Documentary on Tombstone Archaeology?

Hello everyone,

Sorry for not posting a blog yesterday! I hope you had a great long weekend (that is if you are reading this from Canada; so if not, hope you had a good weekend regardless!). Our week so far has been very productive.

We came to a realization this week that we got only 12 work days, as of August 09, left for the summer! Wow! Time really does fly. It seems like the first day we started our job – May 4th – was yesterday. I like to think that our team accomplished a lot of things during the three month period. Throughout the summer, we have been thoroughly video recording what we were doing. So cleaning, repairing, giving tours, etc. were all recorded!

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Alyssa filming Peter and MacKenzie

Now, what are we doing with all these video footages, you may ask. We hope to make a documentary out of these footages to be aired on Rogers TV. For now, we are calling it the “Tombstone Archaeology” documentary. I think it will be very interesting given that our job is very interesting. So we are not too far in the process since we started editing it this week. But I would like to share the process we have made so far.

First, we, as a group, reviewed all the footages we have. It was both very enjoyable and embarrassing experience. Listening to all the conversations we had was pretty hilarious. And all those bloopers! They were very – and I mean VERY – funny. Of course, if we were making mistakes or were not successful doing some job and were caught on camera (for example, there is a footage of me failing to shovel), they were quite embarrassing to watch.

Then Alyssa and I, who are responsible for creating this documentary, created a general story line we want to tell through the documentary and labeled our footages accordingly. We believed we were on the right track. We had all the file numbers written down on a sheet of paper, and what could possibly go wrong?

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Notes we were making for the documentary

Well, it was the file numbers that went wrong. As we were importing the video files to the program, Final Cut Pro, we are using, all the files renamed themselves. Video file #25 was no longer 25 but rather 20. This meant that Alyssa and I had to go through all the imported footages again to check if they were, in fact, the videos we wanted. When this was sorted out, we finally started editing the actual video! And this meant that we had to go through all the footages at least once more! We only did preliminary editing today. However, this was more tedious process than I had anticipated. All the side comments we made throughout the summer, made us laugh at the time, but editing those out… let’s just say it is less than pleasant. That being said, I am still enjoying the editing videos. I always enjoy learning new things! I can’t wait to finish editing them and share with you all.

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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

Sunny

John Robert Peel, the stone carver

Hi everyone,

Today I thought it would be interesting to share one of the stories that was featured on our walking tour! On our tour, we talked a bit about stone carvers and John Robert Peel was one of them.

JR Peel

John was born on September 26, 1830 in England. He got married to Amelia Margaret Hall, who is buried at Woodland Cemetery with her husband, in 1849. There are no records of his occupation in England, but we know that when John and Amelia moved to London, Canada (then Canada West) in 1852, John instantly became an artistic figurehead in London. John earned his living as a drawing instructor and also as a marble cutter, making headstones and monuments. John owned his own firm for his marble cutting business named London Marble Works. John was known for his remarkable sculpting skills, especially his lamb sculptures. These lamb sculptures are often found on children’s grave because it symbolizes purity and innocence. John was also involved in several art initiatives in London. Most notably, he was a co-founder of the Western School of Arts and Design and he also organized the first Art Loan exhibition in London.

Another fun fact about John Robert Peel: He was the father of Paul Peel, a world renowned artist from London. In 1890, he won a bronze medal at Paris Salon for his painting After the Bath, making him one of the first Canadian artists to receive international recognition during his lifetime.

Paul Peel
After the Bath
1890
oil on canvas
147.3 x 110.5 cm

It is said that Paul Peel was artistically inclined from a young age thanks to his father’s artistic abilities. After all, Paul was trained by his father until the age of 14. On the monument of John and Amelia, Paul Peel’s name is also engraved on it, but Paul Peel is not buried here. He died in Paris from lung infection and he is buried in Paris. We are not entirely certain why Paul’s name is engraved here. It can’t be that they wanted their children’s name on their monument since they had several children together but only Paul’s name is on. We think it maybe because John and Amelia

  1. wanted to remember their son, who passed away at relatively young age of 31
  2. were very proud of their son’s achievement and wanted others to remember him as well

Or it could possibly be both!

