Another interesting stone

Hello everyone,

I am sure you have been enjoying some of our historical blog posts, but today I thought I would simply update you on what we have been doing. For the past few weeks after we finished our Scottish site – by the way, the transcript from the stones found at the site has been released, which can be found HERE – we went around the old sections of the cemetery, probing for stones, finding stones, and repairing stones.

One of the discoveries our team made was also the gravestone of Charles Sturgess. Alyssa, MacKenzie and I initially thought it was a small project, which turned out to be wrong. Our initial evaluation was that it merely needed a simple repair.

The initial state of the stone

We planned to simply attach the piece fallen off from the footstone back on it and raise the footstone a bit. But as we were edging around the footstone to raise it up, we were hitting another stone. We weren’t really sure what could be there because there normally isn’t a thing between a headstone and a footstone. What we discovered was something completely unexpected. There were two stones that ran across from the headstone to the footstone. And the ends of the stones were attached to the headstone and footstone! (I will now refer to these stones as “borders”) So, as it turned out to be a bigger project than Alyssa, MacKenzie, and I have anticipated, Peter and Jonathon joined us to help.

After digging out all the dirt around the stones, we realized the borders made the grave look like a child’s crib. It was something that I had never seen. Our team eventually brought up the borders and footstones; cleaned stones; repaired any damage (including our initial objective – attaching the part of the footstone that had fallen off. We suspect that there used to be a garden in the empty space. We do not think that we can re-create the garden that was there, but we are planning on making it look better than how it looks in the picture for sure! We have poured top soil on it and we will be planting grass seeds in the near future.

After finishing repairing the stones. We just need to remove the clamp!

A few days later, I went on to London Room in the Central branch of London Public Library to research little more about the person buried in the grave stone. The plot belonged to Charles Sturgess, who passed away at the age of four. Due to this age, my research was not as fruitful as I hoped it to be. However, there were few things I found out. Charles was born in Croydon, Surrey, England. And his family, of course, was part of the Church of England. It seems that his family moved from England to London, Canada after 1871 since the family does not appear on census records. However, City directories from 1873 indicate that the family was definitely living in the area by 1873, a year before Charles’ death. Charles died from diseases called croup (official medical term: laryngotracheobronchitis).

Obituary section of London Free Press, announcing the death of Charles Sturgess

Croup is a type of respiratory infection that occurs mostly among children between the age of 6 months and 5. Croup’s initial symptoms are very similar to common flu. It causes a patient to cough, fever, and runny nose. I, personally, had never heard of the disease named croup prior to conducting this research. I learned that croup is still fairly common in nowadays, but it is preventable with a vaccine. Before vaccination, croup was often related to diphtheria and was very fatal.

Now, that is the end of the story I wanted to share for today. But before I end the blog, I would like to inform you that we have found ourselves another big project. I no longer have space to elaborate this big project on this blog so I will leave it to the next person who writes a blog post. So stay tuned!


Byzantine Catacomb Art and Victorian Symbolism

The Victorians and the Byzantines were both vastly different societies, yet to compare the ways in which they approached death and mourning is extremely interesting. The Victorians, the English who lived during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901), were very strict about their funeral customs. The Byzantines, on the other hand, were the Eastern part of the Holy Roman Empire that surrounded the Mediterranean. This empire lasted significantly longer than the Victorian era, from 330 CE – 1453. While extremely different in their methods of burial, especially interesting was just how similar they were about the decoration of their loved one’s final resting places.

Whereas Victorians predominately buried their dead similar to how we would today, cremation was the principal method of burial for the Byzantines until the 2nd century. The transition to inhumation (to inter the dead) only came when it became difficult to find fuel for the fires. When cremations ‘died out’, the development of catacombs became important in the Holy Roman Empire due to lack of available surface space. While cremation was the most efficient and space-saving method, catacombs were the next best choice. The Byzantines hired individuals to dig their catacombs, called Fossors, and they very quickly transitioned into quite elaborate burial spaces. The surface area of the walls allowed for loved ones to create elaborate funeral art for their deceased, art that would represent the ideals that were most dear to them. The artwork used primarily depended on their religion and while it was possible that multiple religions would use the same catacomb, each chamber would often be dedicated to separate religions.

