Ferry to cross the bay. This time, we weren’t headed to Doris Duke’s mansion on Aquidneck Island; a lavish concert on Rose Island was the destination of the evening. I had never been to the tiny, 18 acres island.
I was so excited to climb up the rickety, rusted ladder, to the top of the light. From there, the view of the wind wrinkled ocean was magical. The Newport Bridge was glowing.
The dark history consumed me as I was standing on the same island that so many suffered on. Besides being used during World Wars I and II as part of the Navy Torpedo Station where explosives were stored, Rose Island had another purpose:
QUARANTINE THE DYING!
The barracks were used as a quarantine station during a 1823 outbreak of cholera on Newport. Victims of these epidemics along with military men who died in Newport are believed to inhabit a number of unmarked mass graves. In the late 1800s, witnesses reported “ghouls” stealing bodies from the island in the name of medical research. However, today, no one knows where these bodies are located…
“Rose Island” because at low tide the island appears to be shaped like a rose.