Archive for October, 2009

It’s been a stressful week with real estate doings so I took Thursday off and headed to Woodward Hill Cemetery.  The weather was in the 60’s and a perfect fall day!WoodwardHill TreeThe first thing I noticed was somebody with a weedeater going around the monuments and headstones.  See him at the top of the hill?  Tiny little figure in front of the red tree?  That is something not usually seen there ~ a lone figure working!  Usually there are groups of them, kinda working, talking and not paying attention.  grassThe next thing I noticed was all the grass was cut!  Not just cut in certain areas, but cut throughout the entire Cemetery!  The Cemetery looked clean and groomed with just this one little (or probably BIG) thing!SnyderThe third thing I noticed, and this to me was the most impressive, is that somebody is trying to upright the fallen headstones and place them in the spots they belong in!  The Snyder stones are evidence of this.  I noticed this throughout the Cemetery!  My heart started singing!

I am writing this blog because I have written so many criticizing this Cemetery.  The neglience of the Board and/or staff in maintaining such a historic site in Lancaster has been a thorn in my side.  After all, our 16th President, James Buchanan, is buried there.  Whether you think he was a great President or a mediocre President, he was stilll the President of our Great Nation and his resting place attracts a lot of visitors.

It is time I write a blog praising somebody’s efforts!  Kudos to the responsible party(s)!   I realize you cannot stop vandalism, tipping over headstones and people walking through and throwing their trash as they walk.  This is a fact of life in this particular cemetery.  You can, however, make an effort, such as they are doing, to straighten up the mess.  AuxerMary

The only disappointment of the day, and it was a personal disappointment was Mary Auxer’s headstone.  Remember my blog, “Putting Mary in Her Place,” on our efforts to upright it?  It stayed up for 5 months before temptation got the best of somebody, and it’s tipped over again!  Sad, isn’t it?  I realize the maintenance staff and/or the Board has little control over this sort of thing and it’s going to continue, but never-the-less it is a sad commentary on our society today!

Overall, I was so tickled to see the improvements in Woodward Hill Cemetery!

If I can criticize, I can praise.  I owe Woodward Hill Cemetery this blog!!

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Our fourth day on the cruise and second stop was probably one of our two favorites cities on the trip.  We knew absolutely nothing about St. John and for that reason we were pleasantly surprised by all we saw!  St John library

Our first stop was the public library.  We had learned that the public library was close to the dock and they had free internet access.  Princess Cruise line charges a minimum charge of 35 cents a minute.  Now if you log on, and go through all the hoops to get to your e-mail, you can count on blowing several greenbacks before you see your mail.  Wasn’t that important to me!  Free sounded a lot better!

St John Public library was about 1 1/2 blocks from the cruise ship and a pleasant walk.  It is in a mall that has WiFi throughout.  St John is a progressive town, we were to find out!  While waiting for my turn at a computer, we talked to a librarian for awhile.  She told us how to get to the “Old Loyalist Burial Ground” up the street.    Another helpful Canadian!

Walking through town on our way to above referenced cemetery, we came across this watering trough donated to the SPCA in 1882.  It now appears to be a planter, but the structure has remained!SPCA
The walk to the graveyard gave us a chance to see some of the wonderful old architecture that has been preserved in this city. According to the proprietor of a bookstore I was in (of course!) she told me that when the cruise ships started coming to St John they started renovating the city and it has turned into the showcase it is today.St John streetThe bank with red window awnings and the planter of flowers in front is also on the main street leading up to Kings Square, a virtual hub of activity!  While we were there school children were passing through, elderly were sitting on benches watching and people were going through on their way to wherever it was they were going!  We were told by a gentleman we met that the paths were laid out in the shape of a Union Jack by the Loyalists that settled in this area.St John BankWalking directly through the park takes you right into the Old Loyalist Burial Ground. What a treasure they have here! The Burial Ground fell into disrepair in the early 1900’s and through the efforts of the K.C. Irving family, it was restored into the beautiful serene, sanctuary it is today. For more information and exactly what was involved check out the website that the city of St John has on this. Loyalist Burial GroundDividing the old burial areas there are paved walks taking you through the park in whatever direction you are going. Each one is meticously crafted and all meet in the center, close to a beautiful fountain and benches. Burial Ground benchThe first headstone we stopped to read belonged to Samuel Osborne who departed this life June 19th 1835 at the age of 42.   The stone goes on to say that it commemorates the death of his wife and son Samuel.  Notice the wife doesn’t have a name!  The stone says either Samuel, the son, was drowned or both his wife and son were drowned.    What impressed us was the care they had taken with this stone (and many others we were to discover) by bracing each side with steel bars, as shown in the picture below.

