A Collection of Books

I love books! I am a big reader and have a large book collection at home, but I love finding stone books among the tombstones while wandering a cemetery. I find them very interesting and love trying to interpret what they mean.

Books can be both decorative or a representation of something. You can sometimes find a book being used as a decorative device to display the name of the deceased along with the birth and death dates. An open book can sometimes represent the human heart, as in it’s emotions are open to the world. An open book may also symbolize a life that has been cut short, before getting to the last page. Another variation of this is an open book with a cloth draped across it. This also represents a life cut short, the veil of death having bookmarked the person’s last chapter before the book is finished being written. A closed book might represent a long life, lived to the last chapter.

Any book found in a cemetery may represent the bible. Sometimes you may even find the words “Holy Bible” engraved on the book.

In my experience, books are not as common as some other funerary symbols, like hands and lambs. I love to photograph them when I do find them. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you today.

Find a Grave Photography Tips

A little while ago, I wrote a post about Find a Grave, and how I have been more active as a contributor. I have been going through my photos and doing some photo editing as I go. It’s been a great way to use my photography to help others, creating memorials that don’t exist yet, and contributing to existing memorials.

Find a Grave is a hub of burial information, that includes photos, burial information, biographies and so much more. It’s volunteer-run, as its members claim and fulfill photo requests to aid in genealogy research, transcribing gravestone photos, and creating memorials. It’s a great resource. When receiving a photo request, you will be given all the information available; cemetery name and location, deceased’s full name, and birth and death date if known. You may also be given the location of the grave, such as the lot or section. It’s up to you to claim this request and fulfill it. I would recommend only claiming requests that you know you can fulfill. 

While looking through my photos I picked up on two very different styles of photography I have developed over the years; my personal style and my contributor style. They are both very different. One reflects what I see when visiting graveyards, and the other is the result of wanting to achieve the best photo for transcribing and reflecting what a person would see when visiting their loved one. 

I thought it might be helpful to share some tips on how to get the best photos as a volunteer photographer for Find a Grave. If you are just getting started or looking for some new ideas, here are some tips to help you get great photos:

Once you have claimed your photo request, the fun can begin! 

  • Always take a photo of the cemetery sign when you first enter. Not only can this photo be added to Find a Grave, but it will also make it much easier when looking back at your photos to determine which photos were taken in which cemetery. This is especially helpful when visiting multiple cemeteries in a day. I would also suggest taking photos of any other signs that may be at the entrance. Sometimes you can find plaques describing when the cemetery was established and its history. These are always interesting to find.
  • Visit the cemetery office, if there is one. Sometimes, they carry cemetery maps to some of the more notable graves, and also show the layout of the cemetery. This is most often the case in larger cemeteries.
  • Keep the grave information you are looking for handy, so you can refer to it easily when needed. Find a Grave now has an app that makes this super easy to do. The app is available for both Android and Apple OS. Before the app, I would take a screenshot on my phone and refer to that photo.

When you have found your stone:

  • For headstones flush to the ground, it does not hurt to brush away any debris like leaves or grass to make sure the stone is legible.
  • Take photos of the headstone face on, this makes reading the inscriptions easier. 
  • Make sure to check the back of the headstone for any additional inscriptions. This is important for obelisk stones as they often have multiple family members inscribed on each side. 
  • Take a wide-angle shot to show placement or unique features of the grave, such as footstones.
  • Take a close-up shot of ceramic portraits if they are present.

Are you excited to get out there and take some photos? Let me know if you found my tips helpful. Do you have some tips you would like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Visiting cemeteries during a pandemic

I wrote this post around this same time, in 2020, but it never made it to the blog. At that time, the pandemic would have been in full force, just at the beginning of our quarantine. This would also have been one of the first cemetery trips of that year, after a long winter. I think I was just beginning to seriously focus on my website and blog, and I’ll be honest – it was off to a slow start with sporadic posting. That’s probably why this was never posted. I figured since this was written around the same time, only a couple of years ago, it is worth posting now.


Last weekend, I ventured outside to explore a couple of my local cemeteries. It has been a long winter of being cooped up inside, dreaming about summer cemetery road trips. We had our first sunny weekend, so I took advantage. I figured it is also a safe place to practice physical distancing during these weird times.

