Friday, April 27, 2018

The Effigy of Thomas Chafe of Dodscott

The Effigy of Thomas Chafe of Dodscott
St Giles in the Wood, Devon, England
One of the more striking features of of the parish church of St Giles in the Wood in North Devon is this 17th century wooden effigy.

The inscription reads:

In
Piam
THOMAE CHAFE
Generosi memoriam
Ex per antiqua CHAFORUM de CHAFE-COMBE familia in Comitatu
SOMERSET oriundi; ex collegio EXON in Academia OXON Artium
Magistri; viri probitate, virtute, ac ingenio insigis; qui in Apostolica
fide constante versatus, in beatae justorum, resurrectionis spe Animam
expiravit XXVto die Novemb Anno salutis, 1648
aetatisq suae Climacterico Magno
eXVVIas sVas eXVIt MeDICVs
Uxorem reliquit MARGERIAM, filiam PHILIPPI BURGOYNE clarrissima
BURGOYNORUM prosapia orti; Matronam religiosissimam bonorumq
operum plenissimam quae et obdormiuit in Domino die
Anno a Chro nato 16 aetatis
vero suae

ABSTULIT A NOBIS MISERE QUEM FLEM' ADEMPTUM
AESTULIT E VIVIS MORTIS INIQUA MANUS
NEC CECIDIT SOLUS; NAMQ ET PRUDENTIA VIRTUS,
CANDOR, AMOR, PIETAS, INTERIERE SIMUL,
TESTE VEL INVIDIA, VITA EST, LETHOQ BEATUS
VIVUS ERAT DOMINI, MORTUUS IN DOMINO
Which translates as:
In pious memory of the noble Thomas Chafe arisen from the very ancient family of the Chafes from Chaffcombe in the county of Somerset, Master of Arts from Exeter College in the University of Oxford; a man remarkable in probity, virtue and character who having been devoted in constant apostolic faith breathed out his spirit on the 25th day of November in the year of grace 1648 and in his grand climacteric year, in hope of the blessed resurrection of the Just. The doctor rejoiced exceedingly at his loud howlings. He left a wife Margery, daughter of Philip Burgoyn sprung from the most famous stock of the Burgoyns, a most religious matron and most full of good works who too went to sleep in Christ on the [blank]day of [blank] in the year since the birth of Christ 16[blank] of her age [blank]
He took away from us misery
He took away from the living the unjust hand of death
Neither did he fall alone, for prudence, virtue
Honesty, love and piety perished at the same time
With envy as witness [unknown]
Of the Lord he was alive, he died in the Lord
Thomas Chaffe (abt 1585 -1648) of Dodscott was the third son of Thomas Chaffe of Exeter (? -1604) and Dorothy Shorte (? -1612). His sister, Pascoe Chafe, was the wife of Tristram Risdon of Winscott (abt 1580-1640), author of The Chorographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon. Thomas married Margaret Burgoyne (? -1655). In his will dated September 24, 1648 he appoints his "hopeful godson and young nephew" Thomas Chafe (1611-1662) executor and directs him to inter his body "as neere as he can by my sister Risedon, and I doe ordain appointe and require £30 rather more than lesse to be bestowed in a monument of my Effigies by my Esecutor, of whose ove herin I am no diffident, who have reaped so many gratuities formely from mee, and now in present burthening his conscience for effecting it as he shall answer coram Deo. I desire him to inscript in my monument some memory of his good Aunt Risedon, and of the family deceased there interred, also of my wife and her two children, noe great onus to an ingenious, generous, and gratefull minde." Thomas Chafe was buried at St Giles in the Wood on 29 Nov 1648.

The dates of Margaret Burgoyne's death and burial were never inscribed on the monument. Her burial on 30 Mar 1655 is recorded in the St Giles in the Wood parish register.

The effigy is described in detail in Charles Worthy's Devonshire Wills, published in 1896:

In accordance with his uncle's injunctions, Thomas Chafe erected in the chancel of St. Giles, and within the altar-rails, a high tomb to the memory of deceased, with his effigy thereon. The figure, with moustache and peaked beard, is lying upon the right side, the face supported by the hand, the elbow resting upon a cushion. The costume consists of a coif or skull-cap which entirely conceals the hair, a short cloak with tight sleeves, and which being open in front shows that the body is protected by a cuirass, frequently worn in those troublous times, fastened down the front with studs; breeches and long stockings gartered below the knee with roses or knots, and on the feet are low shoes similarly decorated. There were also two female figures, who probably represented the two children referred to in the will. Over the figure are three coats of arms. In the centre the ancient, but questionable, arms of Chafe, already blazoned, with mantling and crest: A demi lion ramp. or, holding between its paws a fusil, az.