Peel House
Peel House located in Fanshawe Pioneer Village; the house was originally located at 230 Richmond Street, south of Horton Street.

John died in 1904 from bowel troubles at the age of 74. At the Fanshawe Pioneer Village here in London, the house John and Margaret lived is preserved as a Paul Peel’s childhood home!

First day after the Walking Tour

Hi everyone,

First of all, I would like to thank each and every one of you who joined us on Saturday for our walking tour. It was so good to meet you all. We hope you enjoyed the tour as much as we did and for those of you who unfortunately could not make it, we hope you will get a chance to do a self-guided walking tour with our very user-friendly brochure. We are also available for private booking with no charge if you have a group of ten or more people!

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So many people at the tour! Thank you all for coming!

So, today being the first work day after our big event – walking tour – we were not entirely sure what was waiting for us today. We knew we needed a break from the Scottish Cemetery site because we have been working on it since the beginning of May. Therefore, we only spent a very short period of time at the Scottish Cemetery to evaluate what needs to be done and off we went! Don’t worry – We are not done with the Scottish cemetery site. We will be sure to come back to it sometime soon to finish it. There are some works that need to be done!

What did we do for the rest of the day? Well, we learned different ways to repair headstones and monuments! There are different ways to approach headstones that require repairs depending on the type of the stone, the way it is placed, and the problem it has. At the Scottish cemetery site, we mostly dealt with the headstones that were laying down and were going to be placed back laying down. We learned how to fix the stones that were going back laying down, quite a while back and we have been utilizing that skill for the past few weeks. However, today we were taught completely different methods to repair the headstones.

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Learning how to repair headstones that are wobbly

We learned how to deal with the stones that are still in upright positions. These are the stones that may look nice and safe, but in fact, dangerous. Headstones are often made out of a few different parts rather than one giant headstone, which means that some seals that were done decades ago wares off and parts of the headstone becomes wobbly. Long story short, we learned how to fix these wobbly stones. We were also taught how to fix the stones that are broken in pieces but cannot be fixed with the glue we are using. It’s a little complicated process and I think we will dedicate another blog to the fiberglass rod method later. 🙂

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Checking out a potential headstone that can be repaired and restored

In short, a lot of learning was done today and we are eager to fix stones with the new methods we newly learned! Later in the afternoon, we went around the old section of the cemetery and flagged the potential stones that can be fixed. We have flagged quite a few, which I am very excited to work on!

Only Five Days Away!

Hello everyone,

I hope you had a great weekend.

Today was another exciting day here at Woodland. Walking tour being only five days away, we entered the final stretch of the project. We started our morning by promoting the walking tour. We went around the neighbourhood and distributed flyers about the walking tour. I hope these flyers intrigue people, and hopefully, they will join us this Saturday.

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Thanks Levi for this awesome flyer!

We would like to have as many people as possible on the tour! We are eager to share the stories of our so-called discovery (of the Scottish cemetery) and stories of others who are buried at Woodland. This tour focuses on the people who lived the confederation era (the mid-1800s to the late 1800s) for 2017 is the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada! Not many people know this – but London has a very rich local history and we would love to share these stories with as many people as possible. So if you are interested in coming, please spread the word to your friends and family.

In the afternoon, we continued cleaning and fixing the monuments. Later in the afternoon, we started putting the cleaned and repaired stones to the sandbox we created. This is the final (almost) stage of the Scottish Cemetery project and we were very excited to place the stones. We had to figure out the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing layout for the stones. It was difficult to reach a consensus, but in the end, we all agreed that we must place some on sideways for the stones to fit in the sandbox. You can get a sense of how it will look like in the end from the picture below.