The first stop I made was at the Civic Memorial Cemetery, also known as Sudbury Municipal Cemetery. This cemetery is right down the street from me, and the one I have spent the most time in. As a kid, I would spend a lot of time walking around this cemetery looking for ghosts. It’s a newer cemetery, with modern stones and newly built mausoleums. The entrance to this cemetery was recently renovated when they widened Second Avenue. They installed a shiny new archway, similar to the archway at Lasalle Cemetery. They also cleaned up the winding path that leads into the cemetery. I have close family and friends in this cemetery, so I paid them a visit. I also stopped to take some photos of one of the more interesting monuments in this cemetery. The resting place of, I think, the founder of Ellero Monuments, a local headstone maker. The monument is a very detailed sculpture of a man sitting on a rock-cut with tools in his hands, working on breaking the stone. It’s very large and encased in a plexiglass box. To really see the detail, you need to almost press your face against the plexiglass. Over the years the box has become clouded, giving it a spooky silhouette.

The second cemetery I visited was the Lasalle Cemetery. One of the larger cemeteries in my city. I try to visit different parts of the grounds every time I visit since it is so large. This time, I focused on the stones closest to the street. There are many smaller statues among the stones there. Unfortunately, this cemetery has the most toppled stones, either because of vandalism or ground shift. There is a mix of modern and old stones here, and many feature cameos; ceramic photographs of the deceased.

My last stop of the day was Eyre Cemetery, the oldest and my favorite of my local cemeteries. It’s a smaller one, filled with only older stones. At this point, the weather had changed on me and was drizzling a little bit, but I did not let that stop me. I wandered the entire left side of the grounds, in search of a few Find a Grave requests. I came up empty-handed though. Some of the stones are so worn that they are not legible. I hope that I did not pass them by because of this. I will need to go back and make some inquiries with cemetery staff, to make sure they are not forgotten. The rain started to pour down more heavily so I decided to pack it in at that point.

Overall it was a lovely outing. I got some exercise and fresh air, as well as some new photos. Surprisingly, I did see a lot of people out and about. The groundskeepers were busy maintaining the grounds at each cemetery I visited, and there were visitors at each cemetery as well. I guess in these quarantine times, cemeteries, which are usually quiet and mournful, are being used more as a green space. I saw an elderly couple strolling arm in arm and people walking their dogs. It was different for me, as I tend to be the only living person when I visit.


Looking back, it seems as though many people were discovering cemeteries. I hope those who may have thought it taboo to visit cemeteries, found that they are beautiful green spaces and outdoor art galleries. I think a lot of people were forced to look into their own backyards during quarantine, to find outlets while things like travel were not possible. I know I was very grateful that one of my favorite pass times was still available to me. I was even able to share my love of cemeteries with my mother! Even though COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in my area, I think I will be staying close to home again this summer.

Did you spend a lot of time in cemeteries during the height of the pandemic? Did you discover any new cemeteries? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

A collection of hands

One of my favorite cemetery symbols are hands. They can represent so many things from only how they are positioned. I also find them beautifully detailed, and they have a lot to say. Hands are a very common symbol in funerary art and can be found in almost any cemetery.

I have photographed many over the years, ranging from very simple to very detailed, and wanted to share some of them with you today.

A hand pointing upward often represents going up to heaven. You may also find a hand pointing down, which can look a little odd, but it does not mean what you may have first thought. A hand pointing down usually represents a sudden or unexpected death. Clasped hands or praying hands often represent devotion but can also be seen as a plea for eternal life.

Handshakes are a very common variation and also can have a few different meanings. When the handshake depicts limp fingers held by a firm handshake, this often represents the deceased being welcomed to heaven by loved ones or maybe even God. When one finger is extended, it is a masonic handshake, meaning the deceased was a member of the Freemasons. You may also find a double masonic handshake, where one finger is extended on each of the hands. This is meant to resemble the square & compass, the emblem of the Freemasons. You should also look closely at the wrists of the hands, this can also give more clues. If both hands look masculine, this could represent fraternal brotherhood. If one of the cuffs is more feminine and one more masculine, this is most likely a marital handshake, to indicate the deceased was married.

When you find a hand holding a book, that book is often meant to be the bible. Sometimes it is more obvious, as it may have “holy bible” inscribed on it.


Snider, Tui. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards. 1st ed., Castle Azle Press, 2017. 

Keister, Douglas. Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. 1st ed., Gibbs Smith, 2004. 

Cemetery recipes – Connie’s Date & Nut Bread

I had such a fun time trying out Kay’s Fudge recipe a couple of months ago, that I wondered what other cemetery recipes were out there. I was pleasantly surprised at the handful of recipes I found.

Today I wanted to try my hand at making Connie’s Date & Nut bread. 100% Good stuff – 0% Bad Stuff. Sounds delicious to me! 