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A Fossor at work. 

Byzantium’s beginnings were not in Christianity, but in Paganism and Judaism, but all three religions are represented in their catacomb artwork. As Christianity was illegal in Rome until the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, Christians would often have to hire Pagan or Jewish artists and ask them to paint scenes from the Old Testament, as they followed both the old and the new. They would also adopt pagan motifs as a way to not raise suspicion. The fish (Ichthys), had been used by many religions prior and had therefore not risen suspicion. The story of Orpheus was often used to represent Christ. One of the most famous aspects of the Orpheus myth is the story of Orpheus’s  descent into Hades to rescue his love Eurydice, who had been snatched from him by an untimely death. While he was ultimately not successful in recovering Eurydice, he himself emerged from the underworld alive. This particular aspect of the myth resonated with early Christians, who saw this as an allegorical reference to Christ’s descent into and return from the fiery depths of hell. Orpheus thus became a symbol of victory over death, and a symbol of eternal life.

Orpheus as Christ. Catacombs of Marcellius and Peter. Rome.

Once it was legalized, scenes from the New Testament, such as Jesus and the Woman of Samaria at Jacob’s Well, became popular. Also used were the symbols of the dove, the anchor, and the cross (Christos). All of these symbols had profound meaning, often taken from scripture. For instance, the anchor a symbol of hope in future existence because the anchor was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety. In other words, it represents Christianity’s firm belief in eternal life, their hope of their future existence in heaven.

Woman of Samaria at Jacobs Well – Via Latina Catacomb, Rome. 
The Fish and the Anchor – St. Pricilla Catacombs

Another central theme to Christian Catacomb art was death and resurrection. Through the use of Old Testament imagery, they focused on alluding to post-death salvation. An example of this is the story of Jonah being swallowed by the fish, then three days later being vomited back out. This was seen by early Christians as a resurrection story. The message being: “Save me [Lord] as you have saved Jonah from the belly of the great fish.”

Jonah being Vomitted from the Great Fish – Resurrection Icon. Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter. 

Jewish frescos would often depict a Menorah, the Arch of the Covenant,, the Shofar (horn), the Lulav (branch/twigs), etc. They would also use scenes from the Old Testament, often making it difficult to tell the difference between a Jewish and Christian tomb.

Typical Jewish scene from the Catacomb in Villa Torlona. Two Menorahs flank the Arch of the Covenant. The Shofar, Lulav, and etrog (fruit) are all depicted. 3rd Century CE. 


Jewish Catacomb Art. Villa Torlonia.



Jewish Catacomb. Vigna Randanini.

Pagan artwork would use the symbols of the Putti, the peacock (immortality as the peacock’s flesh did not decay, or so they believed) and the phoenix (rebirth), while also taking scenes from Roman/Greek myths and legends to declare their beliefs. For instance, the scene of Hercules leading Alcestis to her husband Admetus in the Catacombs of Via Latina. This scene is commemorating a wives loyalty to her husband during his illness, that she would have given up her life to save him, as Alcestis does for Admetus in the legend (see below). Though it should also be mentioned that both Judaism and Christianity took pagan symbols and shaped them for their own, as can be seen in the photo above this paragraph where a Jewish catacomb is showcasing icons of the peacock.


Hercules leads Alcestis to Admetus. Via Latina Cubiculum N. 


As can be seen, unlike Victorian monument symbols, there is no virtually no reference to sorrow or mourning in Byzantine catacomb art. The majority of the focus is on the religiosity, the life that the deceased lived, or their death and resurrection (which was not considered something to be in sorrow about).

The Victorians, however, seemed to do the opposite. Not much of the artwork decorating their monuments is overtly religious, though much of it has religious connotations. Icons such as the willow tree, the rose, the laurel and clasped hands are extremely common at Woodland Cemetery, and each of them has a separate meaning. As Levi mentioned in an earlier post, the Victorians were fixated on symbolism, and when they erected a gravestone for a loved one, they wanted to make sure it reflected something of that person’s disposition, their career, their relationships, or their life. The willow tree, symbolizing mourning, is an example of how much Victorian death rites focused on the mourning and loss that the loved one’s family was feeling. A broken column stands for an individual who was cut off in the prime of life, often the head of the family. The clasped hands were religious as well, showing the hope of re-unification in the next life.