Loyalist Burial Ground 1While we were sitting on the bench watching people go from here to there, a man walked up to us and started telling us about his city. He wanted to make sure we saw the sights in his city that he thought were important. He was right. We followed his agenda and went off the beaten path. But I digress, back to the cemetery. One of the things he pointed out was this headstone. He thought it was unusual in the fact that it gave their biographies and told how they died.  This was another stone that was braced with steel on either side.  It is remarkable how well the stones have stood the test of time and are still so readable.

Loyalist Burial Ground Freedlove

Lies the bodies of Mrs
Freelove and Her Only
Child Charles who were
the Wife and son of Capt.
Thos. Elms and were un
fortunately  drowned to
gether on the 8th day of
Sept. 1787 the Mother
in the 40th & the son in the
9th Year of their Ages.

Burial Ground small stone
Among all the tall, proud, old stone, this little one stood out. The gentleman we had met explained that most of the children’s stones were smaller, and most were usually in front of their parents. That was not the case in this instance. We could find no parent’s stone close by.  It appears that Sarah Amelia Taylor died the day after her first birthday.  How sad . . .Old Burial Ground old newThis stone was braced by a newer and larger stone and some of it still remains.  I could not tell who it belonged to, but probably at some time, not too long ago, it was still readable.  I couldn’t help but take a picture of it.  I was fascinated.old burial ground B

This stone covers the wife, two daughters and the only son of William Major. A lot of it is hard to read, including the year Isabella, the wife, died in. What I was wondering was if this was in chronological order. If not, how do you plan for all of these names on a headstone? Was it carved years later? Did they each have their own headstones at one time? From a distance it looks like chicken scratch; up close it is not much better.Burial Grounds old

Although the pictures of the headstones I’ve posted are  relatively easy to read, there were quite a few headstones in this condition.  Layers were flaking off or had already flaked off and the part that had once been carved has been lost to eternity.  Yet the stone still stands as a tribute to one who has walked this earth in the past.  There is beauty even in this condition.
burial ground fall
To prove to us that we did see some colors, this tree seemed to beckon to my camera. We took this cruise thinking it was peak week (and it has been in years past!)  and saw very few trees that were turning. . . until we got of the ship and were 1/2 hour from home!

The journey was not wasted, however!  I found beauty in burial grounds, cemeteries and graveyards that others would not have.

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You probably have never heard of Fairview Cemetery in Nova Scotia, at least by that name.  You probably know, however, that there is a cemetery in Nova Scotia that did bury the dead from the Titanic (or Titantic, as the Princess Cruise Line referred to it.)  That cemetery was Fairview Cemetery and we took a special trip to see it while in that city on yes, a Princess Cruise.

IMG_0002We knew that Princess had a tour that “stopped” at the cemetery, but since I wanted to take pictures, lots of pictures, we decided to go it on our own.  We were glad we did!  Canadians are a very friendly and helpful lot and we got instructions on how to get to a bus stop and what bus to catch to the cemetery.  We chatted with people at the bus stop in a light drizzle and got on the bus.  As Jim handed our $5 fare to the bus driver, he refused to take it since we were “guests in his city!”  He did hand us a transfer to return for free and told us when to get off and where to stand to catch a returning bus!

Our first stop was the Cemetery office to ask for instructions to the area.  The gentleman in the office handed us a map and a handout about the Titanic victims and how they happened to be buried there.  By this time the drizzle was a light rain and required our umbrellas.  IMG_0022Once there we hung around a tour group and listened to their guide.  The first thing we learned was the headstones were placed in such a way as to form a hull of a ship.  If you look at the picture above you can see the three rows converging at the top with the bottom of the hull being the row to your left and the deck being the third row at the top right of the picture.  They converge where the couple is standing at the top of the picture.  Impressive is the term that comes to mind.Titanic UnidentifiedThe next thing we learned was the numbering system assigned to each grave.  As each body was recovered they were assigned a number.  Every item that was on that body, from a ring to their shoes was put together and assigned the same number.  As family began to look to inquire about their loved ones they’d be asked questions like “Did they have a ring they always wore?  Could you describe it?” or something of that nature.  When they had that type of information they would start searching the bags.  Once they found a match, the headstones could then be labeled with the victims names.  Those bodies that were never claimed or their possessions identified were marked with headstones like the one above.Titanic DawsonWhen the bodies were identified the name could be placed on the headstone, as it is in J. Dawson’s above. J. Dawson? as in Jack Dawson played by Leonardo diCaprio in the movie??  Sorry, no.  Jack Dawson was a fictional character.  This was Joseph Dawson, a 23 year old Coal Trimmer on the Titanic.  He was identified by a dues book for N.S. & Fireman Union No. 35638 and his home address.