On the dexter side; Chafe impaling Burgoyne: Az. a talbot pass. arg. in chief a mullet.

And on the sinister side; Risdon: Arg. 3 bird bolts sa., impaling Chafe.
Thomas Chafe's epitaph
The inscription is interesting in that it describes Chafe as having died in the year of his grand climacteric (63). The inscription also contains a chronogram. The Roman numerals in the line "eXVVIas sVas eXVIt MeDICVs" add up to 1648, the year of Chafe's death.

When the church was rebuilt in 1862 the effigy was removed from its original position in the chancel within the alter rails and placed against the south wall of the tower. Worthy writes, "The two female figures then disappeared; and I understand that 'they fell to pieces, and could not be put together again.'"


In 1987 the effigy was carefully restored, and placed in the newly created Mary Withecombe Chapel.

Sources:

Worthy, Charles. Devonshire Wills. Bemrose & Sons, 1896.

Worthy, Charles. “Thomas Chafe, of Doddescote, Gentleman.” Report & Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol. 19, 1887, pp. 531–537.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

William Cooke: From Devon to Gaspe

William Cooke (1791-1867)
In 1817, my ggg-grandfather William Cooke left High Bickington, Devon, England to assume management of a fishing station located at Paradise on Placentia Bay on the south coast of Newfoundland. The fishing station had previously been owned by William's great-uncle George Cooke and had been inherited by William's father in 1790. William was the youngest son of George Cooke of Langley Barton, High Bickington and was the grandson of Michael Cooke of East Dodscott, St Giles in the Wood.

The first record of the Cooke family in St Giles in the Wood is the baptism of George, son of Michael and Margaret Cooke in 1742. A daughter, Mary, was baptised in 1744 and a son, Michael, in 1748. Michael and Margaret had at least two other children: Michael who was buried at St Giles in the Wood in 1747 at the age of seven, and Rebecca., who married in 1761. As Michael and Rebecca's baptisms are not recorded at St Giles in the Wood, it can be assumed that Michael and Margaret Cooke came to St Giles about 1741.

Michael Cooke, the son of Michael Cooke and Mary Carter, was baptised in Otterton, in the south of Devon, in 1707. Michael's brother George was buried at Otterton in 1790, and although his baptism is not recorded there, George's will clearly supports the Otterton connection. In his will dated 27 July 1788 he writes, "In the Name of God Amen I George Cooke formerly of Otterton, but now of Saint Giles in the County of Devon Mariner..." George owned property in the Parishes of Langtree and Topshaw as well as at Paradise in Newfoundland. George requested that "I desire to be buried in Otterton Church Yard as near to my late wife as ___ may be." George also had a watch which he bequeathed to his grandnephew, also named George.

Michael Cooke most likely moved to St Giles in the Wood at the request of Henry Rolle, later Baron Rolle of Stevenstone, and took up occupancy of East Dodscott as a yeoman farmer. His daughter Rebecca married William Snell of South Dodscott in 1761 and they had numerous children. Michael's daughter Mary married Thomas Loveband of Yarnscombe in 1767 but they did not have any children.

Dodscott is listed as Dodecota in the Domesday Book. It was acquired by George Rolle of Stevenstone in the 16th century and was formerly the home of Thomas Chafe whose effigy can be found inside the church at St Giles in the Wood. The East Dodscott farmhouse is a listed building described as a 16th century farmhouse with major 17th century improvements. 

Three gravestones at St Giles in the Wood
Michael Cooke was buried at St Giles in the Wood in 1777. His slate headstone is a listed monument. Nearby are a group of three headstones that are also listed. The first records the deaths of Michael and Margaret's sons, Michael in 1747 at the age of seven and his brother Michael in 1771 at the age of 23. Beside this is a gravestone with no name or date but bearing a poetic epitaph in praise of "a tender mother, a virtuous wife." This gravestone covers the front of a third gravestone which records the death of Rebecca Snell, however, the date is obscured. The St Giles in the Wood parish register records a 1779 burial for Rebecca, wife of William Snell.

