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Catherine Paterson, B.Sc., M.A., Ph.D. Candidate, McMaster University

Poster Presentation Abstract

This research explores recent efforts to maintain historic family cemeteries in the Niagara region of Ontario.  These family cemeteries were first created during settlement by Loyalists in the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s by subsequent settlers.  Some are still in use today, but the majority are no longer used for burial.  Modern intervention is often seen in these cemeteries when monuments are repaired or in cases where monuments are collected and embedded in concrete.  There are additional cemeteries where efforts to maintain them take various forms instead of or in addition to monument preservation.  In some of these cemeteries markers no longer remain, markers are not in need of work, or markers were set in concrete rather than being repaired.  Instead of the preservation of individual monuments in these cemeteries, there is a range of endeavours that focus on extending the visibility and presence of the cemetery once the original monuments are gone.

Examples include the Culp, Lampman and Butler family cemeteries.  In the case of the Culp Family Cemetery no monuments remain, so it is a heritage sign that indicates the presence of the historic burial ground and outlines its place in the history of the region.  The Lampman Family Cemetery is the burial location of a husband and wife in a cluster of growth in the centre of a farm field.  The marker of Charity Lampman has disappeared, but that of her husband Samuel is still standing and is in good condition.  A local heritage group has placed a large granite boulder at the burial site with a plaque with the Lampman’s names and birth and death years.  At the Butler Family Cemetery the original slab monuments, several of which are broken, have been set flat in concrete or in the ground.  In 1967 granite tablet replicas were created and placed above each flat historical marker.

These endeavours indicate a desire to maintain a physical record of the existence and location of each cemetery and to ensure that the identity of those buried there will not be lost. This clearly extends the lifespan of the visible component of the cemetery without the use of traditional techniques to preserve individual historic monuments. Family cemeteries in the Niagara region such as Culp, Lampman and Butler offer an opportunity to explore (1) creative variations in the methods used to prolong cemetery existence; (2) the role and use of historic cemeteries as ties to the past and the heritage of a region; and, (3) the links between local heritage and how and why such recent preservation efforts are carried out by communities.

This research falls within my broader Ph.D. research that focuses on the creation and use of family cemeteries in the Niagara region during 18th and 19th century settlement.  I am exploring the links between cemetery use and family, community, memory and identity and the transition to the use of municipal and church cemeteries as settlements developed.

Preliminary results indicate that during their use, family cemeteries were locales where settlers negotiated various aspects of identity including their family, community and country of origin.  When looking at the use of cemeteries by families for burial in the past and more recently by communities for maintaining links to their past, there is a continuity of family cemeteries as being places where identity and collective memory are created and negotiated.

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4 Responses to Nationwide Cemetery Preservation Summit Abstracts and Video

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  2. Robert Wrigley says:

    My wife’s gr-gr-grandfather is a Union soldier buried there. When we visited this grave site last October we were quite dismayed at the condition and damage done to the stones by lawn mowers running over and chipping it. At the time we did not know the full history of the markers being altered in the 1930s. We would fully support the efforts to restore them.
    Would it be possible for a private citizen to be able to contribute to the restoration of their family’s marker or replacement? Perhaps a volunteer effort of those with relatives there could help accomplish some of this initiative to restore to their original condition.

    • Jason Church says:

      Dear Robert,
      The best person to talk with will be Betsy Dinger Elizabeth_Dinger@nps.gov who is a historian for Petersburg National Battlefield and Cemetery.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro says:

      Mr. Wrigley,
      I don’t know if you’ll get this message but I would be very interested to know which of the men buried at Battleground Cemetery is your wife’s gr-gr-grandfather. I am a historian and I have spent the last several years researcing the battle of Fort Stevens and Battleground National Cemetery. Does your wife have a photograph of her ancestor? That would be a goldmine. I have never seen any picture of any of the men killed at the battle.

      If you can be of help to me, my e-mail address is bryanac625@yahoo.com. Thank you.

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