(This would be a great paper title, wouldn’t it? I call it for later!)
Welcome back, readers! It has been quite the hectic summer so far this year, between PhD research, passing my thesis proposal defence at the end of May, gravestone restoration fieldwork, and a quick trip with my dad across Canada in the family van. Just before I flew west though, my husband and I visited the historic Burgess Property in Whiteway, NL. The property was receiving a new heritage plaque in honour of its designated status as a heritage property within the province, and there was a great turnout!
The buildings were constructed between the 1860s and 1900, and the complex includes former sawmill, a stable and store, a root cellar, a fishing stage, and the family home. It was wonderful to finally be able to visit the site and take a look around the structures, but I was there for a very specific reason…apotropaic magic. I know this post isn’t about gravestones per-say, but if you have been a reader for a little while, you’ll know that I’m currently studying and writing a manuscript about the use of protective magic on graves, and these symbols are among the ones we see in both contexts!
This post was written by myself, Robyn Lacy, and my friend and colleague (and often collaborator) Elizabeth Cushing, of Cushing Design Group.
We have worked in cultural heritage together since 2017, and have spent a lot of time discussing the preservation and curated decay in heritage structures. I’ve written about curated decay before on my blog, but today we wanted to discuss decay within structures, and highlight the design and historical significance of this Georgian style home in Upper Canard, Nova Scotia. All photographs in this post were taken by Elizabeth Cushing, unless otherwise noted.
This magnificent Georgian country estate, complete with summer kitchen to the left of the main house, was constructed in 1790 and was the childhood home of Sir. Frederick Borden (no relation to Charles Borden, who developed the Borden System, which is used to define the location of all archaeological sites in Canada). Sir Frederick William Borden (1847-1917) was a physician, businessman, militia officer and politician who practiced medicine in Canning, while also investing in ships, utilities and real estate. He was an investor in the Cornwallis Railway Company Limited, the Canning Water and Electric Light, Heating and Power Company Limited and the Western Chronicle, and owned two 125 to 150 ton vessels.
In my last post, I mentioned the ‘London Marble and Granite Company Limited’, which was originally founded by J.R. Peel, a renowned artist and gravestone carver. Today I’d like to talk a little more about about Peel, his shop, and the idea of death within the built landscape and our cultural heritage.
If you haven’t heard of John Robert Peel before, let us review. An artist, Peel was born in England in 1830, and married Amelia Margaret Hall in 1849. The couple relocated to London, Ontario in 1852. Peel became an art teacher, highly involved in the growing city’s art scene, and eventually carved gravestones! John and Amelia had several children, including Paul Peel and Mildred Peel, both noted Canadian artists.
Hello again, fellow death & burial enthusiasts! My goal with these posts is to share my love of a type of structure that isn’t widely written about (clearly my goal is to change that), and inform you all about a burial practice that was reserved for the colder parts of the world…Canada, parts of the USA, the UK, etc. My research on the practice has been restricted to North America and the British Isles thus far, though it is also clear through readings that winter body storage had to happen in many other places as well (ie. Iceland). I can’t wait to dive in further!
Today I wanted to talk about why some of these structures are octagonal in Ontario, as opposed to a standard rectangular or subterranean structures. There might be a method to this madness!
It’s a common theme throughout history, that women’s stories are swept under the rug, intentionally or not, to make way for the stories of history’s great men. Of course, with cis women, trans, queer, and otherwise non-gender-conforming individuals being present throughout history, the tales of ‘men’ are only a small fraction of the whole story.
Gravestones from the 19th century have a common formula when it comes to remembering women, and that is by labelling them as wife of… and often not providing any additional information about them. Often nothing much is recorded throughout history about them either, making it even more difficult to find anything else out other than who they married. Today I’d like to talk about three young women who are buried at Brick Street Cemetery, and were early settlers in the area in the mid-19th century: Phoebe McNames, Silvany Tunks, & Hannah Caldwell.
It is my greatest joy to share the identification of the 8th identified Octagonal Dead House in Ontario with you all! This structure was located and relayed to me by Adam Montgomery, PhD, who runs @CaCemeteryHist on twitter and the Canadian Cemeteries History website. I was so excited to hear about this site, and to add it to my growing database of the structures.
If you’ve missed my previous posts on this topic, please find them HERE and HERE. Those posts cover the use of dead houses historically, and have images of the other structures! They range from ornate stone to simple brick, and are something to behold.
Dear reader, can you hardly believe that it’s been a full 2 months of gravestone conservation work and training? Because I definitely can’t! It both feels like I started this job yesterday, and that I’ve been doing it forever. It’s what the heart wants! I’m happily writing this post on a Wednesday, that also happens to coincide with #AskanArchaeologist day! So at the end of this post, if you have any archaeology-related questions about historical burial archaeology, gravestone conservation, what else I research, etc., please don’t hesitate to ask!
Lets jump right into the last week+ at Woodland, shall we?
My goodness, what a whirlwind these past 7 weeks have been! With only one week to go, I can’t believe I’m nearly finished with these weekly(ish) blog updates of my training and work as a gravestone conservator. Here we go people, I can fix gravestones and know more about stone than I did two months ago! Does anyone want me to talk about stones forever…because too late, I’m never going to stop!
It was an exciting and productive week at the cemetery, so lets dive in! It was only a four-day week because last Monday was Canada Day, so I’m pretty impressed with all the things we got done.
Meagan & Thomas, archivist/historians, preparing for the July 6 tours.
If you’ve been around this website for more than a minute or two, you’ll have noticed that I’m really interested in what settlers did with their dead during the winter. I’ve written about dead houses several times on this blog, talked about them at Death Salon Boston 2018, am currently working on a paper on winter corpse disposal in colonial North America, and shout about them to anyone who listens!
A really interesting form of dead house is the octagonal structures that can be found in Ontario. As far as I know so far, these seven surviving examples (if anyone has one not listed in this post, please let me know!) are the only octagonal dead houses in the province, if not North America. The style was extremely localized to Toronto, and north of the City around Yonge Street.
This is a particularly special site I’d like to discuss with you today: The Fairview Cemetery, near Oliver, BC. Fairview was a gold mining town in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, born out of the gold rush in the area in the late 1880s. Legend has it that gold was first discovered by a one-armed man in the 1860s, but no Europeans arrived to exploit the areas for gold until the 1880s. It was located just west of the modern-day town of Oliver, and some older homes in Oliver are said to have been built out of wood salvaged from the would-be ghost town.
View from the Fairview townsite over the South Okanagan