Five Western students working on a tombstone archeology project at Woodland Cemetery have discovered as many as 60 stone markers, some dating back to Canada’s Confederation.
“We knew the stones had been placed somewhere near the east part of the cemetery when the St. James Cemetery was moved here in 1955,” said Levi Hord, a student in the School for Advanced Studies in the Arts & Humanities at Western. “But even though the vault containing their remains is clearly marked at Woodland, records of the time didn’t map the stones at all.”
In a grassy strip along the east part of the sprawling property, the students uncovered the first stone last week. Since then, they’ve found dozen, some of which had sunk almost a metre into the earth in the half-century since they were placed there. Lying side-by-side and most of them dating from the 1840s to the 1860s, they form a new treasure trove of information about London’s past.
The students will now spend the next four months restoring and the stones, and matching the monuments with church documents and historical records of the Londoners’ lives. Hord said she expects the students will find at least 100 more stones.
They are also planning to create a public cemetery walking tour, marking Canada’s 150th birthday, that will include these stones as well as monuments and stories of some influential Londoners through the city’s history.
This is the third year that Western students, most of them graduates of the history program, have worked to restore monuments at Woodland Cemetery, said cemetery manager Paul Culliton. The project is also supported by Student Jobs Canada as a Canada 150 project.
“Their work is not only a tribute to scores of people once forgotten by time, it’s an important contribution to the public history of London,” Culliton said.
The students are keeping a record of their work on a blog: https://woodlandcemeteryhistory.wordpress.com
Cemetery contact: Levi Hord or Woodland Cemetery manager Paul Culliton, 519-471-7450
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