Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday - Tragic Deaths -- Who Died?

In a small cemetery in Osprey Township, Grey County, Ontario, there is a tombstone that hints of a tragedy. The cemetery is the Methodist Cemetery, located on St. John's Street and on the east side of Grey Road 2, Feversham



The cemetery has been inactive for years. At some point, the scattered stones, many of which were broken, were gathered together and placed in cement. This cemetery is the final resting place of the founder of this community, Edward Horton. The other stones are reminders of some early pioneers. Are there others buried there that never had stones or the stones are now missing?


Now this stone speaks of a tragedy. (stone on the right).



This is how it is transcribed in Township of Osprey: Peace, Plenty Progress (p. 408).

In memory of the children of Samuel and Mary VANMEER, who died May 31, 1875. Samuel, aged 14 and 11 months. Sarah M. aged 10 years and 5 months. Richard, aged 9 years. Rachel, May 29, 1875.
How lonely has our home been made,
Since death has entered there,
And taken from our loved embrace,
Those that held so dear."

To see other photographs of the stone, check these websites as they were taken earlier than the one above that I took in the summer.
Find-A-Grave for the Cemetery - select Samuel Vanmeer.

The stone also can be seen at Ontario Genweb's Cemetery Project Choose   Ontario - Grey County - Feversham Cemetery


An Owen Sound newspaper dated 10 June 1875, copied information from the [Collingwood] Enterprise gives us an idea of what happened on the night the Vanmeer siblings died. 



Fire and Loss of Life

 A farmer, reading in the Township of Osprey, named Van Meer, was awakened on Sunday morning at about three o'clock, by his eldest daughter, with the cry of fire. He immediately jumped out of bed, when he found nearly the whole house in flames. His first thought was his children, who slept upstairs, where he immediately went and woke them up, picking up the youngest in his arms, he rushed out, supposing that the others were following. When he had put his young charge in a place of safety, he began to look around for the others, but could not find them until after the fire was exhausted, when he discovered the charred bones of three of his children. The one was a boy, about 14, and the other two girls, aged respectively 16 and 18 years. In being awoke out of their sleep by their father, they must have become bewildered and blinded by the smoke, for instead of trying to get out of the house, they found their way into their parents rooms, which was on the ground floor, and there remained until they were smothered by the smoke.


The fire was first discovered by the eldest daughter, who slept over the kitchen, she being awoke by the intense heat in her room, when she rushed down stairs and gave the alarm. The fire had made such headway before this, however, that nothing whatever was saved, and no effort could be made to reach the missing children. The bereaved family have the deepest sympathy of the whole neighborhood, hundreds having flocked to the place as soon as the news of the dreadful affair spread. The remains of the unfortunate children were interred the same evening, followed by over fifty teams and a large number on foot. Enterprise.
The newspaper article only mentions that children died in the fire, one boy (aged 14) and two girls (aged 16 and 18). These ages don't match what is on the tombstone.

The Meaford Monitor 1 June 1875 as transcribed in Osprey Township history --

Died in Maxwell 3 children to Mr. Van Meer. Samuel 17, Rachel 11, one younger

Also in the same book, there is another report

"Per Alda Hawton's cemetery book, these children are buried at Feversham Wesleyan Cemetery - 3 children by fire May 31, 1875. Sam aged 14, Sarah M. aged 10, Richard aged 9. Also in same plot Robert aged 11 years died Oct. 19, 1877. 

Checking the 1871 census for Osprey Township, we find the family
Samuel E. (44), Mary (43), George (21), Wm H. (20), James (18), Alfred (14), Samuel (11), Hannah (9), Sarah (8), Rachel (7) and Robert (4). Note: There is no Richard.

1875 -- Who Lived at Home?

By 1875, when the fire occurred, who lived at home?


  • George married Eliza Jane Lindley on 7 April 1875.
  • William Henry married 29 December 1875 to Sarah Jane Clark but possibly was already living away from home.
  • James married Elizabeth Campbell 10 March 1875.
  • Samuel aged 14
  • Hannah aged 12 -- She lives and will marry Smith Parks 28 January 1880 -- The one who gave the alert as reported in the newspaper article?
  • Sarah aged 11
  • Rachel aged 10
  • Robert aged 7 -- The one who was saved by his father as reported in the newspaper article. 


  • Now looking at the death registrations using Ancestry. 
    Found are Samuel aged 14, Sarah aged 12 and Rachel aged 10.  The date of death is reported as 29 May 1875. The date of registration is 13 July 1876. It would appear that the registrar entered ten deaths on the 13 July 1876. The deaths of the Vanmeer children are inserted amongst the 1876 deaths. Did the registrar, James Gibson, play catch up and entered all these deaths on the reporting sheets on the same date and that this was not actually the date the death was reported to the authorities? He dated his return at the bottom of the page as 15 July 1876. 

    Note: There is no Richard in the death registrations.



    Now there are two different dates of death - The stone -- 31 May 1875 and the death registration 29 May 1875 (it was not reported until 1876, so it would be easy to have the wrong date).

    From the newspaper we know that the fire occurred in 1875. The Owen Sound newspaper was published on 10 June 1875. It was likely from the Enterprise from the previous week. The article says the fire occurred on Sunday morning at 3. Checking a perpetual calendar Sunday morning would have been 30 May.


    No matter the actual date of death, the death of the children was a tragedy for the Vanmeer family and their friends.


    Robert, who was the youngest was rescued, is named on another stone in the cemetery  showing a death date of 19 October 1877. No death registration has been found for him.


    Sources
    Osprey Historical Society. Township of Osprey: Peace, Plenty, Progress, The Society, 2002, p. 408
    "Fire and Loss of Life", 10 June 1875.
    1871 Census of Canada, Ontario, Grey South (district 36), Osprey (sub-district h), division 2, p. 36, family 119, Samuel Edmund Vanmmer household; digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 1 September 2017), citing microfilm C-9952, p. 36, family 119, Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa.
    Samuel Vanmeer Ontario death registration, #3838 (13 July 1876); digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 1 September 2017), citing microfilm MS 935 Reel 12, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
    Sarah Margaret Vanmeer Ontario death registration, #3839 (13 July 1876); digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 1 September 2017), citing microfilm MS 935 Reel 12, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
    Rachael Vanmeer Ontario death registration, #3840 (13 July 1876); digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 1 September 2017), citing microfilm MS 935 Reel 12, Archives of Ontario, Toronto.



    Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    Cemetery Tour

    Deadline registration is September 20th

    Something different on my schedule is a tour of five cemeteries in South Grey County in Grey County on Saturday, September 30 hosted by the Gentle Shepherd Church in Eugenia. I will be the tour guide. 

    Hear stories about the famous and every day folk who are remembered in these cemeteries. 
    Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost $35.00. This includes the lunch.

    Tickets may be purchased through the church or the public libraries in Markdale and Flesherton, as well as at other locations mentioned on the poster. This is one way to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of confederation. Wear practical shoes as the ground is uneven.


    We will visit the Feversham Methodist Cemetery, Black Pioneer Cemetery near Priceville, McNeil Cemetery, Priceville; Flesherton Cemetery and Markdale Cemetery. 

    It will be a full day starting at the Church. The bus will load at 8:30 and the plan is to return back to the church around 3:30.