Anne-Reet Ilves Annunziata
In 1918 an unusual event took place in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Perhaps not so unusual for its day but in retrospect a seemingly challenging undertaking which involved the removal of all persons interred at the Union Cemetery located on Belvedere Street in the South Ward and their reburial in Elmwood Cemetery.
The process leading to this decision was long and slow, beginning in the late 1800’s when the Union Cemetery was becoming sadly neglected. The Cemetery had been established in 1849 on three and three quarter acres of land, noted in the cadastral records of Sherbrooke as lot 1442 in the South Ward, for use as a cemetery by all Protestant denominations other than Anglican. The Anglican Church cemetery was separately established. The first person to be buried in Union was Samuel Brooks, MP. He died in Montreal in March, 1849 while attending his parliamentary duties.
By the end of the century the cemetery was almost full and poorly maintained. The area around it had become highly industrialized so that the location was no longer appropriate for a cemetery. And it seemed the City Fathers wanted the land for industrial use.
Elmwood Cemetery had been established in 1890 by a group of local businessmen who anticipated the need for a new cemetery. After much discussion and negotiation, which took the better part of 15 years, arrangements were made between the Plymouth Congregational Church Board who represented the Union Cemetery interests and the Board of Trustees at Elmwood to relocate the persons buried in Union to comparable spaces on the Elmwood grounds.
The remains of 895 persons as well as 116 stones and monuments were moved. Five hundred and fifty bodies were claimed by family members leaving 345 unclaimed. Of the claimed, 371 were adults and 179 were children; of the unclaimed 188 were adults, 157 were children totaling 559 adults and 336 children.
This is, in chronological order, a collection of Trustees and Board meeting minutes, official documentation and other written commentary taken from archival material which tells the story of this significant event in the life of the Protestant community of Sherbrooke.
SUMMARY of events
1835: Meeting to consider organizing a Congregational Church for Sherbrooke and Lennoxville held at home of Samuel Brooks in Sherbrooke Dec.25th, 1835- he was an MP and was the first person to be buried in Union Cemetery on March 1849
1849: Union Cemetery land was purchased in late 1848 or early 1849 (Assembly Bill no.66 states “ lot has since and before the year 1849, been used as a Protestant cemetery…”) to serve the Protestant community other than Anglican (Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist) These churches were jointly responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. However the Congregational Church paid the purchase price of $446.00
1890: ELMWOOD CEMETERY INCORPORATED
1894: first recorded indication of problems at Union Cemetery – minutes of Trustees of Congregational Church reflect discussion that the Chief of Police take steps to “prevent persons loitering in and desecrating the grounds…..”
1907: September 8, 1907 minutes of the meeting of the Trustees of Congregational Church record discussion to consider moving the bodies.
1908– the City (Alderman McManamy) was very anxious that the cemetery be moved and the land made available for commercial use, – with the consideration that the transfer should be to Elmwood. The process would require an Act of the Legislature
1909: first estimate of the cost suggested by Elmwood – $13,200, for estimate of 1500 bodies
1913: actual offer presented to Plymouth by Elmwood Trustees describing the move which would allow persons to choose their relocation site in Elmwood from any available spaces. All persons not claimed by relatives would be re-buried in the “new” South West corner which was to be beautified with pathways similar to the other sections of Elmwood. All stones would be repositioned.
1916– Act of incorporation of Plymouth Congregational Church gives them authority over the management of Union Cemetery and mandate to prevent further burials. It seems Elmwood was already the cemetery of choice as the Union is noted to “be full” although perhaps individual family plots were still in use.
1917– negotiations with Elmwood continue but the correspondence indicates that the cost of the work has increased considerably. The estimated cost of the sale of the Union’s land is estimated as $18,000 which would be adequate to pay for cost of the transfer of what now is assumed to be approx 700 bodies. The President of the Elmwood strongly suggests that any money left over after the transfer is complete needs to be added to Elmwood resources and not the coffers of Plymouth Church as Elmwood would now become the steward of the Protestant community’s graves. He states that the original financial outlay contributed by Plymouth was only $445. and that they spent no money to maintain the cemetery during the intervening period. It was essentially the jointly owned property of the Protestant community who would now be using Elmwood Cemetery.