After the release of the movie we learned that teenage girls would arrive and leave flowers, movie tickets and notes for J.Dawson, believing it to be Jack Dawson.  The practice eventually slowed down and as you can see, today they leave a few polished rocks, etc., with an occasional flower or two from time to time.Titanic DeanYou can feel the agony and hurt of the parents of George H. Dean, a 2nd class steward aboard the Titanic.  He had on a blue suit.  In the bag were keys and a 2nd class steward badge # 35.  His parents paid for a more personalized and larger stone.  He was so young and probably left for sea, thrilled to start his life!  I can feel his parents grief.  Titanic PaulsonThis picture is a slight bit blurred, but I couldn’t do a Titanic post without commenting on this particular family.  Nils Palsson had emigrated to Chicago in 1910 and had saved enough money to send for his wife, Alma Cornelia and their four children in 1912.  Although the headstone says Paulson, the name is Palsson.  Perhaps Nils tried to Americanize his name.  The letter with Alma came from Neil, not Nils.

The passage was booked on the Titanic for Alma Paulson, Torburg Danria, age 8, Paul Folke, age 6, Stina Viola, age 4 and Gosta Leonard, age 2.  Alma had in her bag, a wedding ring, brass keeper, mouth organ (harmonica), a comb, keys, a purse with money, a letter from her husband, 5 tickets for 3rd class passage and a corkscrew.  IMG_0010Buried across from Alma is an unidentified baby.  This particular monument touches people and has drawn a lot of attention, as evidenced by the amount of things placed near to, on and around it.  For years it was assumed that the body was that of Gosta Leonard, Alma’s youngest son.  It was assumed, rightfully, that the bodies of the three oldest children were never recovered.  In the summer of 1998 a DNA project was begun by Genesis Genomics Inc. and 3 bodies were exhumed.  The Palsson family from Sweden had requested the exhumation, to verify if the remains  of the “Unknown Child” were actually that of Gosta Leonard.  Due to the decomposition of the body, a tiny part of a tooth was recovered and the test was performed on it.  It was determined that the unknown child was actually 13 month old Eino Viljam Panula from Finland.  It turns out that none of Alma’s children made it to land for a burial.  They are all resting together at the bottom of the sea.Titanic ElliotThis headstone caught my attention because of the inscription.  I didn’t quite understand it until I read about it.  Everett Edward Elliott was a Coal Trimmer and evidently there had stories in English newspapers that many crewmen had survived while women and children had died in the Titanic disaster.  The inscription had been written by his family to let the world know that their son was not one of those, but rather a hero who lost his life on that fateful night in 1912.  Titanic path

Although we did not take a tour, we benefited from many of them.  We must have seen at least 7 tours in the time we spent at Fairview Cemetery!  Each one told their group basically the same canned information.  It was almost a carnival atmosphere with one bus pulling up after another.  Out would march a tour guide followed by a bus full of tourists.  They’d stop at the front, listen to his spiel, head back to Alma Palsson’s stone, listen to that story, up to the other side of the front and listen to another part of the story.  It was as though this sacred cemetery was just another stop on a sightseeing tour.  Check out the one group at the bottom of the Titanic site and most of all check out the worn path up to the “unknown child’s site” and Alma Palsson’s directly across from it.  This is one of the stops for the Tour Guide.

Our next stop was the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic where we understood there is quite a Titanic display.  Our bus driver, once again, let us know where to get off and gave us the directions to the facility.  We could not get over the friendliness and willingness to help strangers that the residents of this city exhibited to their “guests.”Museum Baby ShoesBehind glass are many artifacts that either were recovered by the rescuers or donated by various people over the years.  These baby shoes were part of the bagged articles and were, of course, behind glass.  They are remarkably well preserved, in my humble opinion.Museum Baby Shoes 1This is the card that accompanied the shoes in the bag.  These belonged to the “unidentified child,” now identified as Eino Viljam Panula.  The card is an example of what they did for each article as the cataloged and filed each thing.Museum Cribbage BoardThis cribbage board was carved from a piece of wood one of the rescuers found floating in the sea.  According to the accompanying card it was an old tradition of seamen to carve various items from wood found drifting at sea.  This particular board was donated by a descendant of the carver.  Museum Deck ChairAlso behind glass was this Oak and wicker deck chair.  It was found floating at sea by one of the ships that went to recover bodies.  It too, is in remarkable condition.

My day ended in the gift shop where I bought a book and several postcards.  It was on to a late lunch and back to the ship for our nap.

After all, we were on vacation!

  • Blair Beed, Titanic Victims in Halifax Graveyards; Dtours Visitors and Conventions Services,Halifax, Nova Scotia,Canada, 2001, pages 97, 101, 103, 107, 108, 110, 111.
  • Keith C. Titley,BDS, MscD, FRCD(C), Bruce R. Pynn, MSc, DDS, FRCD(C), Robert Chernecky, John T. Mayhall, DDS, PhD, Gajanan V. Kulkarni, BDS, PhD, FRCD(C), Alan Ruffman, P Geo, The Titanic Disaster: Dentistry’s Role in the Identification of an ‘Unknown Child’, Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, Vol. 70, No. 1 ; January 2004.
  • Pictures from author’s personal collection.

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