In the centre of this picturesque and popular tourist town in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, Canada, is St. Mark Anglican church founded in 1792. During The War of 1812, the church was used as a hospital by the British and as a barracks by the Americans. The Americans occupied the town in 1813, destroying Fort George and digging rifle pits in the cemetery surrounding St. Mark’s. The rifle pits can still be seen today.
The church is surrounded on three sides by a graveyard containing some very old stones. Not much character to the cemetery itself but many stones of interest.
This grave never to be disturbed
The blessed communion fellowship divine We feebly struggle They in glory shine Yet all are in thee For all are thine Alleluia. 1866
In the silent tomb we leave them Till the resurrection morn When our Saviour will receive them And restore their lovely form Requiescant in Pace. 1855
Friends nor physicians could not save This mortal body from the grave Nor can the grave confine him here And Christ shall bid them to appear. 1865
A stranger to hypocrisy And ready to reveal his mind A warmer heart, more open hand Or noble spirit, few will find.
The pains of death are passed Labour and sorrow cease And life’s long warfare closed at last His soul is found in peace. 1885
Often you will find headstones that commemorate entire families like this one in St. Nicholas Churchyard, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland. It belongs to the Buchan family who lived in the village of Easthouses. The patriarch was James Buchan, a farmer, who died in 1843. His son died in 1841,and his daughter died in 1847 just 5 days before his wife. The stone also mentions the death of seven infant children and two adult sons. A possible nephew, James Buchan Dobie and his wife and two sons are also mentioned on the stone.
My dere: children: Think on God; And His Commandments: An he will Think on yo: Observ your youth: dont lose no time. Least God should take you in your prime: Serve God above: And on this world fix not your lov.
Also in this churchyard is a stone dedicated to the Hogg family. John Hogg departed this life in 1798. He rests with 7 of his children ‘three sons and four daughters who all died in childhood’.
Mrs. Jean Fraser, wife of William Hogg, died in 1841 and was ‘deeply lamented by her family, who felt for her the sincerest affection.’ She is interred with two sons who died in childhood, her husband and an adult son who died at age 63 and is remembered as ‘a dutiful son and affection brother. His loss is deeply lamented by his sorrowing sisters also their eldest daughter’ who died 4 years later.
In Copps Hill Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts is the gravestone of Erasmus and Persis Stevens. Erasmus was the ‘issue’ of Erasmus and Elizabeth who died in 1670. Erasmus Jr. died in 1750 at age 64.
A flat stone in Milton Evergreen Cemetery, Ontario, Canada remembers the Clements family. The names of John Clements, his wife Jane Barr and their son John are inscribed on the stone. His brothers, Joseph and Samuel who were born in Tyrone, Ireland, emigrated to Canada in 1823 where they sleep in eternal peace.
Fillial affection stronger than the grave from time’s obliterating hand to save Erects this humble monument of stones Over a father and mother’s bones. Far from their native land here mouldering lie As one in life, now in one cemetery In heaven their children hope that bless’d abode To meet their spirits with a risen God.
Did you notice that none of the gravestones are marked with Memento Mori?
The city of Kingston in Ontario, Canada, has never forgotten the thousands of Irish immigrants that crossed the ocean in cramped, pestilent conditions known as the Fever Ships. 50,000 people fled from the Potato Famine (An Gorta Mor translated as the Great Hunger) arriving on the shores of Canada in 1847.
Several thousand peasants disembarked in Kingston looking for a better life although most of them were sick and dying from Typhus. Approximately 1400 people died including a number of the denizens of Kingston who fell ill while tending to the sick. The immigrants were buried in a common grave, several layers deep, south of the grounds of Kingston General Hospital.
The mass grave was abandoned until 1894 when a monument unveiled by Archbishop Cleary was erected in their memory. It features the Angel of Mercy standing on a four sided block of stone.
A second side is inscribed; ‘On the 6th of August 1894, this monument was erected by James Vincent Cleary, Archbishop of Kingston in memory of his afflicted Irish compatriots, nearly 1,400 in number, who, enfeebled by famine, in 1847-8, ventured across the ocean in unequipped sailing vessels, in whose fetid holds they inhaled the germs of the pestilential “ship-fever” and on reaching Kingston, perished here, despite the assiduous attention and compassionate offices of the good citizens of Kingston. May the Heavenly Father give them eternal rest and happiness in reward of their patient suffering and Christian submission to His holy will, thorough the merits of His divine Son, Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.’
In 1966, to allow for expansion of Kingston General the buried remains, and the Angel of Mercy monument, were relocated to the north-west corner of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery at Kirkpatrick and Division streets.
