A Collection of Doves

This week, I had originally planned on posting a cemetery recipe for Red Lantern Cheese dip, from the gravestone of Debra Ann Nelson. But, I had some issues finding the correct ingredients and the recipe didn’t turn out as expected. So I will continue my hunt for the elusive ingredients. 

Instead, this week I will share a collection of Dove’s. If you have been following this blog for a little while, you may have noticed that I sometimes like to share collections of my favorite photos of some of the cemetery symbols I find on my cemetery walks. I have been photographing cemeteries for over 15 years, and in that time I have noticed some repetition of certain symbols and motifs. I find cemetery symbolism so interesting and love looking at what the different variations of a symbol mean.

Doves are not as common a symbol as lambs in Northern Ontario, but they represent similar ideas. Doves commonly are a symbol of peace, but when used in funerary art, they also represent innocence and the Holy Spirit. Doves may appear in many forms, such as sculpture or bas-relief. There are also different variations of doves, and each carries additional meaning.

Sometimes a dove may be depicted carrying something in its mouth. A dove with an olive branch in its mouth may represent peace. This symbolism also can be traced to Ancient Greece. A dove carrying a broken flower bud in its mouth often symbolizes a life cut short. 

The position and angle of the dove may have some significance as well. A dove flying downward is thought to represent the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven.

Another variation of a dove you might find, is a dove that looks like it might be dead. A dead dove sadly represents a life cut short. This variation may also be found lying in front of, or on top of a tree stump; which is also a symbol of a life cut short.

Have you come across a different variation of this symbol? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards by Tui Snider
  2. Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister

Cemetery Road Trip – Visiting Asylum Point Cemetery

Today on the blog, I wanted to share a cemetery road trip from Autumn 2022. I have been thinking about this place a lot lately and wanted to share my experience. Visiting the Asylum Point Cemetery was high on my to-do list when my fiancé and I visited Penetanguishene for our haunted holiday. I talked Chris’s ear off on the drive up about what I could remember of its history. My interest in the place was even more peaked when we got to our Airbnb. On one of the white boards in the main entranceway, someone had written in red marker; “Visit the Asylum Cemetery!”

Asylum Point Cemetery is located on the grounds of what is known today as the Regional Division of the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.1 Over the years it has seen many different forms. It began as a Reformatory for Boys in 1859 and operated for 44 years.2 In 1904 it saw new life as the Asylum for the Insane.3 1933 saw the addition of Oak Ridge, also referred to at the time as the Criminally Insane building.4 All the buildings are fairly close together, creating a small campus. As we toured the campus in search of the cemetery, I noticed a few white houses lining the road to the cemetery. One was directly across from it. I’m not sure what these buildings had once been used for, but now they looked abandoned and boarded up.

Many of the original buildings are no longer standing, as the center has modernized its facilities. But, there are still some remnants from the Asylum’s past that can be found; like the cemetery, and the original Oak Ridge gates. The gates now open to an empty road, that leads I’m not sure where. I didn’t have much time to explore the grounds on our visit, aside from the cemetery, but I did get a chance to stop and admire the entrance gates, which are said to have been built by the patients themselves.

The original Oak Ridge gates, Penetanguishene ON ©2022

According to the inscription on the gate of Asylum Point Cemetery, the cemetery was in operation from 1904 to 1970 and is the final resting place of over 300 long-term patients. Commemorative stones were erected at the cemetery detailing its history in 2004, the 100th anniversary of the Psychiatric Hospital and its cemetery. 

It was a grey and dreary day when I visited the cemetery, but I didn’t let that deter me. When I walked through the gates, after stopping to read the inscription, I was a little surprised by what I found. The cemetery seemed to be just a sprawling green lawn, with no markers aside from the stone at the entrance that bares the cemetery name. There is a large weeping willow tree on the right side of the cemetery, so I walked underneath it to stay out of the drizzling rain. I scanned the grass for anything that might resemble a grave marker. I had read that the grave markers in this cemetery, in the early years, had been created by the patients using wood and brass stamps to mark the names and dates.5 I was about to start making my way back to the car when I noticed a small slab of cement covered in leaves and debris. It wasn’t an empty green space after all. After I spotted one, I was able to spot them more clearly and found more and more small rectangular grave markers dotting the lawn. The rain had darkened the cement making them blend in with the autumn leaves. Many markers were becoming overgrown with moss, while others were slowly being swallowed up by the earth. 

Asylum Point Cemetery, Penetanguishene ON ©2022

This was my first time visiting an Asylum cemetery, and I was very touched by the handmade markers. I tried to put myself in the place of the patients that would have been making these gravestones. I was very mindful as I made my way back to the car. 

