By Leon Smet (Originally Published - 14 April 1982, Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada)
Many people view the cemetery as a place to deposit the remains of the deceased and then forget. But there’s more to it than that. Although death is man’s greatest enemy, and many have gone through all kinds of sorrow to get out of this world, let’s look at cemeteries in a different light.
Cemeteries are beautiful places in the sense that the grounds are well-kept and the atmosphere is more like a park or a garden. In Charlotte County, we have some fine examples of gardenlike parks and places that are a joy to walk through.
Some of the interesting things are the monuments that have been created over the years. There are some very good examples of stones that are stories which tell of the artisans that have made memorials and also the personalities of the people they commemorate.
For an example of artistry have a look at the memorial in the Eaton lot in the St. Stephen Rural Cemetery that is cut out of a solid piece of white marble to appear in the shape of a sheaf of grain, believed to have been made in Italy by a prisoner.
The Eaton Lot
St. Stephen Rural Cemetery
The Loyalist Ground on King Street in St. Stephen is where many of the earliest Charlotte County residents were buried. An interesting feature is that some of the name may no longer mean anything to us now, but there were here. To some, the only way we could know is because of the marble monument carved with a stoneman’s chisel.
One example of the ingenuity of man is represented in the St. George Rural Cemetery in the form of Vermont Grey Granite. Its weight is calculated to be around 37,000 pounds.
Another is the Johnson stone, which is approximately 13 feet high, with a weight of approximately 20,000 pounds. It is a marvel even today as to how these memorials were places.
The Johnson Stone
St. George Rural Cemetery
The largest memorial Smet Monuments placed only had a combined weight of 16,000 pounds. That had a base length of 17 feet for the six girls who were killed in an accident at Rexton, New Brunswick.
All these memorials attest to the workmen of Charlotte County over the years. For a period of time, memorials were standardized, with the few companies mass-producing, resulting in so many stones which look alike.
Today, people are changing, not so much to ornate and expensive memorials, but more the personalized designs; designs that are more in keeping with the personality of people they are to represent and commemorate.
For example, we at Smet Monument’s have had sailing vessels for boat builders, fishermen and people who live by the water; farm scenes for people who spent their life tilling the land; horse scenes for people who loved horses; outdoor scenes for people who loved to hunt and fish and open Bible designs for Bible readers.
Another interesting thing in our cemeteries in Charlotte County is to read the interesting epitaphs. One interesting one reads “Remember me as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I. As I am now so you will be, prepare for death and follow me.”
Another reads “And I have hope toward God that these also entertain that there shall be a resurrection.” One inscription that we put on a memorial once for an Eastport, Maine, family had 344 letters in it.
Have you visited a cemetery lately? Why not go through and appreciate it at a time when you are not there, because of a loss in your family. A greater percentage of people are even prearranging their cemetery lot and memorial.
Rather than view a cemetery as a morbid place, look at it as a place that memorializes people and families, and reminds one there is going to be a resurrection. The interesting fact that most cemeteries bury with the feet to the East is another thing to think on.
Footnote: Leon Smet was the founder/owner of Smet Monuments. Smet Monuments continues to thrive and is located just north of St. Stephen. You can visit their website at http://www.monumentsonline.com/