May 30, 2016

Neglect of Farnham Cemetery is Disrespectful to Those Who Lie There

Some of my father's ancestors were in the group of first pioneer settlers to settle in Arkell Ontario in 1831 and I wanted to see if their tombstones survived.

There are two cemeteries in Arkell.

One is the Arkell Pioneer Cemetery which has been saved from total destruction by a dedicated group. This group gathered all stones surviving whether broken or not, reconstructed the broken tombstones, and cemented them carefully in a large raised area. Many of my King ancestors are found there and it really wonderful that this cemetery was carefully tended before it was too late.


In fact if you are a descendant of the King family of Arkell you may be interested in my book "From England to Arkell: The story of two pioneer settlers, Lewis & Thomas King who left Suffolk England for the Wilds of Upper Canada in 1831 A Genealogy to 4 Generations following their descendants in Ontario, Alberta, Australia & Michigan"









The second cemetery is Farnham Cemetery. It too has many early graves of those pioneer settlers in 1831, as well as their descendants. But it is a mixture of nicely tended lawn, and completely neglected stones.




The neglected stones lie almost buried in the ground, having toppled over some time ago. Many are broken, and bits and pieces of the tombstones jut up in the overgrown mess of vegetation.

Many lie in an area that is difficult to get to, up against the back fence of the cemetery property, and in the brush. My husband spent some time climbing around there trying to brush away some of the dirt and growth but it was too difficult with bare hands.

Some lie near the front of the cemetery, under a big tree. You can see that these early stones were in eat rows and many are missing. We could see corners of toppled tombstones jutting out from the ground so it is very possible that many of the stones have toppled and been buried over the years.

At one side of the cemetery is a garbage dump, very near the neglected and overrun tombstones at the back. There is a small grove of trees with a pit full of household garbage. Since the cemetery backs on to homes, it appears that the local homeowners are using the back part as their own private dumping ground. The photo we took of that didn't turn out so I can't show it but you would no doubt be disgusted.

This cemetery needs a good cleanup. It needs a volunteer group who will unearth and right the toppled stones, or cement them into a base (as has been done in the Pioneer Cemetery) before it is too late. I wish I lived nearer so I could organize a cleanup group! I find it disrespectful to the memories of those buried there, and a historical oversight that our pioneers who settled there in 1831 should be so forgotten.

My Peter Bell and his wife Elizabeth are buried there. Peter's stone stands quite near the front gates, but Elizabeth's has toppled and is almost completely buried by the grass that has overgrown around and over it. They came to Arkell in 1831 and were among the first group of hardy pioneers who braved many hardships and separation from family and friends in England to settle here. Do they (and all the others) not deserve more respect?

1 comment:

Fred Clough said...

Your article is timely as I recently discovered the final resting place of four of my relatives, including my 5x GG. However, like you described above, this small plot is completely overgrown and almost impenetrable. I fear some of the stones are beyond repair. I'm trying to figure out who owns the property and how best to approach them to gauge whether they'd be amenable to a clean out. The Maine Old Cemetery Association has numerous links that point to various statutes as to who has what right, which admittedly can be challenging to figure out. Even if I, as a direct descendant, have "rights" that would allow cleanup, it doesn't mean I wouldn't have to fight to obtain them.