Old and/or abandoned cemeteries

My maternal grandmother, whom I have mentioned in other threads, was one of six children, of whom only three lived to adulthood. A brother, Joseph Lynn Kasson, died of diptheria at three. There is a poem on his grave.

He sleeps, he sleeps, our Lynnie sleeps
The sleep that never wakes
Safe in the arms of Jesus
Until the morning breaks.

I drove through rural Ontario with some friends from Ireland and every time we drove past a cemetery, one of them would say, “Looks like we’re in the dead center of town.” It was funny the first dozen times or so.

The most beautiful cemetry I’ve ever seen is in Uppsala, Sweden. There are so many trees that, in some places, it feels more like you’re in a forest with a few tombs here and there rather than in a cemetry.

The Magnificent Seven cemetries of London are well worth a visit. Highgate gets most of the attention, but my favourite is Abney Park. It’s just the right amount of overgrown and abandoned to give it a real eerie vibe. Plus it has trees around the perimeter arranged alphabetically, which appeals to my OCD.

I’ve been through Mount Pleasant Cemetery and St. James Cemetery in Toronto many times. (My mother is buried in St. James.) Each is old, and each contains the graves of many of Toronto’s, Ontario’s, and Canada’s movers-and-shakers. Many unique grave markers and mausoleums; and St. James, being partly built on a hill, even has an “Egyptian Wall” of mausoleums built into the hill, like London’s Highgate Cemetery.

My Dad remembered a long-forgotten one in Hastings County, Ontario (he was originally from Hastings County), and he took me there once. It was buried in the forest, and it was definitely abandoned and old—I don’t think any gravestone listed a date past 1910 or so, and the trees and their roots had tilted or knocked over a number of stones. We had a couple of great-great ancestors in there, and we found their stones.

But it had the most unusual gravestone I’ve ever seen: a tripod of iron stakes which culminated in a hook at the top, from which hung a granite heart, naming the decedent buried beneath, and her dates.

Please don’t do this, rubbing the stone can cause it to flake even more and erode even faster. There are other, and better, ways to get the information off of the stone. One way, doesn’t always work, is to pour water over the stone, sometimes the water will get in to the carvings and make them easier to read. Going at the right time of day can really help, noon can be a good time depending on the shadows.

If you are really interested in seeing the inscription using a dSLR and an off camera flash can really help bring out the carvings. Here are some instructions and here are some examples. And while I’ve never tried it, I’ve heard you can use a mirror to shine light on the stone.

I know all about the local cemeteries in my area. I have documented and photographed all about about 10 that I know of for sure that exist. I’ve taken 20,000 or more photos, made a list of all the cemeteries, and written a book about the family cemeteries of my area. So many of the family cemeteries are badly kept up, lots of broken stones, known missing stones, fallen stones, and even stolen stones.

For those interested in really beautifully carved stones done by a slave in the 1820-1840 time frame check out Sebastian “Boss” Hammond.

Yes consort just means wife, quite common to see on stones from the 1800s.

Please be careful doing this. If you are water and a soft brush are all that you need. You can also use soft wood like chopsticks to clean out the carvings. Please DON’T put any chemicals on stones, it can and will get in to the stone and destroy it even further. There is one cleaner called D2 that has been approved by headstone conservators to be no destructive. But water and light brushing can really help clean a stone.

I saw that mentioned in a YouTube video on cleaning a stone and I am going to look for it. But judging by the family stones I have ready access to water is probably enough. I also need a safe type of brush

Most of my mother’s family are buried in a churchyard way out in the holler with readable markers dating back to the late 1800s; it’s still in use and a few older gravestones have been replaced, but many more that still stand are unreadable and utterly forgotten. At the oldest end of the cemetery is a little wood, and if you wander in there you’ll find several rounded granite rocks, all that is left. Presumbly a little ways past the rocks lie the burial sites of people whose markers disintegrated entirely; perhaps the skeletons themselves have also dissolved. I last saw it a couple of years ago and think of it often. For most, it’s really not very long after death that the last person who remembered you is gone, and not long after that that the last person who ever even heard of you is gone. Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

My wife is descended from Anthony Brackett, who came here in 1630 and was massacred with members of his family by Indians in what is now Rye, NH, in 1691. The site is marked with blank stones. We visited it a few years ago.

