Showing posts with label graveyards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graveyards. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Harbour Breton tombstones, and moving graves in Argentia

I've a couple cemetery-related gems today. HFNL board member Doug Wells sent me a few snaps of historic tombstones from the oldest cemetery in Harbour Breton (Church of England). I've posted them below. One of the oldest markers is the slate gravestone of Sarah Chapman (1769-1831), the final photo posted here.

Also, new on Memorial's Digital Archives Initiative is this intriguing map of the new cemetery built to house remains exhumed as part of the construction of the United States Air Force Base at Argentia during World War II.  I don't know much about that story, but it sounds intriguing! If you know more about it, send me an email at  The list of names includes some fascinating entries, including "Young Man from the Plot of Richard Healy" and "Teresa Sampson (Mistaken for another person by relatives)" and "Michael Smith - Age 80 & Another Body out of same Plot under Big Rose Bush." I'd love to know the story of Teresa!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cemetery Workshop Update and Special Student Rate

We've had a good response so far to our Cemetery Workshop, which will be held at the Johnson GEO Centre on Tuesday, December 4th, starting at 1pm. Cost to participants is $40 for the day, includes snacks and coffee/tea. A number of students have expressed interest in attending, so we've added a special $20 student rate for the workshop.

To register, contact Lisa at:
1-888-739-1892 ext 3

The day will be broken into two sessions. The first is on Art and Archaeology, the second is on Conservation and Heritage.

Presenters to date include:

Gerald Pocius - Reading Newfoundland Gravestones
This presentation will discuss the origins of Newfoundland gravestones, and the symbols and epitaphs used on them. Gravestones in Newfoundland were imported as well as made locally. They contained symbols both sacred and secular. The epitaphs used on the stones could be brief or poetic and lengthy. Examples shown will be mainly from eastern Newfoundland.

Martha Drake - Archaeology and the Portugal Cove Cemetery
Several years ago, graves were excavated from an unmarked cemetery during a proposed housing development in Portugual Cove. Martha Drake will talk about how a stop work order was put in place, and how the graves were professionally investigated and the human remains brought to MUN. The Town has created a small park where the graves were uncovered and the remains will be reburied in the newly developed park setting.

Melanie Tucker - Stonepics Database
Stonepics, a database of over 300, 000 headstone and cemetery photographs from all around Newfoundland, is owned and created by Mr. Kimsey Fowler who lives in Seattle, Washington. Melanie will speak about this fabulous database, and illustrate how it can be used for research.

Andrea O’Brien - Cemeteries and Municipal Heritage Designation
Andrea will explain the process through which towns designate cemeteries and detail services offered to towns by HFNL, including historical research, writing a Statement of Significance for the cemetery and placing the designation on the Provincial Register of Historic Places.

Lisa Wilson - The Port Royal Cemetery Restoration Project
This presentation will be photographic journey detailing the graveyard restoration project that took place in the summer of 2012 in the resettled community of Port Royal. Aside from the discussing the challenges of working in isolated conditions, Lisa will be going over some of the conservation dilemmas the team encountered, while offering ideas for best practices for those who are embarking on similar projects.

Annie McEwen - From the Field: Headstone Rubbings and Maker’s Marks
Annie's talk will be informed by her most recent field experience at the Port Royal Cemetery on Long Island, Placentia Bay. She will discuss the stories behind grave signatures or maker’s marks as well as the importance of headstone rubbings and their practical application. Rubbings can be an excellent way to record headstone information as well as capturing the beauty and uniqueness of the stone. Examples of rubbings done this summer at the Port Royal Cemetery will be shown.

(photo: St. Matthew's Cemetery, St. Lawrence)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Memories of Lych Gates in Newfoundland - gateways for the dead

This undated photograph shows an unidentified woman standing in front of the lych gate, the entranceway to the grounds of the Alexander Chapel of All Souls, located on Coster Street in Bonavista.

The elaborately beamed lych gate is a feature typical of Anglican churchyards. Traditionally, it was the sheltered point at which the coffin was set down at a funeral to await the clergyman's arrival. In some instances, a portion of the burial service was performed while the coffin rested inside the gate. A common feature in English churchyards, the concept of the lych gate was transplanted to North America. "Lych" is a form of the Anglo-Saxon word "līc" meaning body or corpse.