After Michael Cooke's death, occupancy of East Dodscott transferred to his son George. George married Elizabeth "Betty" Walkey, daughter of John Walkey, in December 1777 at Great Torrington. In 1783, George purchased Langley Barton in High Bickington for £1935 but did not take up residency until 1788. George and Betsy both died in 1821 and were buried inside the church of St Giles in the Wood. Unfortunately, their ledger stone is now badly worn and very little of the inscription can be read.

Langley Barton, High Bickington, Devon
Langley Barton is a Grade II listed manor house believed to date from the early 17th century. The house was previously the home of the Pollard family and it is believed the Pollards lived there from 1303 to 1732. The Pollard coat of arms are carved about the entrance and a fireplace stone (now concealed) bears the initials RP and the date 1624 (most likely Richard Pollard). The house has a five bay south-facing front and retains numerous 17th century features including a staircase, panelled door and fireplace.

George and Betty had twelve children. One daughter, Maria, died before her first birthday in 1793. A second daughter, Sarah, died in 1798 at three years of age. Elizabeth died in 1804, two months before her 17th birthday. Two other daughters, Mary and Rebecca, never married and lived in Barnstaple.

The eldest son, Michael, married Mary Wood of Westleigh in 1809. For the next twelve years Michael Cooke occupied East Dodscott in St Giles in the Wood. Michael inherited Langley Barton in 1821 and lived there until his death in 1866. Michael's son George then inherited Langley Barton, however, sold the property in 1878. Two of Michael Cooke's children emigrated to the United States, Dr. William Henry Cooke who settled near Peoria, Illinois and Charlotte Caroline Cooke who married William Newell Vicary of Great Torrington and settled in Stafford, Genesee, New York. Another son, Michael Cooke, was a surgeon in Barnstaple.

Prayer Book of Ann Cooke (1782-1827)
George and Betty's daughter Ann married Anthony Loveband, son of Anthony Loveband of Yarnscombe. It is interesting to note that Ann's aunt, Mary Cooke, had married Anthony's uncle, Thomas Loveband. George Cooke and Anthony Loveband were partners in a private bank established in Great Torrington in 1802. In 1821 the partnership was dissolved but the bank continued as Loveband & Co until its 1843 amalgamation with the National Provincial Bank of England. A collection of family and estate papers was recently deposited at the North Devon Record Office in Barnstaple. Included in the collection is Ann Cooke's Book of Common Prayer and an account book that records the birth of Ann's two children and her death in 1827. Ann and Anthony were buried at St Andrew's in Yarnscombe.

George Cooke's son George, who presumably inherited his great-uncle's watch, married Mary Best of Bishops Tawton and became a coal merchant in Bideford. His brother John married Mary Lake of Witheridge, Devon and was a tanner in Fareham, Hampshire. Their sister, Charlotte, married James Wood of Westleigh, brother of Mary Wood. Charlotte, her daughter Mary Rebecca Wood and her husband James are buried at St Peter's in Westleigh.

Cooke ledger stone, St Giles in the Wood
Samuel Cooke married Elizabeth Edwards, daughter of William Edwards and Elizabeth Chichester. Elizabeth Chichester was the daughter of the Revd William Chichester and the granddaughter of Sir John Chichester, 4th Baronet of Youlston. Samuel was involved in a number of activities including timber merchant, wine and spirit merchant, and gentleman farmer. There are also indications that Samuel acted as the English agent for his brother William. Samuel occupied East Dodscott in St Giles in the Wood after his brother Michael inherited Langley Barton. All four of his children were baptised at St Giles in the Wood. Samuel, his son Wakeman Edwards and his mother-in-law were buried inside the church of St Giles in the Wood. There is also a window and brass plaque in memory of Samuel Cooke and his wife Elizabeth Edwards.

My ggg-grandfather William Cooke married Lucinda Power of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Nine children were born in Newfoundland, although only the birth dates of five of them have been established. It is known that in 1821 William inherited his father's share in the ship Friends, a brig of 69 tons built at Cleavehouses, Barnstaple in 1812.