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We only got to maybe a quarter of the stones today, and we hope to finish as soon as possible so they are ready to be seen on the walking tour. This job, of course, cannot be done by ourselves. Most of the headstones are very – VERY – heavy. Without a backhoe, it would not be possible to move many of them. So I would like to thank Bruce and Will for helping us moving and placing the stones on sandbox!

Last but not least, I just want to say it once more, just so you don’t forget. Our walking tour is on June 24th (this Saturday!) at 1PM and 3PM. I can’t wait to meet you all!

Sunny

With heat warning in effect…

Hi everyone,

Happy Monday! Hope you didn’t get any heat illness today – it was extremely hot! If you worried about us by any chance, do not worry. We made sure we were hydrated and we also got longer breaks. And we also took things little slower than usual.

In the morning, we continued working on our sandbox project. I am sure there is a more professional way of calling this stage of the project, but we are content with calling it “sandbox” so that’s how it will be referred to! You may recall that we got our limestone shale a few weeks back. The limestone shale is what sandbox will constitute of. Last Friday, we – with a tremendous help from Joey and Will – started building a border of the sandbox. We then proceeded to make a slope inside the box, in which the stones from the Scottish Cemetery will be placed on. We are creating a V-shaped slope, with a walking path in the middle.

Slope
You can see the slope we started to build!

The sandbox is sloped because it is the best way to preserve the headstones in the best condition possible. We wouldn’t want them to disappear into history once again. The limestone shale allows the water to run right through them, and the slope will help the water to run down from the stone. Essentially, the sloped limestone shale prevents a puddle to form under the stones or on the stones.

In the afternoon, we were visited by a few of the members from the St Andrew’s parish. This was an awaited visit, so we were quite excited about it. The Scottish Cemetery we discovered, after all, belonged to St Andrew’s! MacKenzie gave the tour of the Scottish Cemetery to the visitors. I think both MacKenzie and the visitors enjoyed the tour.

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MacKenzie talking about Thomas F. Kingsmill and his scandal

We also got to practice for our upcoming Canada 150 tour with different visitors. (Which, by the way, is on Saturday, June 24th. Mark your calendars!) We would like to thank these visitors, who very generously agreed on coming on our beta version of the tour. We found out that we had to memorize the information little better and practice little more. After all the research we’ve done, we just didn’t know which information to tell! I wanted to tell them everything but of course not every little detail needs to be told. Let’s just say that my brain was working faster than my mouth could keep up with. Now that we know what we have to and can improve on, we will practice, practice, and practice!

We are off tomorrow because four of us are attending our convocation! I have to say, we are pretty excited to graduate. Don’t worry. our Instagram will still be updated with a picture of an interesting monument. If you haven’t followed our Instagram already, please do follow it. (@woodlandcemeteryhistory) I promise you, you won’t regret it!

Until next week then! 🙂

Dr. Elam Stimson and his 19th Century Medical Practices

Hi, everyone!

For today’s blog, I thought I would expand little on the exciting find from last Friday. So in case you didn’t have a chance to read our past blog, or if it is your first time visiting this page (in that case – Welcome!), here is the brief recap of what happened: On Friday, we went to the St Paul’s Cathedral and uncovered a stone, which was buried about a feet below the ground. The stone memorialized the wife and son of Dr. Elam Stimson (or Stimpson – as it was written for his wife). The stone was a very exciting discovery for us not only because the stone dated back to 1830s, but also because Dr. Stimson had a fascinating story.

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Dr. Elam Stimson was originally from the United States. He was born on October of 1792 at Tolland, Connecticut. He had fought in the War of 1812, but on American side! Keep in mind he was not a doctor yet. Following the war, he had various occupations while he studied medicine with a physician of his town. He then proceeded to attend Medical Institute of Yale and later the New Hampshire Medical Institution at Dartmouth. In 1819, he finally earned his degree and became Dr. Elam Stimson.

