Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Burford Tragedy

Seven children of Daniel and Julia Ann Utter
Losing a child to illness was a common occurrence in nineteenth century Ontario. Losing seven in 16 days, however, was a tragedy beyond imagination. I discovered this tragedy while photographing gravestones in Northfield Cemetery for CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project.

Daniel Utter was a blacksmith who lived in Burford Township southwest of Brantford, Ontario. Daniel was born in 1832 in Trafalgar Township, Halton County, the son of Daniel Utter and Elizabeth Kinder. Daniel and his brother David (1818-1903) moved west to Burford in the early 1850s. In 1855, Daniel married Julia Ann Hainer (1838-1899), daughter of John Hainer (1795-1860) and Nancy Bowman (1808-1892).

Large families were common in nineteenth century Ontario, and Daniel and Julia Ann followed this trend. Their first child, John, was born in 1859. By the time of the 1871 the family had grown to six children with the addition of Anna (1862), Melissa (1864), Mary (1866), Charles (1869) and Rosy Bell (1871). William (1873) and Nancy followed (1875). But in 1877 tragedy struck. One of the children, most likely 11-year-old Mary, contracted diphtheria just before Christmas.

Diphtheria is a high contagious and potentially fatal respiratory infection. Although it has been largely eradicated through routine immunization, it is still endemic in some parts of the world. Until the introduction of a vaccine in the 1920s, diphtheria was a common cause of child mortality in Canada and the United States.

Mary died first on December 24th. Melissa died on Christmas Day, followed by Annie, Charles and Nancy two days later. William died on the January 7th and Rose Bell succumbed the following day. The only child to survive was 18-year-old John, most likely because he working away from home at the time.

All seven children were buried in Northfield Cemetery in Burford Township. Daniel and Julia Ann eventually had three more children: Nancy (1880-1948), William (1882- ?) and Elroy (1886- ?). Daniel and Julia Ann remained in Burford Township for the rest of their lives and were buried with their children: Julia Ann in 1899 and Daniel in 1920. Their son John was buried at Northfield in 1928

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Gravestones at Mount Pleasant Cemetery,
Nichol, Wellington, Ontario

Mount Pleasant is a small rural non-denominational cemetery located in what was once Nichol Township north of Guelph, Ontario. The hundred or so gravestones form a large horseshoe around a open grassed area. Gravestones on the east and north sides of the cemetery are in good condition and record deaths as early as 1861 and as late as 2012.

Abraham J. Flewwelling
The same is not true for gravestones on the west side of the cemetery, especially in the southwest corner. Whether because of vandalism or age, many of these stones are broken or toppled, and no attempt has been made to repair them. When I photographed the cemetery for the Canada Genweb Cemetery Project, I discovered a large number of headstones, footstones and pieces of headstones stacked against trees, other gravestones, and the corner post of the cemetery. Despite this I managed to locate and photograph all but one of the gravestones transcribed by the Ontario Genealogical Society in 1988.
The cemetery was originally part of the property of Abraham Jewel Flewwelling. Flewwelling was the first settler in the area, having arrived in Nichol Township in 1827 with his wife, Martha Livermore, and seven children. Flewwelling was born in New Brunswick in 1789, the son of an United Empire Loyalist of Welsh descent. Six additional children were born after the family came to Upper Canada (Ontario). Flewwelling died in 1849. His burial place is marked by a simple rectangular marble gravestone.
Jane Gaball (1843-1873)
The earliest gravestone in this cemetery is that of Henry Metcalf, who died in 1844 at the age of 46 years, having emigrated to Upper Canada in 1833. Henry was born in Yorkshire, England, and had lived near Buffalo, New York for three years prior to coming to Nichol Township.

Many of the older gravestones bear motifs and epitaphs. The gravestone of Jane Watt (1843-1873), wife of John Gaball, displays a clenched hand with one finger pointing upwards, indicating the pathway to heaven. Jane was born in Scotland, and died three days after giving birth to her fourth child. Her epitaph reads:

In death's cold arms lies sleeping here
A tender parent, a companion dear:
In love she lived, in peace she died,
Her life was asked, but was denied.