THE TYPHUS EPIDEMIC 1847 Though typhus had been epidemic periodically in Canada since the 1650’s, the worst outbreak occurred in the summer of 1847. In that year some 90,000 emigrants embarked for Canada, most of them refugees from the potato famine then ravaging Ireland. Nearly 16,000 died of typhus, either at sea or after their arrival in Canada. Those stricken while passing through Kingston found shelter in makeshift “immigrant sheds” erected near the waterfront. Despite the efforts of local religious and charitable organizations, notably the Sisters of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph and the ladies of the Female Benevolent Society, some 1,400 immigrants died. Buried near the present general hospital their remains were re-interred here in 1966.
AN GORTA MOR PARK
In 1998, the Kingston Irish Famine Commemoration Association was instrumental in naming a small park on the waterfront at Ontario and West streets, Án Gorta Mór Park. A Celtic Cross Memorial was installed the following year.
An Gorta Mor Park
An Gorta Mor Park
The base contains an inscription in French on one side and an English dedication on the reverse side; In memory of An Gorta Mor 1847- 1848 Erected by The Kingston Irish Famine Commemoration Association 1998
Incorporated into the design of the Celtic cross is a sailing ship. A dedication engraved below states in English; On This Shore More Than 1500 Irish, Fleeing THE GREAT HUNGER Along With Compassionate Citizens Of Many Faiths, Who Cared For Them, Died Of Typhus In The Fever Sheds Of Kingston. 1847 – 1848 WE HOLD THEIR MEMORY SACRED.
The reverse side of the cross contains bas-relief of a harp surrounded with shamrocks. The above inscription is reiterated in Gaelic.
Local citizens who died while attending to the sick were buried in The Upper Burying Ground also known as McBurney Park (and Skeleton Park). In 2002 a Celtic Cross Memorial was erected on the site.
An inscription in on the front panel states; In memory of the / Est. 10,000 mainly Irish & Scottish / Immigrants buried / here in Kingston’s / upper cemetery / 1813 – 1865 / May they rest / in peace
An additional inscription on the rear of the monument’s base states; Donated By Kingston Irish Folk Club Tir Na Nog Irish Pub Kingston Brewing Co. City Of Kingston March 2002
A plaque marking the exact location of the mass gravesite funded by Kingston Irish Famine Commemorative Association and Kingston General Hospital was unveiled in 2002. It is located on Stuart Street at the main entrance of Kingston General Hospital.
KINGSTON GENERAL HOSPITAL ROLE IN TYPHUS EPIDEMIC In 1847 and 1848 this site became the largest of the city’s mass graves for more than 1,400 Irish immigrants who died in fever sheds adjacent to Kingston General Hospital and Emily St. after fleeing “The Great Hunger” in Ireland. The plaque commemorates them and the selfless care givers who died nursing them.
In 1966, many remains from this site were re-interred beneath the Angel Of Mercy in St. Mary’s Cemetery. Others discovered in 1990 now rest in Catarqui Cemetery. In 1998, a Celtic Monument honouring all who died was raised in “An Gorta Mor” Park.
Erected by the Kingston Irish Famine Commemoration Association, with the support of Kingston General Hospital in 1999.
The city of Kingston hosts annual ceremonies to commemorate this moment in history.
The Bronte Street Pioneer Cemetery in Milton, Ontario, Canada
Three decades or more ago this triangular shaped lot, with many very old broken gravestones, toppled over and covered in vines, had a wonderful atmosphere to it. It was in a state of decay yet you could feel the history just by looking over the iron fence.
The Milton Historical Society undertook the task of preserving the early gravestones, and in 1986 the restoration of the cemetery was complete and a ceremony was held to unveil the plaques and cairn.
In Memory Of / Milton’s Founder / Jasper Martin 1797-1833 / Sarah Coates His Wife 1797-1830 / Settled Here From England In 1818 / The Martin Family.
1986 / Milton Historical Society in co-operation with / The Town of Milton / Maplehurst Correctional Centre.
I can understand the need to preserve these old stones from further deterioration, but the placement of them in concrete slabs bordering the cemetery has given it a clinical feel. It just doesn’t feel like a Pioneer cemetery any longer.
This ancient burial ground (the earliest date on a headstone is 1755 and the latest is 1917) is now preserved by the Town of Milton.
Tho’ lost to sight To memory clear.
Husband thou art gone to rest Thou has found thine earthly tomb For God has summoned thee away Thy Father called thee home.
Friends and physicians could not save My mortal body from the grave Nor can the grave retain it here When Christ my saviour shall appear.
In death’s cold arms lies sleeping here A tender parent, a companion dear In love she lived In peace she died Her life was asked But was denied.
Death is swallowed up in victory.
One of the few remaining gravestones in good condition is a tall column with 4 inset panels bound with rope detail containing two hands in a handshake with oak leaves in 4 corners. An inscription below states, I Am The Resurrection And The Life / Because I Live Ye Shall Live Also. A second panel in bas relief shows a kneeling figure clinging to the crossbar of a cross. The legend is inscribed with Here I Lay My Burden Down / Change The Cross Into The Crown. The top of the column is draped and terminates in an urn with a blaze.
