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NB Telegraph-Journal | News - As published on page B5 on July 7, 2006

Titusville to recall ancestors Sunday

Annual service to pay tribute to those resting in Titus Hill Cemetery

By Erin Dwyer
Special to the Telegraph-Journal



Eighty-year-old Bill Titus will sit in a chair amid the limestone and granite tombstones in the Titus Hill cemetery Sunday for a service he's attended for the last 45 years.

It's here that his parents are buried, and before them many of his ancestors for whom Titusville, located outside Hampton, is named.

Atop the highest point in the cemetery, where the largest tombstone marks the grave of Richard Burns, who died in 1848, Mr. Titus can look down through the valley and see his weathered clapboard farmhouse, surrounded by acres of rolling farmland that was all part of the 1,000-acre grant that the Titus family acquired in 1817 from the Uphams.

It was sometime after that John Titus donated several acres of his land, now found at the corner of the Titusville Road and Meadow Drive, to establish a public cemetery without religious affiliation, where Methodists are buried next to Baptists and Catholics, just as they had lived side by side in this tiny community.

But no one knows for certain - not even Mr. Titus who is considered by many as the local village historian - how many graves there are or what year the cemetery was established. The deed has never been found, and as Mr. Titus will tell you, you can't go by the grave markers.

"They certainly moved bodies from other cemeteries, so you can't go by the oldest date," he said.

On Sunday, some 200 people are expected to gather in the cemetery for a memorial service of remembrance for all the souls that are resting in the Titus Hill Cemetery - a tradition that began 45 years ago when a group of residents became concerned about the state of neglect the cemetery had fallen into.

Mr. Titus was on the committee and so was Ruby Cusack, a well-known genealogist today whose childhood home sits next to the cemetery.

"It was more or less my playground," she said. "I jokingly say that I learned to read by looking at the tombstones."

Mrs. Cusack, whose interest in genealogy no doubt stems from her childhood frolics among the tombstones, remembers well how the cemetery had suffered from years of neglect in the 1950s.

"When we started work on that cemetery, it was a terrible mess," she said. "The top was grown over with rose bushes. There were graves that had fallen in."

The committee decided an annual remembrance service would be the solution. A collection plate would be passed to help raise money for the ongoing maintenance of the cemetery.

For the last 45 years, the service has been held in the neatly mowed cemetery, becoming somewhat of a community homecoming for residents, former residents and anyone with ties to Titusville. Diane Fontaine of Boston, whose ancestors were the Ryders in Titusville, has made the trip twice to attend the service.

"They don't really come to mourn," said Mrs. Cusack. "They come to remember."

To remember the Aiton family, for example. Four small limestone markers recall the tragic week in the spring of 1878 when the family lost four children, ages one year to five years, to diphtheria.

"I don't think the mother ever fully recovered," Mr. Titus said as he walked through the cemetery.

Under the hanging limbs of a tree, Mr. Titus stands next to a marker he helped to establish several years ago to mark the grave of an unknown black man. Mr. Titus had heard the story from an uncle about the man's coffin being thrown one winter into a snow bank in the cemetery. In the spring, instead of a grave being dug, earth was mounded over the coffin. Years later, after walking through the cemetery, Mr. Titus believed he found the mound and worked to have a marker placed on the unknown man's grave so it would never be disturbed.

It's also in this cemetery where Ethel Moody is buried. She was one of the first nurses from New Brunswick to go overseas during the First World War.

But there are also many people whose identities were buried with them here. In the older part, tombstones stand as sentinels at either end of an unmarked row.

"I know that they are graves, but I haven't a clue who they are, and nobody else does," Mr. Titus said.

Since 1950, however, Mrs. Cusack and Mr. Titus have made it their duty to map the known graves, collect information on the people buried there, and their relationship to others.

Today, Mrs. Cusack has some 1,500 pages of information, including pictures and obituaries.

"I think that those people that lived in the community, that loved and were loved, and now rest there, it's very easy to forget who they are. They are not just a name on a tombstone. That's what I try to do when I compile this information - to tell about their lives."

Mr. Titus agrees.

"I think it's necessary that we look back and remember our roots and remember the people that worked this land and established this community," he said. "I think history is very important and it's not a good reflection of people today if they neglect their cemeteries.

"After all, this land was cleared by those people in the cemetery. They lived their lives and they loved - just the same as we do."

The service is set for Sunday, July 9, 2006 at 3 p.m.

If you have information - such as obituaries, information from a Bible, newspaper articles, photos, family information - on the people buried in Titus Hill Cemetery, Titusville, New Brunswick, Canada to share with Ruby Cusack,  she can be reached at rmcusack@nbnet.nb.ca.

If you wish your name placed on the TITUS HILL e-mail list for notification of  the date of the memorial service contact  rmcusack@nbnet.nb.ca

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