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New life for abandoned cemetery


Diana Boyd initiated work to restore Main Brook site and is conducting research on interments

MAIN BROOK, N.L. —

Diana Boyd came upon it while strolling through Main Brook with her husband and infant son.

At first glance, there wasn’t much to see.

"I looked around and I said, 'what cemetery?'" Boyd recalled. "It was completely overgrown."

Boyd hails from Sydney, N.S., and currently lives in St. John's.

She was visiting in-laws in Main Brook in 2018 when she learned one of her husband's ancestors was buried at a now-abandoned graveyard.

The non-denominational cemetery was in use at the Main Brook waterfront between 1930 and 1951. After that, each religious denomination started their own.

As the years marched on, the old graveyard down at the waterfront was gradually forgotten.

Vegetation took over, headstones were removed. The only thing left to mark the site, was three trees, the only ones in the vicinity not cut down in the logging town.

Boyd had spent three years as a cemetery caretaker in Sydney and still had a "soft spot" for cemeteries. When she realized the condition it was in, she says it broke her heart.

She asked around, but no one could say who was in charge of maintenance. It seemed most people with family members buried there had passed away themselves or were elderly.

She learned many buried there were children.

"I had a nine-month-old when I visited the first time and I was thinking, 'this could be my kid, I wouldn't want it to be in that kind of shape or condition if it was my loved one,’" she said.

Next day, she decided to take on the task of cleaning it up herself.

For five of seven days of her vacation in Main Brook, Boyd was preoccupied with the project. Grass was up to her neck. She used a whipper-snipper to take it all down.

Boyd removed garbage and fire pits people had there – many hadn’t realized it was a cemetery. She fixed up some of the graves, as well.

Soon, she was joined by locals. They helped cut down trees and overgrown branches.

The other two vacation days – when it rained – she conducted genealogical research.

Boyd looked into the number of people who were buried there and who they were. Soon, a list was started. She's since been able to pinpoint 22 graves, with varying degrees of information about each interment. Only three were marked, making it more difficult.

She learned a make-work project some years back contributed to the removal of most of the headstones and markers.

Today, mapping out exact locations of the remaining graves is difficult – or simply impossible. No one knows for certain how many there are. Some may have been lost to land erosion.

Boyd says some locals have a roundabout idea where their loved ones may have been buried and will place markers in the approximate area.

Otherwise, she's still collecting names and information for a wooden memorial to be placed at the site. It will list all the known names of the deceased, as well as their available information, ensuring they are not forgotten.

She hopes to install the memorial next year.

The town takes up the cause

At the end of her seven-day vacation last year, Diana Boyd and her family returned home to St. John's. She wouldn't be back until this June.

In the interim, the town of Main Brook picked up where she left off.

They built a fence around the graveyard, laid down a road to the site, and have installed a breakwater to prevent further erosion.

More locals have been inspired to assume care for the cemetery.

Boyd says one couple is building a bench to be installed there. Another man is working on a sign to identify the cemetery.

On July 1, with Boyd on hand, the town had the cemetery rededicated.

Later this month, the Saunders family will install new headstones for Aubry Saunders (1891 - 1947) and his son Thomas Saunders (1917 - unknown).

The town will host a ceremony for the installation of the headstones, to be placed in the vicinity of where Thomas and Aubry were interred.

Main Brook Mayor Barbara Genge was grateful for Boyd's efforts.

"She had everything to do with the rededication of this cemetery that everybody had forgotten about," Genge told The Northern Pen. "That's why she needs to be thanked."

Anyone with information about who may be buried at the cemetery can contact Boyd at dianajolene@gmail.com

What we know

Diana Boyd has information on 22 individuals buried at the Main Brook waterfront ceremony. From Boyd's Facebook page:

- Dorman Tulk. Male. WWI veteran. 1896-Sept 19, 1936. 40 years. 

- Gwendolyn Pelley. Female. 1918-May 31, 1948. 29 years old.

- Aubry Saunders. Male 1891-April 24, 1947. 56 years old.

- Thomas Saunders. Male. 1917-Unknown (Son of Aubry Saunders). 

- Jacob Pelley. No information located. (family relative indicated he is buried just behind the concrete slab at the bottom of the cemetery. Two other Pelley family members are buried there too) 

- Pelley. Child. No information available. See Jacob Pelley 

- Pelley. Child. No information available. See Jacob Pelley 

- Effie Simms. Female. Toddler. 1944-1948?

- Ivy Rice. Baby female. Nov 17-22, 1947. 6 days old. 

- George Gillingham. Baby male. 1946-April 25, 1946. 8 days old.

- Leighton Simms. Child. Age 9 (approximately).

- Baby Unknown. Baby. Child of local individual’s aunt. No information available. 

- Ronald Maxell Pilgram. Baby male. Dec 17, 1930-Jan ? 1931. Age 2 months

- Antone Raymond Pilgram. Baby male. March 20, 1946-February 27, 1947. Age 11 months.

- Alexander (Al) Pilgram. Male. 1869-May 9, 1948. Age 79 years. 

- Alma Neta Pilgrim. Baby female. October 1947-May 9, 1948.

- Florence Eliza Peyton. Baby female. 1949?-1949 Age 9 Months.

- Maxwell Ollerhead. Baby male. Death dates unknown. Age 1 month approximately

- Dorthy Ollerhead. Baby Female. Death date unknown. Stillbirth.

- Gillingham. (first name and information unknown) 

- Mark Hodge. Infant.

- Montriee Hodge. Infant

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