1918, May – Plymouth finally sends a firm request letter stating that they expect to sell the land for $15,000 which they would use to pay for the transfer keeping only the original $446. with simple interest accrued.
1918, June – Elmwood sends their Superintendent Luther Stevenson off to Mt. Royal Cemetery in Montreal to see what their costs are. He returns with information which results in the Elmwood Board stating that they must raise their prices from their earlier quotes but can make certain allowances. Discussion regarding who will do the actual work.
1918: Notice was published in the Sherbrooke Daily Record (Sept 17, 1918) that “legal representatives” of the persons buried in Union have the opportunity to choose a suitable site of comparable size in Elmwood from “all the unsold ground available” , the announcement having been made from the pulpit by Rev. Read on the previous two Sundays.
Price for Union is now suggested to be $16,500
Contracted with Luther Stevenson, Superintendent at Elmwood to act as supervisor of the work.(pay $700 at rate of $5/day)
1918, November – noted in Plymouth Church Trustees minutes of November 21st 1918 that 300 bodies had been removed.
1919: Minutes of Trustees of Plymouth note on Sept 11th 1919 that the removals work was completed and they could proceed with selling the land.
1920: minutes of May 17th, 1920 Cemetery Committee at Plymouth reports that one part of the Union lot had been sold to Imperial Oil for $10,499
1920: special meeting on August 28th, 1920 notes that the Cemetery Committee reported sale of the balance of the Union Cemetery land for $26,331.47 from which payments were made to Elmwood, the attorneys ($255.46) as well as the Mitchell Estate ($462.58), for a loan, leaving a profit balance of $11,814.60 to the Church!!!
FINAL CALCULATIONS OF MONEY OWED TO ELMWOOD FOR THE WORK WAS BASED ON A TOTAL OF 895 BODIES REMOVED AT $23.57/BODY FOR A BALANCE OF $21,096.15
1922: September 20th 1922 minutes of special meeting of Plymouth Church the Cemetery Committee report how the monies received from the sale of the land were expended – $8500 was invested in two mortgages which would being paying first interest in December of that year. It was moved by Mr. Webster and seconded by Mr. Sangster that other money from the earnings should be used to paint the outside of the church including the steeple, two coats; and that the contract be given to the lowest bidder.
And although the President of Elmwood had suggested to the Board of Plymouth Church that they as a religious institution should not be making a profit the last appropriate word can be taken from a Plymouth Board member’s note to Pastor Read on August 11th of 1922:
“I saw Stanley on the street today and he said that you were anxious to know just how the cemetery matter was coming out…………$12,000 which will be net to the Church….on the whole I think we can congratulate ourselves upon our handling of a very delicate matter with the minimum of criticism or dissatisfaction, and after all coming out with a fairly substantial balance on the right side of the ledger.”
1919 Financial Overview Report
There were the remains of 895 bodies removed. 550 were claimed leaving 345 unclaimed. Of the claimed, 371 were adults and 179 children; unclaimed, 188 adults, 157 children. Total 559 adults, 336 children.
The claimed graves occupy 12,715 square feet @ 15cents per foot, $1,907.25. Unclaimed graves occupy 7,236 square feet @ 10 cents per foot, $723.60. Perpetual maintenance on the whole at 25 cents per foot $4,987.75.
There were 18 claimants who had relatives removed to lots of their own, 43 bodies in all occupying 857 feet at present prices would amount to $433.50
42 representatives bought 3633 feet additional space at cost of $1,803.40
116 stones and monuments removed, requiring 2084 cubic feet of concrete for erection.
New cases were supplied in all cases with exception of 8, three of which were iron caskets.
One claimant had two relatives put into caskets at his own expense.
Total due the Cemetery Company is $21,096.15 on the basis of $16,500. for 700 graves, there being 195 over estimate @ $23.57 per grave, making $4596.15 additional.
Total cost of removal as per itemized statement below was $6700.73 leaving a balance of $14.395.42 due the Company.
STATEMENT OF INCOME AND EXPENDITURE
Received from the Church $6700.73 Supervision (L.S.) $700.00
Gravel, Cement and etc 301.98
Cash on hand for c/s