This tombstone can be found in the Cemetery of the Highlands in Highland Mills, NY. Instead of the recipe being engraved on the stone, it’s printed on a small white plaque that is attached to the stone. The headstone belongs to Constance Galberd.

From reading Connie’s obituary, she was a very busy woman. Constance was a retired Registered Nurse at Cornwall Hospital in New York, a member of the Woodbury Community Ambulance Corps, and a member and Trustee of the Woodbury Historical Society. She has three children, a daughter, two sons, and four grandchildren. I think it’s safe to say she was also a great baker with a great sense of humor. Constance passed away in September 2008, at the age of 80. 

You can view her memorial page on Find a Grave.

I love the idea of putting a well-loved family recipe on a tombstone. It ensures the recipe will be passed down through the generations, and that a piece of them will be remembered.

The recipe reads:

Connie’s Date & Nut Bread | 100% Good stuff – 0% Bad Stuff

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. dates cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Directions:

  • Pour boiling water (where 2 tsp. of baking soda have been dissolved) over dates and raisins. Cool.
  • Add 1 1/2 c. sugar and mix well.
  • Add 2 eggs, well beaten.
  • Gradually mix in 4 c. of flour and 2 tsp. of baking powder. Beat thoroughly.
  • Add 1/2 c. of chopped nuts. Beat thoroughly.
  • Bake at 350 for 3/4 – 1 hr.
  • Bake in tin cans.
  • One batch = 13 small cans.

This recipe is pretty easy to follow. I have made banana bread before and found the process very similar. The directions are very clear, although I was a little uncertain of how long to let the boiling water over the dates & raisins cool. I spoke out loud to Connie while I mixed my ingredients and waited for the water to cool. When the water was no longer steaming, I mixed in the sugar and continued with the recipe.

I was a little thrown off by the last 2 directions, about baking in tin cans. I had to look that up. I found out that baking in tins cans, like vegetable or soup cans, was used for baking during the depression. The end result would be little round cakes or loaves of bread. I would have loved to be authentic to the recipe, but I didn’t have any empty tin cans to wash out and recycle for baking. It is something I would like to try in the future though. For this recipe, I used 2 loaf pans and split the batter between the two.

My kitchen smelled amazing while these were baking! I had to have a piece when it came out of the oven, and I was not disappointed. It’s a dense bread, similar to a fruit cake. Connie is absolutely right when she says “100% Good stuff – 0% Bad Stuff“. I am really happy with how they came out. After letting them cool on a cooling rack, I popped them out of the pans and wrapped them up. I always love to share my baking, and being able to share Connie’s recipe too feels like a sweet way to remember her.

Will you be trying Connie’s Date & Nut bread? Or have you found another tombstone recipe I should try? Tell me about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading!


If You Love a Recipe Enough, You Can Put It on Your Grave

The Recipe Headstone

Baking Brown Bread in Tin Cans

Online courses for Taphophiles

I have always considered myself a lifelong learner, I love taking online courses. I have taken some interesting ones over the years, like Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. During the pandemic, online courses have become pretty popular, and you can find all sorts of online courses offered. The topics can vary, from more regular academic offerings to the more obscure. I remember once taking an online course on Stereoscopy: An Introduction to Victorian Stereo Photography. That was an interesting course. It got me wondering if there were cemetery-related courses available out there? That is something I feel like I can always learn more about.

I have spent some time browsing Atlas Obscura for unique places to visit and found that they offer in-person and virtual courses. They just so happen to offer an online course I think would be perfect for taphophiles. It’s called Stories in the Stones: How to Read a Gravestone With Dr. Elise M. Ciregna. Here is the course description, from the website:

“Have you ever wondered why certain gravestones and funerary monuments look the way they do? In this course, Dr. Elise M. Ciregna will explore how to decipher the stories in these stones, drawing from foundational knowledge of cemeteries and material culture. Over the course of four sessions, we’ll trace the history of burying grounds, cemeteries, and gravestones in the United States, focusing on a different period of American history each week. We’ll cover Puritan and Colonial practice and African American burying grounds through to the impact of cremation on contemporary American burial practice. In between, we’ll touch upon the advent of the garden cemetery movement, the 19th century romance of cemeteries, the cemetery beautiful movement of the early 20th century, and the 20th-century changes in cemetery management—looking at common motifs and stone cutting techniques as we go. By the end of this course, you’ll have the tools to engage with gravestones in a new way, the foundations for doing genealogical research, as well as a new lens through which to understand American society, culture, and values through time.” – Atlas Obscura

It sounds super interesting! There are currently 2 month-long sessions being offered, April (every Saturday) and May (every Sunday). I’ve registered for the May session and am looking forward to it. I’m hoping it will help fill the gap until I can regularly get out to visit cemeteries.