An account of William Cooke, written in 1835, appears in the journal of the Revd Edward Wix, a Church of England missionary:
Saturday, March 14. - In the morning started in the sleet and rain, and in a very wet condition from my last night's lair, to find the south east bight, and was more successful in my search, than the preceding evening. I was most humanely entertained by a Roman Catholic planter, Handlin and his wife, at whose house I dried and warmed myself, and after breakfast, was put over the bight in a punt, whilst it was blowing very heavily, and afterwards proceeded on foot to the winter-house of Mr. William Cooke, (of Bideford, England) at Red Cove. As Mrs. Cooke, much to my regret, had, on the first intimation of my arrival, walked nearly three miles to their summer residence at Adam's Island, in Paradise Harbour, to receive me there, I accompanied her husband to this place, where he has been settled eighteen years, and has a fine establishment. Finding that Mrs. C., who is the mother of a very interesting family, (if not a native,) was formerly a resident of Liverpool, in Nova Scotia, to the inhabitants of which place I am warmly attached, it was delightful to me to have an opportunity of speaking of scenes and persons which will ever be dear to my memory.
Another account is the diary of William Harding. Harding was employed by William Cooke as a fisher and blacksmith from April 1818 to October 1820 and married Cooke's housekeeper in July 1820, "according to the Rights of the Church of England by Wm. Cooke Esq. and merchant of the Harbour."

William Cooke left Newfoundland about 1840 and settled on a farm at New Carlisle on the south coast of the Gaspe Peninsula. The farm remained in the family until the death of his great-grandson, Alfred Harris Cooke in 1977. New Carlisle records often refer to William Cooke as a schoolmaster, suggesting he left the operation of the farm to his oldest son, William.

The first record of William Cooke in New Carlisle is the marriage of his daughter, Julia Ann, to Jessie Caldwell in 1841. His oldest daughter, Anna Eliza, married Matthew Caldwell in 1842, and his daughter Mary married Amasa Beebe in 1844. The record of this marriage in the St Andrew's parish register is interesting as it indicates that William and Lucinda were elsewhere at the time of Mary's wedding.
On this twenty first day of March in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred & forty four Amasa Beebe of New Carlisle Farmer, Son of Joshua Beebe of said place Farmer & the deceased Margaret McKinnon his former wife & Mary Cooke Daughter of William Cooke formerly of New Carlisle Schoolmaster & of Lucinda Power his wife, were married after due publication of banns in presence of James Craig & Hugh Caldwell & others, the said parties having been illegally married on the twenty first day of July, one thousand eight hundred & forty one by a Justice of the Peace.
One possibility is that William had returned to England for an extended visit. It is known that William was in Devon in 1836 where an assignment of lease refers to him as "William Cooke of Newfoundland, North America, but now of Bideford, merchant." 

New Carlisle 1865 by Thomas Pye
New Carlisle was settled in 1784 by Loyalist claimants and discharged soldiers of the British Army. Five of William Cooke's children married descendants of the original settlers. Amasa Beebe was the son of Joshua Beebe and the grandson of Joshua Beebe and Mary Secord. Before the American Revolution, Joshua Beebe and Mary Secord had been living in Pennsylvania on the Upper Branch of the East Susquehanna River. Joshua Beebe was a Loyalist, and in 1777 he and his oldest son, Adin Beebe, enlisted in Butler's Rangers.

In the summer of 1778, just prior to the Battle of Wyoming, Mary Secord and her children were evacuated first to Tioga Point near Athens, Pennsylvania, where Amasa Beebe's father was born in August, and then to Fort Niagara. Mary Secord's husband died of smallpox in October 1778, after being captured by the Americans. Mary Secord and her children were eventually sent to the refugee camp at Machiche near Trois-Rivières, Quebec. Mary Secord married Christopher Pearson at Machiche and they were among the first settlers at New Carlisle in 1784. Mary Secord lived to well over one hundred. Her brother, James Secord, a Loyalist who was granted land west of the Niagara River, was the father-in-law of the Canadian heroine Laura Secord.

William Cooke's daughter, Louisa, married Hugh Chisholm in 1846. The youngest daughter, Charlotte Rosa married James Milne in 1854. Two sons, Alfred Wood Cooke and George Cooke did not marry.

William Cooke's oldest son, William, married Judith Chatterton, the granddaughter of Samuel Chatterton and Charlotte Beebe. Samuel Chatterton was a member of the 31st Regiment of Foot and received a land grant in New Carlisle upon his discharge from the British Army after the American Revolution. Charlotte Beebe was the older sister of Joshua Beebe. Her baptism at the age of 14 was recorded at Trois-Rivières but her place of birth is uncertain.

William Cooke died in 1867 and was buried at St Andrew's in New Carlisle.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Family Secret?