Clasped Hands
Willow Tree

Overall, although the two societies lived centuries apart, there are commonalities in their mourning customs. Byzantine art, while overtly religious, often has hidden meanings about the deceased’s life. Victorian symbolism, while not usually obviously religious, also was carved in the belief that the monument should reflect not only the life of the deceased but the sorrow of the loved ones. Both used artwork as a way to depict a life lived and lost, and to show their dedication even after death.

Sidenote: Thanks for reading this blog post! I know that it’s different from other weeks, but we spend so much time with Victorian symbols that I thought it would be interesting to see how a different culture would approach mourning artwork.



Mobile Tour and New Stones

Another week, another mobile tour. Yesterday we had the pleasure to be welcomed by Chartwell Riverside Residence. As usual, it went swimmingly, and the residents were extremely interested in the stories that we were sharing. These mobile tours are fun because it gives us a chance to continue to share our research with the public, and it also gives us a bit of a break from the heat!

Speaking of working in the heat, Alyssa, Sunny and I have been working on uncovering and repairing another stone that we found broken in section R. At first, we thought it may be an easy fix, as it seemed to be already uncovered and a clean break. When we set out to level out the base, it seemed that our assumptions were wrong. The proper base of the stone was a little more than a foot underground, and a substantial part of the inscription was with it.

Once we were able to get the base out of the ground, we added limestone screening to the whole in order to properly level out the ground underneath. One issue that we typically have with this step in the process is that the sections that we work in there are a lot of hills. This makes it a little bit of a longer process to level.

After placing the stone into the levelled hole, we were able to begin repairing the stone. Since it is relatively thick (more then 2 inches wide), the team was able to practice our skills in pinning. Peter explained this in a previous week, so I won’t go into extreme detail, but pinning just allows the stone to become more stable then it would be if we just used epoxy. While this method is widely used in the monument restoration community, it is not one that we have utilized a great deal over the summer. Therefore, I was not comfortable with it at first, especially since we have to use power drills to make (3) two-inch holes into each side of the broken pieces. I am always nervous that I will break the stone. Thankfully, we were taught how to do it correctly and we haven’t had any issues yet!

You also may be wondering why the stone in the above-far-right photo is slightly red – we use lipstick in order to make the holes on each side of the stone in line with each other! It was a funny experience asking Eric, who is in charge of the grounds-crew to pick us up some. We kept insisting on specific shades and brands, so much so that he didn’t believe we actually needed it at first!

The final step of the process after drilling the holes is to put the fibre-glass rods into place. The combination of the fibre-glass rods and a bit of epoxy allows the stone to become stable and it won’t fall down once placed upright. See photos below. The clamps on the stone just hold it in place until the epoxy can completely dry!

Last bit for today, we have completed another step of our Scottish Cemetery project! For the walking tour, we had to quickly place the stones into the sandbox, as we wanted as few tripping hazards as possible. Unfortunately, that meant that we would have to go back and move around the stones enough for us to fit seven more stones in the box. It took us awhile, but we finally got it all done! The only step left is to place the seven stones that we wanted upright into the area of the mass grave site. For this, we have to wait until proper keys are made, and that is the part that takes the longest!


Anyway, that is it for today. Thanks for following along with our weekly adventures!


A little bit on cemeteries…

For the final blog post of the week, I thought I would talk a little about the history of cemeteries. Since we work in one, it seemed overdue that we talk a little bit about the history of cemeteries in London as well as Woodland Cemetery in particular. There is a fantastic short history of Woodland Cemetery written by Levi a couple years ago that gives a brief overview of the movements of St Paul’s Cemetery from 1849 until the mid-1880s when the graves were settled in their final resting places.