I also have an abandoned cemetery near me, with about 25 memorial stones still visible, though many are not legible by any means anymore. Earliest death date noted there is 1848, the latest is 1937. It had run to ruin by the 1960’s when I was exploring it as a kid. A cousin of mine worked hard to restore it in the 1990’s and it’s been relatively maintained ever since. I have no direct ancestors buried there but do have some distant cousins and uncles/aunts in it.

I always try to stop by cemeteries - old and new.

Montreal has two major cemeteries - one traditionally Protestant - dating from 1852. 165 acres and many graves. Right beside it is a traditionally Catholic one - dating from 1854. 343 acres and many graves. Both have older graves which were moved from other cemeteries (which are often unreadable). They are still finding remains from the original cemeteries and try to identify and re-bury them. The only access along the long metal fence between the two is through a section of non-denominational military graves.

The trend in both is towards “columbariums”, as outdoor space is at a premium. Walking/guided tours are offered regularly - for those interested in history, and for those interested in nature.

My ancestors are buried on the Protestant side. Excellent and detailed records are kept by the management, and I was able to find out how many caskets and how many urns were in our plot, and their exact locations (room for plenty more urns). Fortunately they match what’s carved on the monument (dates from the early 1900’s and is running out of space). Grass is cut and trees pruned regularly. They do have problems with groundhogs which can interfere with anything underground.

The only other marker on our plot is a slab dating back to the early 1800’s. It’s just barely readable.

If your cemetery is big enough to have any kind of office - they can be a big help in finding your loved ones.

The only time I ever visit a cemetery or graveyard on purpose is when someone has died. But sometimes when I’m traveling and stop near one we’ll walk through it and look at the headstones. In Plano, Texas there’s the Bowman Cemetery which is about 3.6 acres of land in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. The middle school I went to was named Bowman. The cemetery is divided between the Brown family and the Bowman family, but there’s one grave of a little girl that’s so far away from everyone else that it appears she’s alone. The cemetery was established in the 1860s after the Civil War, and they continued to bury people there until the 1920s. The city owns the cemetery now and they’re responsible for maintaining it.

Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. is amazing. A beautiful spot for a picnic and a well-known birdwatching destination.

Of course, you can’t beat New Orleans for cemeteries, as long as the bodies don’t actually have to be in the ground.

Mentioned at length in my post above (#14, from yesterday)

The name Mt. Auburn must be popular for cemeteries as another old cemetery in my town has that name.

My grandmother was a geneologist who spent quite a bit of time in cemetaries and libraries. She had documented the cemetary where many of her relatives had been buried and provided this to the caretaker at the time.

When she was buried, the current caretaker said it was an honor to inter her ashes. He has, and still users, the papers that she had provided to his predecessor.

The earliest burial is 1827, the most recent is 2023, so it’s still active. I believe it was part of a family farm at one time.

Good to see it’s active at almost two hundred years old.

Just thought of one of the most unusual cemeteries out there: Richview Cemetery in Toronto. It’s actually pretty normal as cemeteries go, but what makes it unusual is that it sits in the middle of a freeway interchange. It’s quite obvious if you’re driving by at freeway speeds, and I have, but it makes you wonder—how did it get there?

As you might expect, the cemetery came first, and the highways came many years later. The cemetery could have been moved when the highways were built, but it was decided to leave it where it was, as it wasn’t really disturbing anything and the roads could be routed around it. Which they were:

Text report with photos:

CBC TV news video (3:44, may begin automatically):

Now I have a rather a disturbing image in my brain.

I had never, ever considered the idea of combining groundhog and cemetery in the same sentence.
Hint: Do not google those words together. Just don’t.