Walking the Paths in Fernhill Cemetery
"Mom, are we lost?"were the anxious words asked by my 7-year-old daughter.
"Lost! Of course not," I replied rather sharply.
We really weren't lost, I just didn't have a clue how to get out of this maze of roadways and back to Westmorland Road.
As the sun beamed down on us, butterflies fluttered from flower to flower, birds chirped from the trees and we walked and walked.
"Mom, I can't hear the sounds of any cars and I can't see any buildings," she said. "All I see are tombstones and paths everywhere. Where are we?" By now, there was real anxiety in her voice .
"We are in Fernhill Cemetery," I told her. "It is one of the largest cemeteries in the province. "We are not lost. Look! I can see the rest house."
Fernhill Cemetery has 125 acres of trees, shrubs and flowers and is also a sanctuary for numerous birds and other creatures of nature. It is a rural cemetery in the centre of a city. The setting is tranquil and serene, far removed in sound and sight from city life. The roar of motor vehicles is not heard. No buildings are visible. The singing of birds and other sounds of nature provide music to the ear. The sight of so many trees and shrubs is relaxing.
The name Fernhill is very fitting as the cemetery is composed of many hills and knolls where ferns grow. Monuments of many designs stand as a remembrance of those who once lived and loved as we do now.
Stories have been related of families packing a picnic lunch and taking the street car to Rothesay Avenue. They walked up to Fernhill to tidy up the lots of their family members and to pay their respects. The children probably played under the Camperdown elm trees or gathered chestnuts. After the picnic lunch was eaten in the rest house, the family walked back down the hill to Rothesay Avenue and took the street car home again.
Through these visits to the cemetery, the younger generation was taught to show respect for the graves and the monuments. It was also a time of sharing memories and genealogical information with family members.
Each time I visit Fernhill, I think of the double funeral that was held for little Freddy Mundee and his would-be rescuer Fred Young. I visualize the two horse-drawn hearses entering the gates followed by hundreds of mourners.
The people that are buried there have walked many different paths in their lifetime, yet today they all share a common resting place.
The names of the 37, 000 people who were buried in Fernhill have been entered into a computer database. Of great interest to the genealogical researcher is the lot card. It lists the owner and date of purchase; lot diagram; names of those buried in the lot; the date of death and burial; description of the monument; and other pertinent information. A fee of $10 is charged for a copy of these double-sided cards. As a genealogical researcher, I have found information on these cards that would have taken me hours or days to find from other sources.
The Saint John Rural Cemetery was incorporated in 1848. In 1899 the name was changed to Fernhill Cemetery. A special event to commemorate the 150th year of Fernhill is to be held at the rest house in the cemetery on July 7, 1998 from 7 to 8 p.m.
The first burial was that of Georgeanna Campbell on March 8, 1848, in lot 10 on Spruce Avenue. It is believed that she was the daughter of John M. and Jane Campbell. John Campbell was from Sutherlandshire, Scotland, and he was 81 years old at the time of his death in December of 1869. Jane Campbell died in April of 1864. In this lot is also John T. Campbell aged 39 years, who was buried on Sept. 24, 1871. He was an employee of the firm of John Walker Company. Mention is made that Georgiana Campbell was the niece of A.C. Jardine. If anyone has information on this family or is related to this family, would they contact Fernhill Cemetery at (506) 652-1133 or contact me email@example.com and I'll pass on the information.
Visit the website of Fernhill Cemetery
Queries have been grouped together to cover the year 1998 and can be viewed at Queries-1998
Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at firstname.lastname@example.org. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.
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