Now, this summer has been quite the learning experience for me, as I have discovered a great deal about the history of London. Our team has had several visits from local historians, and our boss, Paul, is extremely knowledgable about much of London’s exciting history. The 1832 Cholera Epidemic – while the mortality rate was not exceptionally high, Londoners such as Dr Elam Stimson (mentioned in a previous blog post), lost loved ones and suffered through the epidemic as London was still a small, but growing city. The 1874 Komoka Train Fire, where a train car caught fire on its way from London to Sarnia. We only discovered this disaster as a memorial stone for two of the victims of the fire is located in Woodland and somewhat describes the incident (the rest of the story had to be researched from the Komoka Railway Museum’s website, but as someone who loves to learn about trains, this was no issue for me).19911695_10209276870215330_1580958185_o

The Victoria Day Disaster in 1881, when a steamship carrying 650 passengers capsized in the Thames and over 180 died in the disaster, many of whom were buried at Woodland Cemetery. Severe natural disasters, the Deluge of London West in 1883 and the Great Flood of London (1937) and fatal building collapses speckle London’s rich history and traces of them and their impacts can be seen at Woodland. While these stories are all extremely interesting and tragic, one can’t help but ask what these disasters have to do with cemeteries. Cemeteries are the resting places of the victims of these kinds of disasters. Through mourning practices of the time period, historians and the public can glean an idea of what life was like in different eras,

Cemeteries and the burial and mourning of the dead are centuries-old traditions that develop differently around the world based on available resources, religion, and cultural practices. We know of many burial practices for the ‘rich and famous’ of the ancient world. From mummification, and the great pyramids in Egypt and all the treasures they hold, the Terracotta Army protecting Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife, and the Mausoleum of Augustus, which houses many Roman Emperors.

In the late-Medieval and early modern period, we come across many more elaborate and fantastical monuments and burial tombs for the prosperous. Westminster Abbey, the Taj Mahal, and more modern cemeteries such as the Arlington National Cemetery, house royals, government figures, and other prominent societal figures. But what about the common people?

Also known as “grave fields”, prehistoric cemeteries varied based on geography, and the religion and culture of the society. The ancient pagans used many of the same burial rituals, such as burial mounds, shaft tombs, and cremation.

bahrain burial
Ancient burial mounds in Bahrain, photographed in 1956. From

The Zoroastrians in Persia used ossuaries, often stone boxes where the remains of loved ones would be interred after they had decomposed, in order to preserve burial space. Over time, these ossuaries evolved to become much more elaborate (see the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic).

Much of the following information about Woodland Cemetery can be found in a wonderful brochure created by Levi, which I would highly recommend! Woodland Cemetery was not established until 1879, but we have graves from many years prior to the opening of the cemetery. These older graves comes from St Paul’s Cemetery, which was originally located right on the church’s grounds. In 1849, it was determined that the cemetery and all of its contents should be moved outside of town limits to where the Western Fairgrounds are today. It is also interesting to note that a cemetery located in a church yard is more commonly referred to as a graveyard and that a cemetery not within a church’s yard cannot be a graveyard (all graveyards are cemeteries but not all cemeteries are graveyards). The movement of many of the graves was due to overcrowding within the downtown area of London (the desire to allocate space for the living rather than the dead), and sanitation issues. Having water for city inhabitants running through a graveyard would be damaging to the health of people and could cause dangerous outbreaks of disease. So it was decided that they would be moved far outside of town limits where St Paul’s had purchased land for this purpose. The cemetery continued to function much like the cemeteries of the time. It had family lots for purchase and a Potter’s field, for those unable to purchase lots themselves. However, within 30 years, the city’s expansion overcame the new cemetery and St Paul’s looked to the west end of the city to build their new cemetery. In 1879, they purchased the land where Woodland stands today, established their Victorian park-style cemetery, and moved all the graves from the Western Fairgrounds, which took six years to complete!

A streetcar on the Springbank Line c.1896. Woodland Cemetery is located on the right and the Thames River is on the left. Photo is from the London Room at London Public Library.

This all seems fairly ridiculous to us now. How could they keep moving a cemetery, filled with hundreds of bodies and gravestones to each new plot of land without missing any? They didn’t! Gravestones break in transit, particularly the tall, flat gravestones of the Victorian age, keys (the bottom part of the grave that goes into the ground and keeps the actual stone upright) were often taken and repurposed, leaving stones lying flat on the ground over the burial. Bodies were missed, stones misplaced, but it is still quite impressive that they moved so many without the technology and machinery we have today.

