If you’ve been a reader for more than a minute, you might already know that some of my PhD research is taking place in the outport community of New Perlican. Well, I’m currently working on my second comps paper, and that means it’s time to write another blog post to let some of that writing energy go somewhere, now that I’ve met my page goal for the day!
Today I wanted to share the maps that were made for my project by my colleague Bryn, who is a mapper extraordinary and taught myself and Ian how to use the total station theodolite (TST or total station) ((which is something I need to remember finally, rather than re-learning every time I need to use one)). The benefit of using the total station to record the gravestones is that not only are they geo-referenced within cm’s accuracy, but it allowed us to create accurate maps of the gravestones for the community to have on record in their archives.
Besides recording the location of obvious gravestones, it was important to record the location of fieldstones. Fieldstones, like Bloody Point marker 1, pictured above, are grave markers that are commonly seen in settler community burial grounds in Newfoundland that are made from locally sourced stone and roughly shaped. The majority of the time, they do not have inscriptions or iconography, and are shaped into a curve or square to mimic more traditional gravestones’ silhouettes. These rough stones have been consistently used from at least the early 18th century through to the mid-20th century in some communities, by people who did not have access to professionally carved gravestones from artisans, for economic reasons, remoteness, or a mixture of both. In the 18th century, it was common to see gravestones imported from the British Isles and carved from limestone, but obviously these would have been expensive and reserved for only the more well-office families and individuals. For example, Bloody Point burial ground only have one limestone marker from the early 19th century, but 24 fieldstones, providing excellent insight into what was available and widely used at the time.
Fieldstones are often overlooked in contemporary studies of burial sites, as they are small, uninscribed, and sometimes literally overlooked because they are quickly buried in the grass. While having the benefit of being small and light enough to not seem to sink too quickly into the ground, they are often pulled out of the ground in modern efforts to clean up historic sites in the province, as many people do not realize that these small stones are also grave markers, removing them in order to cut the lawn. One of my goals with mapping these sites in their entirety, gravestones and fieldstones alike, was to record the quantity and location of these small markers for their protection in the future. This is especially important for communities that might be undertaking developments adjacent to a historic burial ground. By understanding that the small stones were placed with love and care to make a grave, we can ensure they stay in situ.
Below are the maps created from the 2021 field surveys conducted by my team of three! I’m so happy with what we were able to accomplish in a short week, during a very busy, weird, covid-y summer. If you have any questions about the mapping or my ongoing project, please don’t hesitate to reach out! And please remember that these sites, as with any burial places, are protected spaces within a community, and permission is always needed before carrying out any type of work.
As always, thank you for reading and following my research!
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October 4, 2022 at 11:47 pm
It’s interesting that no initials are carved on the fieldstones. Or do you think they just faded in time?
October 7, 2022 at 4:18 pm
They never had lettering on them to being with, isn’t that neat! Most of the field stones we find in NL are made of slate which is very hard-wearing, so any letters would still be visible today.
October 7, 2022 at 6:29 pm
That is fascinating. I wonder why they wouldn’t want any identification with the graves of loved ones?
October 7, 2022 at 6:47 pm
Oh they probably would have! But fieldstones were used by people who didn’t have the money for a professional carved stone, so they used what they had to mark the graves of their loved ones 🙂