This next course I found is specifically for Clyde River & Area cemeteries in Prince Edward Island. It’s a free, self-directed course created by the Clyde River History Committee, called Cemetery Stories: Online Study SeriesThis course is not currently running, but since it’s self-directed and the materials are well laid out, I think it’s possible to work your way through the course. It looks like this online course was created to replace their regular lecture series during the COVID-19 pandemic. The course was held from November 2020 – to August 2021, but the course materials can still be found online. The materials include links to online resources, videos, and reading material. It also includes a breakdown of the activities. Some activities look to be specific to the Clyde River & Area cemeteries, but I think the resources they provide would be interesting to any taphophile. 

The last course I found is called Cemetery Symbols, through the Brooklyn Brainery. This course is not currently running, but you can sign up for the mailing list to get notified the next time it’s offered. It sounds very interesting, as it focuses on one of my favorite subjects: symbolism, and iconography in cemeteries. I would love to take this course the next time it’s offered. Here is the course description from the website: 

“Have you found some recent solace in visiting your local cemetery or ever wondered what those symbols etched in the tombstones say about the deceased? Sure, the skulls and winged hourglasses are ominously straightforward, but along with them are secret society emblems, carefully chosen flowers, gesturing hands, guardian animals, and other arcane symbols. This class will explore the meaning behind the symbols commonly found in cemeteries, along with their history in mortuary art, highlighting symbols found in NYC and beyond, so that the next time you go for a stroll in the necropolis you can decipher their hidden meanings.” – Brooklyn Brainery

It’s not a very long list, but that’s all I could find in my most recent search. I think I may revisit this in the future and share other courses I can find. I would love to see more courses become available. There are so many interesting cemetery-related topics that I think can be expanded upon, and would love to learn more about. I would love to see courses exploring the history of historic graveyards, notable graves, death and funerary practices through the ages, and even stone carvers and their materials. There is just so much that can be explored. For the moment I am looking forward to Atlas Obscura’s Stories in the Stones course, my first class is on May 1. I’m hoping it will be informative and that I will learn a new thing or two. I may write another post after the course is done, to share my thoughts, any AHA moments I have, and whether I would recommend the course or not. 

Have you taken some interesting online courses? Or do you know of a cemetery-related course that I missed? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 

A tombstone by any other name…

When we hear the words tombstone, headstone, or gravestone, they all bring the same image to mind; a stone marked with a name, birth date, death date, and maybe some funerary art and an epitaph. It is a stone representing a person laid to rest.

While working on some blog posts recently, I noticed I used the term tombstone very often. To avoid repetition, I found myself using some other words synonymously like headstone, gravestone, and grave marker. It got me thinking, ARE these words interchangeable, or is there a subtle difference? I decided to look into it a little deeper.

My term of preference seems to be tombstone, so that is where I started in my search. The dictionary defines a tombstone as “a stone marker, usually inscribed, on a tomb or grave”.1 The first known use of the word in print was in 1565.2 According to Merriam-Webster, a tombstone is also defined as a gravestone.2

So tombstone and gravestone can be used interchangeably. After a little more reading I found that a gravestone is a Middle English word dating back to 1175–1225.3 It has a similar definition to tombstone, but I read that the term gravestone comes from the practice of covering whole graves in stones, to mark the grave as well as “keep the occupants in the ground”.4

A headstone, according to dictionary.com is “a stone marker set at the head of a grave.5 This term was first recorded in 1525-35.5 It is interesting to note that this definition specifies the location of the stone, similar to a footstone, which is a smaller stone laid at the foot of a grave. The first known use of the word headstone was in the 15th century.6

Grave markers, also known as cemetery markers, are smaller and sit flat to the ground. They can sometimes be angled like a wedgestone, to make them easier to read. They may be small, but they still carry the same information, such as name, birth, and death date.7

Two other possible terms are monument and cenotaph. These are a little different as they are not as interchangeable. A monument refers specifically to a very large -monumental- stone.7 A cenotaph may seem similar to a tombstone or monument as it sometimes has names and dates engraved on it, but there are no bodies buried beneath it. Cenotaph means “empty tomb”.8 They are often used to memorialize and commemorate those buried elsewhere, such as soldiers who died in war.

