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.