He then got married to his first wife, Mary Anne who is memorialized on the stone we discovered. In 1823, Dr. Stimson and his family moved to Upper Canada. In 1831, when he moved to London, Upper Canada, he worked as a physician to the jail. Only a year later, Dr. Elam Stimson’s wife and son would get ill with Cholera when London was affected by Cholera epidemic that started from Quebec. He treated his wife and son with various methods that he deemed to be appropriate for the symptom. Dr. Elam Stimson prescribed a large dose of ginger tea and alcohol, while practicing bloodletting.

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Picture of Bloodletting from the 1860s

Bloodletting refers to a medical practice that withdrew blood from a patient in order to cure illness or disease. Bloodletting has a very long history. It was practiced from the antiquity. While bloodletting was questioned since the 16th century, it remained as a popular method until the early 19th century. When the evidence-based medicine was popularized, physicians would attempt to make the practice sound as scientific as possible. They would prescribe how much of blood should be let out depending on a patient’s age, sex, weight, and symptoms. As you may have guessed, this practice did not save Dr. Elam Stimson’s wife and son. They died in the epidemic within days of each other. Later that year, Dr. Stimson went back to Connecticut and married his wife’s sister, named Susan. He then came back to Canada, but did not settle in London, Ontario.

There are many other Medical procedures practiced by physicians at the time, and I will hopefully be able to come back to it and write little more on it. Medical practices from the Victorian are quite fascinating to study because some are so absurd to modern standards. I wonder if the medical practices we perform now will look absurd to the future generations as well.

Cleaning, Catalouging, and Researching

Hi, everyone!

Today was another exciting day here at Woodland. My teammates and I were slightly worried during the weekend that it might rain today, but it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day (at least till 5 PM, which is when we leave). So it was a great day for us!

Every Monday morning, we, monument conservators – Peter, Alyssa, MacKenzie and I – have a meeting with Levi, the archivist, to discuss the works that have been done as well as that needs to be done. While the meetings are not very long (it takes about thirty minutes), it provides us a very important guideline to what we should be doing. Today was no exception. If you recall from previous blogs, we often tend to take research days when it rains because not much can be done outside. From today’s meeting, we decided that we will need to go research tomorrow regardless of the weather because there are many things we have to get done. We also finalized who will be part of our documentary type video and our walking tours. It was an exciting moment for me to finalize that the Lee family I have been researching about will be part of both the video and the walking tour!

The rest of the day mostly consisted of cleaning monuments and cataloguing. While I would love to talk about the steps of cleaning and cataloguing again, I will not so I don’t reiterate the information you already are aware of. (If you are not, you should check out previous blogs from my teammates!) However, we decided to do something little different at the end of the day.

stone

Thanks to Levi, we were able to go around the cemetery and locate the possible monuments of the people we are including in our walking tour. After locating the them, we took pictures of the monuments so that we can do little more research on them tomorrow. There are often more than one monument that belongs to different persons with the same name. We will cross reference several materials to make sure that these stones belong to the people we want to talk about.

At the Western Archives tomorrow, we are planning on looking through more documents and photos. In fact, we are quite excited to look through the city directories! I think it will reveal more exciting information that we didn’t know before. Anyway, I am sure MacKenzie will report on our interesting finds tomorrow. In the meantime, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the updates on our project!

Great Start to the Week!

Hello everyone, happy Monday!

As Alyssa mentioned in our last blog, we had one crazy week last week! Today, I honestly went to work thinking that it would not be as fun as last week. I mean think about it, we made our big discovery, several news stations came to interview us, and last but not least, learned a lot about restoring gravestones. But I was once again wrong! It was just as exciting as, if not more exciting than, last week.