All that being said, tombstone, gravestone and headstone can be used interchangeably. Although at one point in time they may have looked different than what we think of today. It’s interesting to look at how language has changed over time and how these words have all become synonymous with each other. After doing so much reading on the subject, I think tombstone is still my favourite term.

Do you have a preference? Or maybe you use a different term? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!


1https://www.dictionary.com/browse/tombstone

2https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tombstone#synonyms

3https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gravestone

4https://classroom.synonym.com/origin-gravestone-21957.html

5https://www.dictionary.com/browse/headstone

6https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/headstone

7https://www.headstonehub.com/blog/the-difference-between-headstones-monuments-markers-and-urns

8https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/tombstone-gravestone-or-headstone-whats-the-difference

Find a Grave

I have been spending more and more time on Find a Grave lately. I have been a member for years now, but just recently started being a more active member. This winter, I have been spending a lot of my free time going through my digital files and thought it would be a great opportunity to add some of them to this great website.

Find a Grave, if you are not familiar (if you are a taphophile, I’m sure it needs no explanation) is a great resource for burial information from all over the world. It’s a great tool for those looking for genealogical information, as well as those curious about famous graves. It’s filled with cemetery information, burial details, photos, biographies, and more. It’s also a great community of volunteers, all brought together by this online tool, helping others complete family tree details, sharing a hobby, but also creating an online memorial space to remember lost loved ones. 

“Find a Grave got its start in 1995 when founder Jim Tipton built a website to share his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. He found that many people shared his interest and quickly opened the site for all individuals (famous and non-famous) with a mission for finding, recording, and presenting burial and final disposition information worldwide. Since then, millions of contributors have been entering memorials, photos, GPS locations, biographies, and other rich content to the site. As the site grew, the community grew also. Find a Grave houses the largest international graving community in the world. In 2013, Find a Grave became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ancestry® and launched a new iOS mobile app. The Android app was released in 2014. Ancestry redesigned the website and released it in August 2018. The community continues to add and update memorials every day. We look forward to an exciting future for the site and the community!” – findagrave.com

I’ve been a member for almost 8 years, and often use Find a Grave when researching road trips for famous graves to visit. As I mentioned above, I recently have started being more active on the site, uploading photos to existing memorials and creating new ones that have not yet been listed. It is also possible to take on photo requests. These are requests submitted by anyone, to photograph a specific grave. The requests include all the details that are available; like cemetery location, full name, and birth and death date if known. As a Find a Grave member you can claim these requests and take photos to fulfill them. It’s a great way to contribute. Did I mention, it’s free to become a member?

Find a Grave also has other features such as their News & Announcements page that lists new website features, tips on how to use the site to its full potential, features on volunteers of the month, and all sorts of cemetery related articles. One of my favorite little touches is the On this day feature on the main page, showcasing famous deaths. There is also a forum to connect members. It features threads on all sorts of different discussions on cemetery research, famous graves, translations, and site support among other things. They also have an online store where you can purchase a small selection of merchandise. I wish they offered a Find a Grave button or stickers. I would love a button to add to my camera bag. 

To learn more about Find a Grave or become a member, you can visit their website at www.findagrave.com, or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Are you a contributor to Find a Grave? Feel free to share you experience in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 

A Collection of lambs

I love exploring cemeteries and looking at the different symbols used on tombstones. If you spend a lot of time in cemeteries, especially in Northern Ontario, you will start to notice the repetition of certain symbols and motifs. One of the most common symbols I find is the lamb.

Lambs represent innocence and sacrifice, as they were often used in sacrificial ceremonies in ancient times1. Most often you will find lambs on the gravestones of infants and children, as Jesus is often depicted as a Shepherd, and also known as the “lamb of God”. Some variations can be found with lamb symbolism. A robed figure with a standing lamb beside it most often represents John the Baptist, who had called Jesus the “lamb of God”1. A lamb with a cross is known to represent the Lamb of God or Agnus Dei2, symbolizing the suffering of Christ as he sacrificed himself for the sins of mankind. Several other symbols may be found with a lamb to symbolize the lamb of God – such as a banner, halo, shepherds crook, and alpha and/or omega symbols2. A single seated lamb symbolizes an innocent soul. A seated lamb can sometimes be found sitting in front of a tree stump, this often symbolizes a life cut short. 

Finding lambs is often sad, but they are a beautiful symbol. I have photographed many over the years and wanted to share some of them with you today. 