An enigmatically carved marker
On the south bank of the Welland River west of Niagara Falls, Ontario, can be found the Young Cemetery. Also know as the Young-Misener Cemetery, this family burial ground was in poor condition until fairly recently. A few years ago the City of Niagara Falls restored the cemetery, setting the many stones that has fallen flat over the years into concrete bases. In the process a number of previously unknown gravestones were uncovered. One such gravestone was a small enigmatically carved marker.

Under good lighting conditions the following letters can be seen with the year 1905 inscribed vertically on the left.

A L E
B N 9
D N 14
A 4 D

The inscription suggested the death of an infant on 14 Nov 1905. A check of the Ontario Death Records (available through Ancestry) revealed the death of an Alice Louisa Everingham on the previous day. The cause of death, however, was somewhat unsettling: “Smothered in sleep.” Had I uncovered a dark family secret?

Alice Louise Etherington had been born four days previously on 9 Nov 1905. Her parents were George Everingham and Dollie May Hutchinson.

George Albert Everingham, the son of Abner M. Everingham (1834-1914) and Eliza Ann Wills (1842-1883), was born on 28 Apr 1877 in Ontario. His wife, Dollie, was born across the Niagara River in Buffalo in June of 1888, the daughter of Michael Hutchinson and Mary Ferman. It is not known when and where George and Dollie married, however, Dollie was only 16 when she became pregnant with Alice.

George and Dollie has three more children: Raymond Victor, born in 1907, Fester, born in 1909, and Arthur born in 1913. Fester and Arthur were both born in New York State. The family emigrated to the United States before Fester’s birth but returned to Canada before Dollie’s death in 1914. 


Young Cemetery, Crowland, Welland, Ontario
According to her death registration, Dollie was killed in a railway accident. She was buried at the Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls.

In 1915, George married Florence Beatrice Wright (1896-1972). They had one child, Myrtle, born in 1916. George and Florence are buried at Lundy’s Lane Cemetery in Niagara Falls.

The Young Cemetery is located on land granted to George Young in 1798. The first burial was that of eleven-year-old Samuel Young, a grandson of George, in 1822.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Years of Neglect: Carl Misener Bald Cemetery

Remaining gravestones at Carl Misener Bald Cemetery
Like many pioneer cemeteries in Ontario, the Carl Misener Bald Cemetery has suffered from years of neglect. The cemetery sits on the west bank of the Welland Canal south of Port Robinson and is accessible via the Welland Canals Parkway Trail.

In 1798, John Carl (1755-1836) set aside one acre of Lot 213 in Thorold Township for a cemetery. John was a Loyalist who served with Butler’s Rangers during the American Revolution. His wife was Elizabeth Misener (1770-1826), daughter of Leonard Misener (1744-1806) and Barbara Bender (1742-1821. It is interesting to note that while Elizabeth’s parents were buried here, John Carl and Elizabeth Misener were buried in the graveyard beside the Pelham Evangelical Friends Church in neighbouring Pelham Township.


Cemetery sign erected in 1997
The first burial on the site was for George Misener (1801-1802), a grandson of Leonard Misener. His remains were later moved to the Fonthill Cemetery (formerly Brown’s Burying Ground) in Pelham Township.

It is estimated that there are about 75 unmarked graves at Carl Misener Bald. Some of the burials here may have been for canal workers who died during the cholera epidemic of 1832-34. The last burial occurred in 1862. Soon afterwards the cemetery fell into neglect. When the Fourth Welland Canal was built between 1913 and 1932, about 50 graves were moved to the Fonthill Cemetery.

When amateur historian W. G. Reive visited the site in 1930, he noted:

A stone to Leonard Misener... still stands on the bank of the Welland Canal near Port Robinson, one of the few stones still standing following the destruction of a large cemetery during the building of the canal.... [The Cemetery] lies on government land on a knoll — and as all but one of the stones lie flat on the ground, it is practically never seen by passers by. The depressed surfaces of the ground would indicate many unmarked graves.
Reive recorded five gravestones of which only three remain. The Ontario Genealogical Society transcription of 1990 only records the gravestone of Barbara Misener. When the cemetery was restored in 1997 by descendants of John Carl, two more fragmentary gravestones were discovered.