In the Victorian Era, mourning practices were extremely important. Queen Victoria herself had inspired a certain style for commoners in her realm to follow; wearing black, sombre gatherings, and the commissioning of detailed, personalized monuments for the dead gained popularity among the people of London, Ontario. The end of the American Civil War in the 1860s and the completion of the railroad in the late-nineteenth century allowed for more sturdy material to be brought in for building gravestones. Marble came in from quarries in Vermont, largely replacing the older sandstone gravestones as it was less likely to erode and break, and was more aesthetically pleasing.

This post is becoming a little bit long and I wanted to include more about the week we had so I will have to conclude the history of cemeteries another week. Stay tuned!

This week was much of the same, but the poor weather conditions prevented us from mortaring and gluing stones. So we had a couple of research days and did what we could at the cemetery, cleaning and using putty to seal multi-level monuments back into place. We also got to visit the Museum of Ontario Archeology on Wednesday, which was a great deal of fun! We spoke to the archeology summer campers and got to tell them all about tombstone archeology. The campers had a lot of really good questions and they were a great audience!

I came across an interesting article while researching cemeteries, so if you’re interested in reading up on pet burials, here is a short article on interesting cases of animals being given ritualistic burials.

Victoria Grace Blackburn: London’s (Original!) Literary Powerhouse

For my historical blog this week, I want to talk about a woman whose gravestone I often wander by: Victoria Grace Blackburn (pen name: FanFan). Though her biography hints at a fascinating life, I get the feeling that she was someone who you would have had to meet in person in order to truly feel the force of her personality.


As you may be able to tell from the name, Victoria was part of the Blackburn clan who founded the London Free Press. She was born on April 17, 1864 as the fifth daughter of Josiah Blackburn and Emma Jane Delamere, in Quebec. As a young woman, she studied at Hellmuth Ladies’ College in London, where she likely learned her passion for letters. After she graduated, she worked as a teacher in the United States, following her desire to remain in an intellectual environment (in one of the only stations an intellectual woman could occupy, at the time).

Fortunately for Miss Blackburn, her family’s newspaper provided the perfect opportunity to launch her career in another direction. In 1894, she began occasionally writing for the London Free Press while she embarked on studies of journalism, theatre, and literary criticism in New York and Europe. Being unmarried, she travelled the world with her sisters.

By 1900, Victoria had become the full time literary and drama critic for the Free Press. Having natural talent as well as fortunate station, she quickly became one of Canada’s leading and well-known critics, her fame spreading beyond London’s city limits.

She was an important player in London’s cultural scene, but one gets the sense that the town wasn’t always the right fit for her. Being well travelled, she often commented on London’s lack of growth, publishing (loving) criticisms such as “[London is a city that] has not believed sufficiently in herself” in the Free Press. Regardless of some detractors she gained in this manner, she became the managing editor of the London Free Press in 1918, and remained in that position until her death in 1928.

Though some believed that her success was due only to her family connections, she had many professional admirers, and gained praise (like that below, published The Editor) not only for her reporting work but for her literary endeavours.

“A writer with a large brain and a big, warm heart: a twentieth century thinker, with the individuality of original thought and expression: a poet just beginning to realize her gift, and its underlying responsibility: one of the best equipped of our literary and dramatic critics, and with the faculty of logical and comprehensive interpretation–altogether, a distinct force in the intellectual life of the Dominion, of whom much may be expected.” –The Editor.

In addition to writing for the newspaper, Victoria also authored several poems, a novel, and two plays. Her expansive style ranged from satire to tragedy, and she explored themes such as ill-fated love, sacrifice, war, and loss. While none of her work ever reached the level of fame that would have caused it to be well-known today, many of her original hand-written manuscripts are still housed at the Archives at Western University. (Fun fact: after her death, her sister Susan M. Blackburn established a fund, bequeathed to Western University, to purchase Canadian literature in both English and French in memory of her sister Victoria)!

Blackburn’s most critically acclaimed work was The Man Child (published in 1930, 2 years after her death). A novel about the First World War, it is much more serious than many of her other works. The novel follows Jack Winchester, a Canadian boy who leaves London for the trenches of France during WWI. Though its tone is sometimes celebratory of the war (a common attitude of the time), it chooses to celebrate the soldiers who gave their lives over any grand nationalist cause. Many Londoners enjoyed the book because it was a thinly veiled portrait of our city (and the nearby hamlet of Byron), acknowledging the war as a personal and painful experience rather than just a far-away event.