I have only briefly touched on the history of Oak Ridge here, but if you are interested in some further reading, there is a great resource curated by Jennifer L. Bazar. It’s called the Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit. It features in-depth looks at the history and timeline of Oak Ridge, and includes photos. I would highly recommend checking it out if you are interested in this side of Canadian history.

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Origins | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit
  2. Reformatory for Boys | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit
  3. Asylum for the Insane | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit
  4. Establishing Oak Ridge | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit
  5. Asylum Point Cemetery | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit

Cemetery Road Trip – Pet Cemetery

During my two-week vacation, something unexpected happened. While touring around the winding roads of St. Joseph’s Island, I found a Pet Cemetery.

I had researched the area before my trip and had marked off every cemetery on the island, with the hopes of visiting them all. I had not read anything about a pet cemetery, so I was very surprised when I noticed a large stone with the words “Wm. Wright Memorial Pet Cemetery” engraved on it. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and made a three-point turn. My mother, who was traveling with me, was just as surprised as I was when she saw the cemetery sign.

The William Wright Memorial Pet Cemetery sits on land that was once the site of a Presbyterian Church. The Church suffered a fire, and from my understanding, the cemetery behind this church was moved to a cemetery further down the road. The land was inherited by William’s great-grandson, David Wright, who started the Pet Cemetery and named it after his Great Grandfather, in 1985. Today, the cemetery is cared for by the St. Joseph Lions Club.1

This beautiful cemetery is surrounded by large maple trees. It has a little chapel and even its own little receiving vault, also known as a dead house. When the Lions Club took over the care of the cemetery, they converted a shed to accommodate two freezers for winter storage.1

This was my first time visiting a pet cemetery. There is a mix of flat grave markers, homemade crosses, and other types of homemade gravestones that looked to be laid out in sections. I was affected immediately by the love and care that was taken to memorialize these animals. They were not just animals, but furry family members and beloved pets. 

Some of the markers only bared names, while others had etched portraits or had loving epitaphs inscribed on them. The epitaphs got to me the most —things like “My Buddy” and “Forever loved”. Seeing these kinds of things inscribed on a tombstone for a pet, some of which were only in this world for a short time, was incredibly heartbreaking. I don’t usually have this sort of response in cemeteries and was a little surprised at how hard it was for me to read each stone.

Although it was an emotional experience for me, I was thrilled to be able to visit a pet cemetery. I think that they are growing in popularity, but they are still a fairly rare thing. After a little research, I only found information for eleven of them in Ontario, including the one I visited. I did try to visit a pet cemetery a few years ago, in Sault Ste Marie. But, we were unable to find it, and I have since been able to find out very little more about it. I would love to be able to visit more in the future. They are incredibly beautiful places. 

Have you been to a pet cemetery before? What was your experience like? I would love to read about your experiences in the comments!

Thanks for reading! 


References:

  1. WM Wright Memorial Pet Cemetery | Waymarking

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!


References:

  1. Tombstone | Dictionary.com
  2. Tombstone | Merriam-Webster
  3. Gravestone | Dictionary.com
  4. What Is the Origin of the Gravestone? | Classroom
  5. Headstone | Dictionary.com
  6. Headstone | Merriam-Webster
  7. The Difference Between Headstones, Monuments, Markers, and Urns | Headstone hub
  8. Tombstone gravestone or headstone whats the difference? | Grammar Girl

Stone Stories: A life cut short

A couple of weekends ago I visited the grave of Renée Sweeney. 

While planning out a hike that weekend, I checked which cemeteries would be along the way. One of them just so happened to be her resting place. 

I usually don’t spend as much time in newer cemeteries because the stones and symbolism are much more modern and not as nuanced. This cemetery is full of some very interesting stones and stories. Because I was searching for one grave in particular, I took my time walking through the rows, examining every stone. I came across some lovely stones and epitaphs, as well as some heartbreaking ones.

But none as heartbreaking as the family plot of Renée Sweeney. 

Her grave marker is small, laying flat to the earth, but it tells a story of a life cut short, that had a lot of love yet to give. The epitaph reads “Loving Daughter and Sister, Life is fleeting Love is forever” A trombone is engraved on her stone, as well as a treble clef and an angel. She is buried beside her mother.

What happened to Renée is terrifying and heart-wrenching. She was 23 years old when she was brutally murdered in 1998. She was stabbed at least 30 times while working at Adults Only Video. 

Her murder went unsolved for 20 years.

In 2018, Robert Steven Wright was arrested. He faces a second-degree murder charge. Due to the pandemic, he is still awaiting trial. His new trial date as of this writing is October 25th, 2021. The trial is expected to last 5 weeks.

Renée’s story can be found in more detail in Unsolved Sudbury: Missing. Murdered. Unexplained. by Sarah May. Books are available locally at Bay Used Books, Jan Browning Boutique, and Sudbury Paint and Custom Framing.

If you are interested in learning more about this tragic history, you can read more about it at these links: