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Book tells story of cemetery  

'A Library of Stone Pages' by Graeme Somerville

It  was Saturday and spring was finally here. Cliff and I had, at last, gotten rid of winter boots and jackets and wanted to play outdoors as much as possible.

Gramp had hitched up the team to the wagon and arrived at our house just as we were finishing breakfast. Mum said Cliff and I could go along but we had to behave ourselves as Aunt Ethel was bringing Gram and her sister Tillie in the car later that morning. We needed no second invitation and off we went, not certain where we'd go. We did notice a crowbar, rakes, shovels, wooden maul and some buckets of good topsoil in the back of the wagon. Gramp had put a couple of wooden boxes in the wagon for seats for Cliff and me. He and Dad sat in the high seat up front.

Then, to our surprise, Mum appeared at the side of the wagon and announced she would like to go too. I think she was concerned that Cliff and I would not be watched and we might get an arm or leg caught in the spokes of the wooden wheel. So with a hand from Dad, she climbed up on the high seat beside Gramp. Then Dad stood behind them, holding the reins.

The team sauntered along for what seemed like forever, but we did not mind as it gave us a chance to see Stephen's lambs frolicking in the pasture and Lawson's cattle leaning over the fence watching us. We also played a guessing game of what would be the colour of the next barking dog and we discussed where Gramp was taking us.

We soon found out. The team turned into the cemetery where Gram's parents, siblings and cousins were buried.

The men set to work tiding up the graves after the long winter, straightening a tombstone that had heaved in the frost, placing some topsoil on one of the lots that needed some filling in, and fixed one of the fence posts that had rotted.

Meanwhile, Gram, Aunt Tillie, Aunt Ethel and Mum were having a great chat as they looked at each of the headstones so Cliff and I followed along. They not only read out loud what was on each tombstone but added their own information about the deceased.

There was Gram's sister who died in childbirth and the baby who died while the funeral was being held. Fred had been to the Gold Rush in the Yukon and later took consumption. As the women stood there, they talked of epidemics such as diphtheria and influenza that took so many children from this Earth. Cliff and I didn't realize it at the time but we were learning about the foundation of our family roots and community. If only everyone, while visiting a cemetery, could have guides such as Gram and Aunt Tillie.

If you haven't got a guide, the next best thing is to have a book that tells the story of a graveyard. One such book is Graeme Somerville's 'A Library of Stone Pages', now in its second edition. It gives information such as name, age, family connection, occupation and cause of death for those in the Wesleyan Burial Ground, often referred to as the Old Methodist Burial Ground, on Thorne Avenue in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

The last of possibly as many as 5,000 burials took place in 1959.

Graeme shared some of the interesting information in his book.

There is an entry about James Portmore, who was treated with arsenic by Dr. Tumblety for stomach ache. The ache went and so did poor Mr. Portmore. Dr. Tumblety fled the country rather than face charges for murder.

Then there is the unusual age for the well-known Alexander McLeod, who, the monument clearly states, was 160 years old when he died.

What is surprising, and tragic at the same time, is the large number of children - more than 1,500 - who died before their first birthday.

Graeme explained why he chose the title for his book. In the 1970s, when he became involved with the burial ground on its board of trustees, he wished that he could better understand each tombstone by opening it like a cover of a book - to read about the person named on the monument. Thirty years later he published the first edition with 3,200 recorded burials, and now the second edition has more than 3,800 burials.

With over 1,700 family names mentioned, it is a treasure trove of information on many families.

'A Library of Stone Pages' is available from Graeme Somerville, 84 Beach Cres., Saint John, N.B. Canada, E2K 2E4. Telephone (506)632-2020. It is priced at $40 plus $10.40 for postage and packaging.


Query 1725
Cox - Whitlock: George N. Cox (circa 1802 to circa 1880) married Priscilla A. Whitlock (circa 1807 - 11 Oct 1883) about 1828. I am interested in finding siblings and parents who were possibly born in Saint John. They emigrated to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with their nine children in about 1858 as the 10th child was born in Wisconsin. I believe they both died in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Family history says that Cox family were British loyalists who moved to Saint John after the Revolutionary War and had a store called "Jason's Golden Fleece." Contact Kathryn Cowdery:<>

Query 1726

McMillan - Futhey - Clarke - Jack: John McMillan, wife Jane Futhey and three sons - David, Alexander and James - came to Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1818 from Belfast, Ireland, and set up the A. & J. McMillan, booksellers and publishers, on Prince William Street. A daughter Catherine, wife of the Rev. Alexander Clarke, a Covenanter Minister, and children came to Saint John at a later date. Also possibly a son Henry McMillan went to the East Indies. John McMillan, son of James, married Dorothea Jack in 1862 and lived in Rothesay and Saint John. Interested in any information available on the McMillan family descendants as well as the J. & A. McMillan Company.

Contact Margaret Harris:

Query 1727
Kelly: Michael Kelly, with wife Mary, children John, Mary and James, came from County Cavan, Ireland, circa 1829, and settled in Henderson Settlement, New Brunswick. Later children Elenor, Fanny, William, George and Elizabeth were born in New Brunswick. His tombstone is at the old graveyard in Stewarton. I am searching for the town or parish he was from.

Contact Jeff Kelly:

Query 1728
McLean - Adams: Mary Jane McLean, who was born Hardwicke, New Brunswick, on Dec. 18, 1876 married on Sept. 13, 1899 in Northumberland Co. to William Lawson Adams who was born Aug. 24, 1878 on Prince Edward Island but moved to Northumberland by 1891. Looking for names of parents and grandparents.

Contact William Adams Zerkle:

Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada. Send your New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at:  Please put "Query" followed by the surnames in your query as the subject. For more information on submitting queries, visit

Ruby contributes a "Family History" column to the Telegraph-Journal on the third Saturday of the month.

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