Barbara Misener 1742-1821
While Leonard Misener’s gravestone has been lost, his wife’s gravestone provides a wealth of information:
THIS STONE
is sacred to the memory of
BARBARA MISENER
the Widow and Relict of Leonard Misener
who after having with material lender
raised nine children to the years of marriage
having to see them comfortable settled around
the land having without reproach lived
til 23 April 1821 Aged 79 Years 6 months and 21 days
According to the information on her gravestone, Barbara Bender, the daughter of Philip Bender, was born on 14 Oct 1742. She married Leonard Misener (1744-1806) about 1767. All nine of their children were born in New Jersey. According to his Upper Canada Land Petition, Leonard brought his family to the Niagara region in 1786. During the American Revolution he support the British, however, was prevented from enrolling in a Loyalist unit due to “he having a family consisting of six or Seven young Children.”

Leonard and Barbara’s youngest son, Mathias (1781-1862), married twice. The gravestone of his second wife, Hannah Hilton, lies in several pieces, however, the essential information can still be read. Hannah was born on 7 May 1784 and died on 4 Nov 1834.

The final gravestone at Carl Misener Bald commemorates Thomas, the eleven year old son of Thomas Bald and his wife, Catharine. Thomas father settled in the area in about 1794.

The cemetery was designated a cultural heritage landscape feature under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2007.

Sources:

“Important Piece of Port Robinson’s Past Protected,” Niagara This Week, June 15 2007

Paterson, Catherine, The Heritage of Life and Death in Historical Family Cemeteries of Niagara, Ontario, 2013

Reive, W. G., Cemeteries and Graves in the Niagara District, Ontario, 1991

Stapley, Noreen, “Descendants Restore Historic Cemetery,” The Loyalist Gazette, September 2007

Monday, August 28, 2017

An Unusual Gravestone

William Hore, 1671-1747
Whenever I visit England I spend a fair amount of time in graveyards. My trip earlier this summer was no exception. One of the more unusual gravestones I encountered was this 18th century stone from Ashreigney, Devon. Although no longer in situ, this stone is remarkable not only because of its age but because of the winged skull and hourglass motif, and the poetic epitaph.

The inscription reads:

William      Hore
who died          June 14th
                              1747
Stay Passengers, I pray awhile attend
Here lies ye Sickman’s Help ye, Poorman’s Friend
Tho’ Pious, Skilled, Charitable, Just:
His Body now dissolves to common Dust.

William Hore was buried at Ashreigney on 16 Jun 1747. He may have been the last of his line to live in Ashreigney as the parish register records only one burial after his, that of Phillipa Hoare who was buried in January of 1768.

William was most likely baptised at Ashreigney on 16 May 1671. His parents were James Hore and Jone. William lost his mother in 1678 and his father in 1709. William married Phillipa Hele at Ashreigney on 16 Jul 1705. They do not appear to have had any children.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Lost Gravestones of Bloomfield

South Cairn of Bloomfield Pioneer Cemetery, Trafalgar, Halton, Ontario
Last summer, I visited a number of graveyards in Halton County west of Toronto; photographing gravestones for the CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project.

West Cairn of Bloomfield Pioneer Cemetery
Bloomfield Pioneer in the Town of Milton was one of these cemeteries. At first glance Bloomfield seemed a straight-forward proposition. The graveyard consisted of a line of east-facing stones set in concrete and a scattering of other monuments. Closer inspection, however, revealed a challenge. Hidden in the lilacs to the south of the grassed area was a cairn of toppled and broken moss-covered gravestones. Reading the gravestones, let alone photographing them, would be quite difficult.

Nevertheless, I returned to Bloomfield in early April before the lilacs leafed out. It was relatively easy to gently clean the moss off the stones and to prune back some of the branches. In the dappled sunlight it was now possible to make out some of the inscriptions. The lack of contrast, however, meant for disappointing photographs.

Several months ago I watched a YouTube video about using off-camera flash to photograph hard-to-read gravestones. I had purchased a  CowboyStudio NPT-04 flash trigger and had successfully experimented on a number of  "unreadable" gravestones at other cemeteries. Time for a real test.

The trick is to have the light from the tripod-mounted flash hit the gravestone at an angle almost parallel to the face. By the time I was finished my tripod and knees were covered in dirt, but I had made the unreadable, readable.


