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May 6, 2009

Neglect of Farnham Cemetery

We were in Arkell Ontario this past weekend. Some of my father's ancestors were in the group of first pioneer settlers 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.

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 overun 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?


Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

This is so sad. I wonder whether a Scout-Guide group might want to take it on a as a special project. They could at least help to clear everything away and inventory the site.
One of the problems happening in Quebec, is that the ethnic make up of certain areas is changing, for instance, English-speaking Protestants have left certain areas and been replaced by French-speaking Catholics so after awhile there's no one left to help care for the stones.
Bells you for raising awareness of the issue - that's the first step.
Evelyn in Montreal

audrey said...

It doesn't matter what ones ethnic backgroud is English, French, etc.etc. have some respect for our pioneers, the town people and mayor if there is one should be ashamed of themselves. Come on your citizens of Farnhame get off of your duffs and organize a cleaning bigrade and clean up the cemetery.Don't forget one day you'll all meet and have to account for your actions, no matter your religion