In addition to being a literary powerhouse, she was also active in her community. She founded the Women’s Canadian Club and was the president of the London Women’s Press Club; she was a participant in London’s own little theatre scene as well. She lived at 652 Talbot street with three of her sisters, where a historical plaque still stands to mark her significance.

In 1928, at the age of 61, Victoria suffered a lengthy illness: uterine cancer. She spent the last few weeks of her life in St. Joseph’s Hospital, likely surrounded by her many friends and remaining family members. She died on March 4, 1928, and was buried in Woodland Cemetery (in the Blackburn plot in Section S) shortly thereafter.

Death Certificate.png

More fortunate than many other Confederation Era Canadian writers, much of her work has survived to the present day. Below is one of her poems, published during WWI, which may give us a feeling for her literary style as well as her compassion:


Epic of the Yser
Dead with his face to the foe!’
From Hastings to Yser
Our men have died so.
The lad is a hero–
Great Canada’s pride:
We sent him with glory,
For glory he died–
So ring out the church-bells! Float the flag high!

Then I heard at my elbow a fierce mother-cry.

On the desolate plain
Where the dark Yser flows
They’ll bury him, maybe,
Our Child of the Snows:
The message we sent them
Through fire and through flood
He signed it and sealed it
To-day with his blood–
United we stand! Our Empire is One!

But this woman beside me? . . . The boy was her son.




The Russian Flu Pandemic 1889-93

As Peter previously mentioned in Friday’s blog post, we discovered the gravestones of 3 young girls, Mary, Minnie, and Clara, last week. Initially, we thought they were orphans from the Protestant Orphan’s Home due to the small size and lackluster appearance of the markers, but soon discovered that they were in fact, sisters. Their cemetery plot had been purchased by their father, James Perkins. Given this information, and the short period of time in which they died (January-March 1891), we concluded they must have died from some kind of contagious disease.

MacKenzie suspected that they could have died from the Russian Flu, as the time of their deaths occurs shortly after the disease reached the big cities in Canada, including London. This lead me to research more on the Russian flu epidemic, particularly its presence and impact in Canada.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information about the Russian flu (even though it caused around one million deaths worldwide – in relation to today’s population, it would be around 420 million people suddenly dying), let alone the Russian flu in Canada. It reached major Canadian cities in early 1890, including Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, and even London. The image below is a map compiled by a team of international scholars in the early 1890s, showing the spread of the flu across the globe.

This image from <> tracks the arrival and movement of the flu across the globe.

The Russian flu was not as detrimental as the later, and more famous, Spanish flu, but it is hypothesized that the Russian flu made the Spanish one following the First World War, much more dangerous. Based on the theory of ‘first antigenic sin’, it seems that the arrival of the Russian flu made survivors develop antibodies that would prove useless against the more evolved Spanish flu that occurred later.

It is difficult to track the progress of the Russian flu, as it is not as heavily studied as other influenza epidemics in North America. The articles that exist are heavily based on medical and statistical analyses (luckily I love statistics, so it has been enjoyable for me!), and can be difficult for historians to interpret.

It would be difficult to track the direct deaths from the epidemic as many, such as the Perkins sisters, could have perished due to complications. Based on their death records, two of the sisters died from respiratory infections that were likely caused by the flu. Furthermore, it is likely that Canadian newspapers were not eager to publish reports and outbreaks of the flu in their cities as it would discourage immigration, which was needed to help grow the nation’s population and economy.

This research on the Russian flu proved to be very interesting. I learned about something I had never heard of before, and had the pleasure of looking at plenty of statistical charts and maps!

Reflections at the End of the Week

Good evening everybody!

I’d like to start today’s blog post with an apology for not posting at all in this week. It has been a week of transition as we delve into the second half of our year here at Woodland, which involves moving away from the Scottish Cemetery and beginning to find, recover, and study various other tombstones across Woodland Cemetery. Although we haven’t quite finished our work at the Scottish Cemetery, as the stones we have selected to be stood up haven’t been put in place yet, we need to wait for their bases to be completed. We build these bases at Woodland, but their creation is a highly time consuming process. As a result, we’ve moved on to explore other older sections of the cemetery for now.