Gravestone of Martha Moffatt (1845-1872)
Photograph taken without flash
Gravestone of Martha Moffatt (1845-1872)
Photograph taken with off-camera flash

Bloomfield Cemetery is named after Richard Bloomfield (1780-1870) who donated the land in 1835 for a church and burial ground. A Methodist New Connexion church was built in 1836 and remained in use until 1876. In 1963 many of the headstones were salvaged and set into two concrete cairns. The west cairn is still in reasonable shape.

Martha McKenzie, daughter of John McKenzie and Martha, was born in Canada about 1843. She married John Moffatt in 1862. John, the son of Henry Moffatt and Sarah, was born in Canada about 1839. At the time of the 1871 Census, John and Martha had three children. At Bloomfield there is a gravestone for John Moffatt who died on  October 7, 1872 at the age of six months. John was likely the son of John and Martha, and given his age, it is reasonable to assume that Martha died in childbirth. It is not known what happened to Martha's husband or other children.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

From Ireland to Waldemar

Waldemar Cemetery, Amaranth, Dufferin, Ontario
Waldemar is a quiet hamlet in Amaranth Township west of Orangeville, Ontario. In the late 19th century, however, Waldemar was a bustling village. Originally the site of a grist mill on the Grand River, Waldemar gained importance with the 1871 construction of the Teeswater Branch of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway. Within a few years Waldemar could boast two churches, a post office, two general stores, hotel, two carpenters, two blacksmiths, two saw mills, a grist mill, a boot and shoe maker, and a waggonmaker. But like many rural communities, the last century has not kind to Waldemar. Everything listed above is gone. Today the rail line is a recreational trail, and the Presbyterian church a private residence.

Surprisingly, Waldemar also does not have a cemetery that reflects its thriving historical past. In fact, all that remains of the cemetery is a cluster of gravestone fragments surrounding a modern cairn.

The size of the cemetery is not known, nor is it known how many burials occurred here, or how many gravestones might lie buried beneath the ground. It is thought that considerable damage was done to the graveyard when the Tenth Concession was realigned, widened and paved many decades ago. At some point a memorial cairn was erected dedicated to the "pioneers and early settlers of Waldemar." The remaining gravestone fragments are piled behind the cairn.

Margaret Jane Dodds (1878-1879)


Margaret Jane Dodds (1878-1879)
Seven of the fragments have names or dates. The most complete gravestone is that of ten month old Margaret Jane, daughter of Matthew and Ellen Dodds. Matthew Dodds married Ellen Dent in Fergus, Ontario in 1876. Matthew was an agricultural labourer of Irish descent who was born in Mono Township east of Orangeville about 1850. He married Ellen Dent in Fergus, Ontario in 1876. Ellen had been born in Toronto Township (now Mississauga) about 1849 to English parents and was the youngest of eight children.

Matthew and Ellen's daughter Margaret Jane was their first child. Neither her birth or death were registered.

The 1891 Census shows Matthew and Ellen had at least three children after Margaret Jane. Matthew was now a farmer in Melanchon Township northwest of Shelburne, Ontario. What happened next is uncertain since the family disappears from census records. It is known that Ellen died in 1925 and was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Orangeville.


Susanna Burke née Edgar (1811-1884)

Susanna Burke née Edgar  (1811-1884)
Armed with a last name, date of death, and age at death, it was easy to determined using Ontario Death Records that another fragment belonged to Susanna Burke. Census data shows that Alexander and Susanna Burke lived for many years south of Waldemar in East Garafraxa Township. Alexander, Susanna, and their four children emigrated from Ireland about 1850, possibly a consequence of the Great Famine. Their son Robert was born after their arrival in Canada. Robert's marriage registration records Susanna's maiden name as Edgar.

Alexander and Susanna may have travelled to Canada aboard an overcrowded, poorly maintained, and badly provisioned vessel, known as a coffin ship, sailing from a small harbour in the West of Ireland. It is also possible they travelled to Liverpool first, and secured better passage. In either case their first port of call would have been Grosse Isle, an island in the Saint Lawrence River near Quebec City used to quarantine ships. From there the family would have travelled by steamer to Montreal, by bateau or Durham boat to Prescott, and then by steamer to Toronto. 

Two years after the death of Susanna, Alexander married a widow, 59 year old Ellen Stewart. On his marriage registration, Alexander's parents are listed as Alexander Burke and Martha Lindsay. Alexander died in 1889 and was presumably buried at Waldemar.

A photograph of Alexander Burke and Susanna Edgar is in the possession of their great-great granddaughter.