Symbolism on this memorial stone:
Drape represents mourning
Figure clinging to cross symbolizes faith
Flame depicts eternity or resurrection
Handshake means farewell
Oak leaves mean strength. The oak is believed to have been the tree from which Jesus Christ’s cross was made. In smaller pioneer cemeteries, it was commonly to situate children’s graves near oak trees.
When former U.S. president William Howard Taft visited the first Knox Presbyterian Church at 142 Ontario Street, Stratford, Ontario, Canada, he is reported to have called the 211 feet steeple the “most graceful and pleasing” he had seen.
In the early morning hours of May 13, 1913, the church steeple was hit by lightning as an electrical storm passed over the area, igniting a fire that quickly spread, destroying the sanctuary, and engulfing the roof and steeple.
When firefighters attempted to battle the flames, their hose streams were unable to reach the top of the steeple. A ladder had been placed in an attempt to gain control of a fire in the roof, and Fire Chief Hugh Durkin, Police Chief John McCarthy Jr., and Constable Matthew Hamilton were endeavouring to move the ladder into position on the west side of the church when the steeple came crashing down. All three men were killed in the collapse, and a fourth man, firefighter Syd Vanstone, was badly injured.
Note: In the late 19th century, firefighting was done with the assistance of a team of horses, and the department was not fully motorized at the time of the fire.
On May 13, 2013, the 100th anniversary of the fire, the three men who died were honoured during a ceremony at the Stratford-Perth Museum. Following the service, a plaque was unveiled in the garden area in memory of the three men. The sacrifice made by members of the Stratford Fire and Police Departments, in the battling of the fire at Knox Church.
FIRE CHIEF HUGH DURKIN
Hugh Durkin was only 39 on May 13, 1913 when the steeple of Knox Presbyterian Church came crashing down. After his funeral and long public procession through the downtown streets of the city, Durkin, a bachelor, was laid to rest in Lot 13 of St. George’s section at Avondale Cemetery, next to his father Michael who had died seven years before.
A gravestone was never erected for the fallen fire chief and speculation is that it was a monetary issue on the part of his immediate family. When this recently came to the attention of the current fire department, Durkin’s family members took action to remedy the oversight. Stratford Memorials donated a grey stone with the depiction of a typical bugle used by fire chiefs at the time to shout orders to their firefighters. The Stratford Professional Firefighters’ Association is contributing to its care and maintenance.
Durkin was an accomplished horse rider and was described as a “courageous, daring and efficient firefighter.” He was buried on May 15, 1913 in Avondale Cemetery Section St. George, lot 13.
CONSTABLE MATTHEW HAMILTON
Constable Hamilton had been on the force for five years, and as the night policeman he discovered the fire and raised the alarm at 12:35 a.m. He was described as a constable who would go out of his way to help someone rather than simply throw them in jail. He was 46 years old when he was struck with debris during the collapse of the church steeple. He was buried on May 15, 1913 in Avondale Cemetery Section R, lot 49.
CHIEF JOHN AUGUSTUS MCCARTHY JR.
The Chief followed in his father’s footsteps as Stratford’s chief constable. He started his career as a county constable, and later a town constable under his father. In 1883 he was employed as a detective on The Grand Trunk Railway and was known for his clever detective work. He was appointed Chief of Police for the city of Stratford in 1888. He was 66 when he died and was buried on May 15, 1913 at Avondale Cemetery Section H, lot 44. His grave can be found halfway down the hillside behind the chapel in Block H. It is a grey granite square with a horizontal, round pillared top. Here lies John A. McCarthy Jr., Stratford Police Chief who died fighting the Knox Presbyterian Church fire in 1913.
The tiered waterfall at Spencer Gorge Conservation Area, Dundas, Ontario, Canada, was originally known as Dr. Hamilton’s falls, owner of the land in 1818. The waterfalls and 78 acres of the surrounding land were purchased by Joseph Webster who had arrived from England in 1820. The Webster family manor still stands on Webster’s Falls Road, and their gravestones have been preserved in a small section just off the Bruce Trail, on the way to Tews Falls.
The stones are in poor shape although an attempt has been made to preserve them. They lie behind a protective fence.
Come near my friends and cast an eye Then go your way prepare to die Learn here your doom and know you must One day like me be turned to dust.
In death’s cold arms lies sleeping A tender parent, a companion dear In love she lived, in peace she died Her life was asked but was denied.
According to romantic legend, an Indian maiden named Na-Go-She-Onong (Evening Star in the Ojibway language), fell in love with a white man. Her lover was killed by a jealous Indian suitor, and rather than live without him, she pressed his dead body to hers and plunged into the roaring waters of Webster’s Falls.