Garden work leads to grave discovery

By Gordon Lambie

David Bernier and his wife Rowena were working in their back garden when they came across a surprise; a simple gravestone belonging to a Wm. Clark, who died 180 years ago on June 6, 1840.
Although initially shocked by the discovery, Bernier said that he was relieved when some of his neighbours informed him that there used to be a cemetery in the neighbourhood.
According to the Lennoxville Ascot Historical and Museum Society (LAHMS)’s history of the town of Lennoxville, the earliest known communal cemetery in town was affiliated with Saint James Anglican Church and occupied a 242 by 95 foot lot located between Maple Grove and what is now known as Elmwood Road. The first recorded burial at the site was in 1823. The history notes that this burial ground was relatively short-lived, however, since growth in the community led to interest in the creation of a larger cemetery by 1869.
That larger cemetery went on to become Malvern, which is still present and operational just off of Moutlon Hill Road. Janice Fraser, LAHMS member and archivist of Saint George’s Anglican Church told The Record that she was surprised to hear of the discovery of one of the old stones because she was of the impression that they were all moved when the Saint James land was subdivided and sold off in the 1960s.
Malvern Cemetery President Kevin Frost was less surprised, recalling many such discoveries “back in the day.”
“Those who had enough money exhumed the bodies and moved the stones,” he said, sharing that Malvern does not have clear records on who was moved from Saint James and who wasn’t.
The LAHMS history makes little reference to Saint James Cemetery after the foundation of Malvern except to confirm that “some grave-markers and remains were transferred,” after which the land became overgrown before being sold off.
The stone found by Bernier is mentioned in a 1995 report entitled “Some (Estimated) Burials in St. James’ Cemetery”, compiled by a G.B. Lane. The report, found on the online cemetery records database, claims that some of the grave markers that were not moved disappeared, only to turn up later as doorsteps or walkway stones. It places the marker of Wm. Clark first on a list of ten stones that were found alongside a collection of blank white markers, implying that this weeks’ discovery was more of a re-discovery than anything else.
It is not unusual for remains to be left behind on former cemetery sites due to factors such as inconsistent recordkeeping. In 2015 excavation work on the corner of Belvedere Street South and Rand Street in Sherbrooke was temporarily stopped when workers discovered human bones in the ground from a cemetery that had been moved decades earlier.

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