Woodland Cemetery was opened in 1879, and some of the oldest records and maps available are handwritten. Not something a Google search can find for you.

There are a few differences between working at the Scottish Cemetery, which was populated by 130 gravestones, and individual Confederation era stones. The most significant difference is that the Scottish Cemetery site was not the final resting place for the gravestones. The bodies are in a mass grave somewhere else in the cemetery, while the stones were left in the corner of Woodland, seemingly as an afterthought by people simply looking to get them out of the way. In contrast to this, the separate stones we find around the cemetery, while some may have been transferred from St Paul’s cemetery, were put in places that were intended to be their final resting place. As a result, we often find the stones underground either still attached or very close to their bases. This means that after restoration we can immediately repair them if needed and stand them back up. Since the owners of the gravestones are interned there as well, the stone must be stood up in its original spot.

This week, we’ve been able find and stand up several stones. Firstly, we found three small sized gravestones, buried a foot beneath the earth, still settled in their bases. We spent half the afternoon digging, and fighting against the roots that had intertwined themselves around the gravestones and prevented us from removing them easily. When we returned them to the surface, we discovered they were in good condition, with only one of the three broken out of its base. A quick check in the cemetery records indicated that we had found the graves of three sisters, Minnie, Mary, and Clara, who died within several weeks of each other in 1891, possible victims of a contagious disease that could devastate families with young children at the time. Today, the sister’s graves have been restored and returned to the exact spot we found them it.

Sister Graves
The gravestones had sunken into the ground by a foot, there was no indication on the surface that something once stood in place here.
The white material below the graves is limestone screening, which will prevent them from beginning to sink into the ground again in the near future.
Sister graves 2
Cleaned, repaired, and reunited.

We also found a larger stone, belonging to Adeline Irene, daughter of the Ulbrich family, who died in 1892 aged 5. The stone was lying horizontally below the ground, with its base several feet deeper. It was broken at the very bottom of the base, so using an adhesive would not be sufficient to hold it down given the amount of weight it needs to support. This means that we need to pin the stone.

Sometimes, even the faintest discoloration in the grass can indicate an object buried beneath it. Other common visual indicators can include different densities or variations of grass and shrubbery growing in a specific spot.
Peeling back the soil reveals a damaged and entirely illegible stone, stained from decades underground.
Immediately below the gravestone we also found its original base, a blessing for us as we can restore it without having to create new foundations for it.
An initial scrubbing has the stone looking neater.

Pinning is a process used to stand up graves that need an extra amount of support. It involves drilling holes into the center of the stone and inserting fiberglass or wooden pins to stop it from being tipped over in situations where merely an adhesive would fail. To to this, we find a stone that ideally has been found alongside its original base, and we bore three holes alongside its length. We offset the central hole to spread out the weight distribution, and we drill three identically placed holes into the section of the stone that has broken off. We then fill the holes with adhesive and insert the pins, often four inches long, with two inches inserted into each part of the stone. We allow the adhesive to dry and then ensure the stone is sitting snugly in place. After this, we use a mortar to fill any gaps between the stone to secure it further and rebuild any designs or features of the stone that have been lost to time. After this process, if done correctly, the stone is able to withstand the elements, and remain standing both as a monument to the deceased and as a piece of history for the foreseeable future. With this stone, I’m happy to report that it is sitting quite securely in place!

We drill three holes into the base of the stone, and drill an identical pattern into the upright section.
In this instance, we used fiberglass pins as the internal support. In the background you can the the upright section of the gravestone upside down, as we drill an identical pattern into it’s base.
Ulbrich stone
The stone is set onto it’s original base with it’s new internal supports. It has been cleaned thoroughly and looks closer to what it would have looked like when it was carved in 1892. Visible on top is a sleeping lamb, symbolizing purity, a common indicator of a child’s grave in the Victorian era. The final step for this stone is to mortar the bottom section where bits of stone have crumbled away. This process we’ll begin on Monday and post an update when it is finished.


Anyways, that’s all I have for this week! A slightly longer post but it’s covered quite a bit. I hope it was enjoyable!

Have a good weekend everyone!