First of all, there were a number of people who visited our work site. Few people were just dropping by, wondering what we were doing while they were taking a walk in the cemetery. And there were others who came specifically to see us! They would often exclaim, “I saw you guys on the news, and I thought I had to check this out!” which would often lead to a long conversation about how amazing Woodland is for preserving history (which I completely agree, btw). It was absolutely phenomenal to see how so many people are just as excited as we are about the old Scottish cemetery. I can’t wait for us to develop the full walking tour and give everyone the details about the discovery we made!

Another thing I would like to report about: Today, we have uncovered almost all of the ones that were underground. Yay! We catalogued about 130 gravestones! We continued cleaning them (as we started cleaning few of them last week), but I presume that starting tomorrow we will spend days cleaning the stones. While the cleaning stage may sound boring to you, it is actually quite an interesting process. At least, I love the satisfaction I get from it. If you take a look at this before and after photo of one of the many gravestones, you will certainly understand my excitement. How could one not be satisfied when such progress is made? Keep in mind that this is only after preliminary cleaning, meaning that we are not done with it.

cleanThe moment when the gravestones actually start to display the original colour – my team and I are all in awe. We also love seeing the symbols on the monuments and as well as the carver’s names!

Last but not least, I would like to provide a status update on James H. Lee, the man I could not locate after the 1871 census. I found his marriage record! According to the marriage record, which you can see below, reveals that he moved to Strathroy. I was more than happy when I found this record, but at the same time, was little disappointed that he didn’t have a dramatic story behind him. Oh well, I guess not all research leads to a dramatic find – like the old Scottish cemetery.

marriae
All in all, I am looking forward to two things at the moment. In the long term: I can’t wait to have more research done and present the site and its history to the public! And in the short term: another week at Woodland, especially the staff BBQ next week!

Lee Family at Woodland

Hello everyone, Sunny here.

My fellow Monument Conservators and I started working last Thursday, which means we couldn’t be on grounds for a long time due to the weather. But we still went out, armed with umbrellas, and undertook some preliminary research for potential restoration and excavation in one of the ground’s oldest sections. We also went around the cemetery, looking for interesting headstones that will potentially be researched. After selecting few headstones that fit in our project objective (finding monuments within confederation era) and taking pictures of them, we headed to library for more information.

I started researching about the Lee family, a family that seemed to be buried together here at Woodland. As you can see in the picture, the headstone has the names of the father, Hiram, and his wife, Elizabeth, and their children Charles and Albert. Everything should be very straight forward, I thought. However, I was proved wrong in a mere thirty minutes (which I will get back to). First, I would like to share some interesting information about the Lee family. Hiram Lee came from an Irish family and Elizabeth from an English family. Can you imagine some of the differences they must have had? One most obvious being the difference in religion! The census from 1861 reveals that all family members were Roman Catholics. Perhaps Elizabeth converted to Catholicism, or perhaps Elizabeth’s family was not a typical English family and was not part of the Church of England. However, the Lee family reported that they were Methodists on the 1871 census. The Lee family had converted from Catholicism to Methodism. What a change! Religion was a crucial part of life in Victorian Era and the church was a major societal circle. What happened? I don’t think we will ever be able to find what happened in that ten years unless we find a memoir or diaries of the family.

Searching through several censuses also revealed that Hiram and Elizabeth Lee had four children together, not just two. In addition to Charles and Albert, they had James Hiram Lee and Emma Jane Lee, who are not present on the headstone for some reason. I initially thought perhaps marriage was the reason. Of course Emma, being a woman, would have been buried with her husband if such was the case. She would have changed her last name, which makes it more difficult to trace her, but I am certain that my team and I will be able to find her with more research. However, James H. Lee could not be found on any other censuses that I searched through. There were few James Lees with the same age throughout Canada, but there was no figure who matched other characteristics – Irish, born in Ontario, Methodist – of THE James.

Censuses are only done every ten years, and so many things can change within that period. Perhaps James Lee just moved, or there is a glitch in writing (for everything was hand written at the time). However, one thing is certain: more research is required. I will report back once we find more info! Stay tuned! 🙂