In memory of Jane Linton who died April 13, 1875 aged 74 years, 4 days

This marker is in Bethel Cemetery in Pickering.

If you walk through any cemetery that’s been in operation for more than a hundred years, you’ll soon notice two things. The first is the sheer number of children that used to die before they were old enough to crawl and how many families had two, three, or more children that didn’t live to their tenth birthdays.

The second is an unusual obsession with precision exhibited on many markers. I can understand marking a dead child’s age as three weeks or 22 days, but many of the markers for older people also include precise counts of months and days. It always seems a little odd to see a grandmother’s age tallied up in the same manner as a toddler’s.

A lot of people shy away from cemeteries, but I always find them fascinating. Taking a stroll through an old cemetery is like walking through a highly-condensed social history of a region. As you progress from older graves to newer ones, the names change, occupations shift, family relationships become clear, and tributes to achievements both major and minor abound.

5 Replies to “Precision”

  1. And here I thought it was just me who liked to read headstones.

    There is a very small United Empire Loyalist graveyard on the east side of Yonge, just south of Finch. One incredible “story” is that of a woman dying in childbirth, with one baby stillborn, and the other lasting on a few months. It seems there was also quite a few epidemics, as entire families died within days or week of each other.

    And some want to go back to the “good old days”…

  2. There must be a whole lot of us, but I almost never encounter fellow browsers in my regular lunchtime walks through Mount Pleasant Cemetery. I’m always surprised by the number of people who just walk straight along the roadways and never look around them.

  3. Mount Pleasant is a bit of a weird one: I was reminded, very gently, that photography is prohibited by a guard who was distracted by a jogger in short shorts. Apparently taking pics of hundred year old headstones is tacky, but sweating and grunting is ok (not to mention the dog crap…)

    There are quite a few “mini” graveyards all over the GTA, usually surrounded by concrete and “progress”. The one on Yonge is surrounded by dumb ass condos and a Dominion. Nice spot, though.

  4. I’ve never been stopped while taking pictures in Mount Pleasant (and I’ve been doing it off and on for 15 years), though I’m well aware that others have been. I really don’t understand the mish-mash of rules there, so I just try to be respectful while I ride my bike, explore, and take pictures there.

    I really like that so many of those little hidden cemeteries that dot the city still survive. I’ve never seen the one on Yonge, but will try to pay it a visit the next time I’m up that way.

  5. I stumbled upon that little cemetery on Yonge, just south of Finch, yesterday. It’s fascinating and I ended up eating my lunch there. James, if you read this and have any other information about it, I would be very interested. I too love cemeteries and one of my hobbies is genealogy.

    Great site, Val.

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