For the past two weeks, a lot has been going on at Woodland Cemetery. For us, we decided to start another project that would take us until the end of the summer. For those of you that know the cemetery well, in the northeast corner, there are approximately thirty stones that are lying down on the ground. These stones have been here since before anyone can remember, and they’ve been deteriorating over the decades. Likely, they’ve been lying down since the 1880’s when they were moved from the St. Pauls cemetery (where the Western Fair Grounds are today) to Woodland. When we decided to tackle them, many were in a severely deteriorated stage, but some we identified as excellent candidates to repair.
Before we began taking them out of the ground, we first had to decide where we would place them. We considered standing them just behind where they were found. However, we quickly scrapped that idea because the ground is slopped and we didn’t want to deal with the lean the stones would develop. I mean, they will develop a lean within a few decades, but it would happen on the sloped ground much faster. The other option was to either find an empty plot nearby or use an old walkway where no one would have been buried. After a lot of searching through plot books, we eventually decided on an empty plot that is close to our Scottish cemetery display.
Once we decided on a place, we started to bring the stones up the hill, clean them off, and then start the process of placing them back on the ground. Since we are not using keys or bases, we have to bury the stones quite deep in the ground. Depending on the stone, that can be anywhere from a foot to two feet. Its truly exhausting having to dig two feet down, especially when you constantly hit tree roots and layers of clay. Once the hole is dug, we place the stone in, level it, then fill the hole with a bunch of lime shale to make it stable. It’s a long process, but it’s worth it in the end.
We are nowhere near finished, but it is starting to come together. It almost looks like a mini cemetery within the larger one. We’re trying to keep the rows as uniform as possible and keep a good distance between them, but everything is working out!
In addition to repairing the stones, we’re also trying to find information about the people they belong to. The archivist at St. Pauls Cathedral recommended we go to Huron University College because they hold the Diocese of Huron Archives, of which St. Paul’s is included. Last Friday we went and with the help of the staff there, we were able to find a lot of information. They had the original burial, baptism, and marriage registers. They also had a lot on what previous researchers had found about the history of Woodland. It was very informative, and we’re planning on returning tomorrow to see what we can find.
One other interesting development is that we were shown the old vault that they have at Woodland. It was originally used to hold money since Woodland was nowhere close to anywhere, but over time it has turned more into storage for old documents. It was really interesting to see what they keep, such as receipts for plots and stones that date back to the 1880’s. We also found the old transfer receipts for when graves and stones were being moved from St.Pauls, which was a cool find. Plus, some old photographs, one was even from Victory in Europe day, 1945.
Well, that’s it for today! Alyssa should be back on Friday for a continuation of her “History of Cemeteries” blog from a few weeks ago, so stay tuned for that!
Edit: In my original post I simply referred to The Diocese of Huron Archives as the archives at Huron University College. The blog has been changed to reflect their true title. If you are interested in researching at The Diocese of Huron Archives, located at Huron University College, their email is as follows; firstname.lastname@example.org.