1 Snider, Tui. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards. 1st ed., Castle Azle Press, 2017. 

2 Keister, Douglas. Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. 1st ed., Gibbs Smith, 2004. 

Finding the abandoned Happy Valley cemetery

In August of 2020, a friend and I set out to find an abandoned cemetery. She had been to it before, having stumbled upon it while out and about on four-wheelers. She was excited to share it with me. She and I have been on many cemetery road trips, but this one was a bit different for us. Normally we would jump in the car and head for a destination while stopping at all the cemeteries we found along the way. This one was a bit closer to home and would need to be reached on foot. So with the camera in hand, we started walking. Have you ever seen the movie Stand by me? It sort of had that feeling, except we weren’t going to see a dead body, we were off to see a cemetery. 

Happy Valley is considered a ghost town. According to Ontario Abandoned Places, it never really was considered a town at all. 

“…more of a settlement which belonged to Falconbridge. Happy Valley consisted of residents who wanted to be separate and independent from the residents of Falconbridge…The residents were mainly farmers and mill-workers who worked at the sawmills by the lake. The children would have to endure a three-mile walk every morning to the nearest school (established in 1907) located in Garson…Other than the mills and homes, there were no stores or a post office to be found. Residents had to travel to Falconbridge Township for amenities…By 1970, the town was abandoned…almost. The last resident, “Gizzy”, left the town in the late ’80s.” – Ontario Abandoned Places

For more formation on the Happy Valley ghost town, visit Ontario Abandoned Places.

Our trip began by taking us into a more industrial part of the town. There were dunes everywhere and an old abandoned railway track. Small trees and bushes were growing from in between the railway ties. Those tracks had not seen much use in a while. We walked the train tracks for a little bit, but then found a dirt trail that took us more into the surrounding wilderness. We passed old culverts and a few small lakes. It was a beautiful day for a walk! 

The way to this cemetery wasn’t a straight shot, or well marked. We had a general direction and were using landmarks to help find our way. We referenced old photos from the first time my friend had been there. We seemed to have made our way into some backcountry, where there were sandy trails and lots of sandy hills, that would be great for four-wheeling. After climbing up into a rocky area we reached a plateau where it levelled off and there was a two-lane sandy road. It was nice to not have to watch our footing anymore for fear of catching a toe on a rock.

My friend felt we were getting close. We walked on, enjoying each other’s company and chatting about life. Now and then we would stop to assess how far we had gone. We were alone in the woods, having not seen anyone else out on the trails. After a while, we started to question if we had gone too far. We checked a side trail, but no, it was going off in the wrong direction. We took a small break to rest and re-evaluate. Luckily, we still were getting cell service in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. She was able to look at satellite photos on Google and find what looked to be our cemetery. We had gone too far! We had to backtrack a little way and take a dirt road that forked to the right. Our goal should be right around that corner. 

We found it! It’s a small cemetery, having been recently surrounded by a chain-link fence. We theorized that the fence was put up to protect the cemetery from people unintentionally running through it on quads and snowmobiles. There are about a handful of headstones, some up-right and a few flat to the earth. There seem to be more pioneers buried there than there are headstones.

Having found the cemetery and being able to visit it was well worth the hike. It was super satisfying! Almost more rewarding than if we would have driven straight there. After spending some time among the tombstones, we made our way back the way we came. Through the woods, along the dirt paths, and along the train tracks, ending by having to climb back up a massive dune that we had first scaled down at the beginning of our journey. It was a great adventure! I am grateful that I have good friends who want to share these kinds of experiences with me! 

More recently, I was doing some pre-emptive cemetery road trip research, getting ready for this spring. I was going through all the cemeteries listed in my hometown, there are 25 in total. I have been to all but 3 of them, or so I thought. Based on my archived photos I had not visited Ruff Pioneer Cemetery, Chelmsford Protestant Cemetery, and St. Joseph Cemetery. As I did a bit more research into where these cemeteries are located, I got stuck on Ruff Pioneer Cemetery. It’s listed as being off of Goodwill Road, in Garson. As I searched Google Maps, it just was not making sense. I was able to zero in on its location using satellite photos. Low and behold – Ruff Pioneer Cemetery is our Abandoned Happy Valley cemetery!

Looking back at my photos, though, it all makes sense!

Goodwill road was most likely named after those pioneers buried in this cemetery.

Looking back at this cemetery adventure has me pining for summer and the opportunity to visit new cemeteries. I have a few road trips already planned and mapped out, but I may take a look for more abandoned cemeteries that are harder to find. Do you have a story about an abandoned cemetery? Share it in the comments!

Thanks for reading!