Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens

The Old Burial Ground, Fredericton, NB

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This is an exciting post, friends! As you may or may not have seen on the news this summer(maybe only if you live in the Atlantic provinces in Canada), I have been working with the City of Fredericton as a consultant on the Old Burial Ground in the heart of Fredericton, since August 2020. The City is working on the long-term restoration and preservation of the historic burial site, and this involves exploring the gravestones housed on the grounds and what can be done to help them last a little while longer.

That is where I came in!

Gates to the Old Burial Ground, downtown Fredericton, NB (Photo by author 2021)

The Old Burial Ground in Fredericton, New Brunswick, is located in the original town plat and the first recorded burial took place in 1787. The site, surrounded by a fence and historic homes on all sides, truly is a wonderful example of a city burial spaces from the late 18th century, which was still located within the heart of its community. If you’re interested in visiting, the official address is 500 Brunswick Street, Fredericton, NB, but really you can’t miss it if you are driving or walking around the downtown of this delightful city! The site was recognized as a national historic site in 2006, and was listed on the Canadian national register for historic places in 2009 (Historic Places.ca).

The City of Fredericton has a multi-year plan to work to bring the site up to a point where regular maintenance of the site is feasible, but to start with there are a number of gravestones which present a safety hazard to the public that will be addressed first. When I was contacted in 2020 about coming on board for the project, I was asked to consult regarding the conservation of each gravestone within the site, and create a stone-by-stone assessment of their current state and what could be done regarding their conservation.

View across the burial ground (photo by author 2021).

This was obviously a long process, which involved the City providing me with photos of each gravestone, as I was unable to travel to Fredericton in 2020 to take the photos and assess the stones in person. This stage of the project took several months to complete, and the total number of gravestones ended up being around 900. It is likely there are more at the site that are since missing, or have sunken below the grass after falling over.

While doing the assessment, I was able to compare the photos taken for the project with photos taken about a decade earlier that were georeferenced on a City GIS map which was available online. I could then compare the degradation of gravestone between that survey and this one, and make note of those changes in the report. This website is currently not live, but I’ve included a link to the Find A Grave database HERE. Hopefully the GIS map will be up and running again soon with the updated photos. Once the report was complete, reviewed, edited, etc., the City got in touch with a company from Nova Scotia who work with historic masonry to work on the restoration of the first set of monuments for this project.

In July 2021, the team in Fredericton and I were able to meet in person for the first time when I flew out there for an in-person assessment of the at-risk monuments before the restoration work began, as well as a media day to inform the press and public about the progression of the project. This was my first time visiting the Old Burial Ground in person as a result of the pandemic, so it was great to be able to see what was actually there, and to my excitement the site was in a lot better shape than it appeared to be in the photos.

You can find some of the news articles at the following links: the CBC, Global News, CTV News Atlantic,
If you are interested in the City’s press release regarding the project and my involvement, please head to the City’s website HERE.

One of the graves that I was very excited to see, and which I raved about to the reporters, was this grave (above) made by one ‘W. Brodie’. While the grave marker is standard for the area, the raised plot and curbing is what really stood out to me. I’d never seen a cast-iron curb anywhere before, or anywhere since! It’s such a unique style and one that is in amazing shape, so I’m very excited to share these photos with you all! If anyone knows more about the manufacturer, I’d love to know!

Another feature that really stood out during this project was the surviving iron fences around some of the plots. While iron fences often don’t survive due to rust, dismantling, or vandalism, there were some amazing examples at the OBG. Take the example below, with a gorgeous cast willow tree with two lambs and roses on the gate. You can just see small willow trees in each of the sections of the fence in the background. There were several examples of this fence pattern at the site, all within close proximity to one another, and if you’re in the area I definitely recommend a visit to see them!

While on my first (business) trip to Fredericton, I had to check out some of the local sights near my hotel downtown. I took a few walks across the old railway bridge over the Saint John river to visit the Picaroons Roundhouse craft beer brewery (they had local cider too!), and had the chance to taste test a few great local restaurants. It was a wonderful experience, and I look forward to seeing how Fredericton moves forward with the project over the next few years!

Author: Robyn S. Lacy

Archaeologist / Cultural Heritage / Burial Ground Restoration

6 thoughts on “The Old Burial Ground, Fredericton, NB

  1. I hope you consulted “The old Burying ground ” by Isabel Hill. It is is an extremely helpful work in discovering stones, with helpful illustrations. There is a copy at the Fredericton Library.

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    • The project currently involves preserving the existing above-ground monuments. If you have any questions about the ongoing project, please direct them to the City. Thanks!

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      • Um, yes, that was my point. Gravestones are above ground. Some have eroded or broken since the book was published. I used it to located some stones the last time I visited and I thought I’d share a resource that helped me.

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  2. Pingback: This week's crème de la crème - December 4, 2021 - Genealogy à la carteGenealogy à la carte

  3. My ancestor, Rebecca Armour is buried there (under her married name) along with her mother. She was a local author around Fredericton in the 1800s.

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