Once common, the only surviving Newfoundland example I know of is in Bonavista. The original lych gate was constructed circa 1899 and was financed by the Church of England Women's Association of Bonavista (1).

One S. Rees of Bonavista, in a letter dated Dec. 7, 1893 to the St. John's Evening Telegram, noted,
Dear Sir, - on Monday the 4th inst., there was no small stir here among the members of the C.E. Sewing Class, and one would naturally ask the cause. But a poster would apprise of the fact that a “sale of work,” under the auspices of the above ladies, was about about to take place; its object, to provide funds to provide a lych gate for the new cemetery. At about 6.40 p.m. the doors were open to purchasers, and when I arrived a few minutes later - considering inclemency of weather - quite A Crowd Had Gathered.
According to the author, the amount raised, $76, "was far above expectation" (2).

The Anglican Cemetery on Forest Road in St. John's also had a lych gate, which was torn down at some point in the second half of the 20th century. It is shown on aerial photographs from 1961, but was removed afterwards. According to HNFL Executive Director George Chalker, it was removed possibly to allow motorized hearses access to the cemetery.

If you have memories, or photographs, of lych gates in Newfoundland, I'd love to hear from you. You can call me at 1-888-739-1892 ext 2, or email me at

- Dale Jarvis

(1) Simms, Gavin. "Gateway to yesterday: Anglican Chapel recreates long lost entranceway." The Packet, November 20, 2008.

(2)  Rees, S. "Pleasant Social Event At Bonavista. Sale of Work by the Church of England Sewing Class - Object: a Lych Gate for the New Cemetery." Evening Telegram (St. John’s, NL) 1893-12-16

UPDATE - 17 March 2014:

You can read or download the final version of this research at Lych Gates in Newfoundland

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Art, Archaeology, History and Heritage of Graveyards

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
1pm - 5pm
Johnson Geo Centre Celestial Gallery
175 Signal Hill Road, St. John’s

Cemeteries throughout Newfoundland and Labrador are revered as special, sacred places.They occupy both emotional and physical space in our communities. Cemeteries are also expressions of our spiritual beliefs and cultural values, as well as rich repositories of genealogical and community history. This half-day workshop offered by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador looks at the history, folklore and conservation of historic graveyards in the province, and will give opportunities for participants to ask questions of the experts.

Moderator: Dale Jarvis, ICH Development Officer, Heritage Foundation of NL

Art and Archaeology Session
Gerald Pocius, MUN Folklore - Reading Newfoundland Gravestones
Martha Drake, Provincial Archaeology - Archaeology and the Portugal Cove Cemetery
Melanie Tucker, The Rooms Archive - Stone Pics Database

Conservation and Heritage Session
Andrea O’Brien, Heritage Foundation of NL - Cemeteries and Municipal Heritage Designation
Lisa Wilson, Heritage Foundation of NL - Port Royal Restoration Project
Annie McEwen, Folklorist - Headstone Rubbings and Maker’s Marks

Cost to participants:
$40.00 for the day, includes break

To register, contact Lisa at:
1-888-739-1892 ext 3

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Graveyard Mystery: photos of unusual tin grave markers from Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland.

In this month's edition of the ICH Update newsletter, Patrick Carroll wrote about a set of unusual tin gravemarkers from Bonavista Bay.  I wanted to include more detailed photos here of the markers, because they are unlike anything I've seen before in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The origins of these are a bit of a mystery, and both Patrick and I would love to know more about them. If you've come across something like this in your travels, let me know at  or leave a comment below.

You can read Pat's full article on the grave markers in pdf here.

Wooden Baskets, Tin Grave Markers, and Steam Whistles

In the March 2012 edition of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update for Newfoundland and Labrador: we announce workshops on oral history and folklore interviewing in Corner Brook and Grand Falls-Windsor; a public lecture on Acadian and Mi'kmaw basketry; an unusual tin grave marker from Bonavista Bay; and a research project on the Corner Brook mill whistle.

Contributions by Dale Jarvis, Nicole Penney, Patrick Carroll and Janice Tulk.

Download the PDF

More photos of tin grave markers here