WOLFVILLE, NS – This is not the first time 21 gravestones have been knocked over in Wolfville.
An identical number of gravestones were toppled 20 years ago in a parallel incident, where the stones were also nearly all in a row.
Wendy Elliott photographed and reported this incident on June 10, 1997, and spoke to the cemetery’s then-manager, Herb Morine, who felt just as lost as current manager Chris Fuller does now when wrestling with why someone would do this.
“I worked at that cemetery for 60 years – it’s a random thing, and I still don’t know what you can do to stop it,” said Morine.
The details of the original photo
Elliott received a call from Morine after the 21 stones were knocked over and went to investigate the cemetery with her nine-year-old son in tow.
She and her son were both baffled by what they saw, and talked about it.
He asked her why anyone would ever do it such a thing. It was a hard question to answer, since she was asking herself the same thing.
“As a parent, you cannot rationalize that behaviour to a child,” said Elliott.
“There’s just no making sense of it.”
After the photo was published with a short write up, the community was shocked.
Like many in Wolfville, Elliott has a personal connection to the cemetery – her grandparents are both buried there.
She said she and others felt disgusted at the actions of those who’d tipped the stones over, and that they were never caught.
And recently, when working with the community on the Mona Parsons statue design, worries it could be vandalized were voiced.
“We were worried it might happen to her as well. It’s in your mind, because vandalism happens often here,” she said.
‘A problem that might never go away’
The 1997 incident involving 21 headstones was not the only significant vandalism that happened during Morine’s 60 years as cemetery manager.
One incident saw 17 stones pushed over one night, followed by 20 the next.
The person or persons who pushed over the first 21 were never found.
People were questioned and found responsible for the second 37, but Morine said no penalties were ever dolled out, other than basic maintenance work at a local nursing home.
“We wanted them to work with people, to learn from what they’d done and how it could make people feel,” he said.
Nearly every other vandalism case went unsolved while Morine worked at the cemetery.
He remains doubtful this is the end of the cemetery’s toppling troubles.
He even looked into insuring the headstones, but found the cost very high, and not affordable with the cemetery’s limited funds.
After the stones were knocked over last time, Morine worked with community volunteers and was able to get the stones standing again.
He sees the work current Chris Fuller is doing, and feels proud to have passed the torch to someone dedicated to finding a solution.
“You look after it the same as if it were own. Those people who did this don’t have any feelings whatsoever, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
List of names on gravestones located parallel to Gaspereau Avenue
- Unknown, behind Flora Patriquin Gordon
- Alonzo A. Dodge, wife Hattie Ann Dodge and Bertha M. Dodge
- Ernest Herbert, wife Estelle Jane, children Wiley, Helen Susie, Hazel and Georgena
- Judah L. Bishop.
- Lewis E. Duncanson, wife Harriet E. and Vivian P.
- (First name unknown) Harris, Mary, Joseph, John, Maude
- Cuthbert C. Vaux, wife Margareta, daughter Bessie
- Unknown (beside Vaux)
- May Blanche Harris, Otis DeWolfe Harris, and plaque with Avard Longley James Bishop
- Reverend Samuel Richardson, wife Florence Eliza Hare
- Annie Elderkin
- J. Frederic Armstrong, son Hubert
- Lilla A. Davidson, husband Reverend A. D. Stirling
- Susannah Palmeter, husband Gideon
Other gravestones that were knocked over:
- Marjorie E. Murphy, Annie (wife of J.), Frederick, Carl
- (First name unknown) States
- George E. MacGregor
- Ethan Allen Davison, Clara Blanche, Charles L.
- Frederick H. Christie, wife Christina C. Townsend
- Unknown (beside Robert Watson Spicer)
- Arthur H. Parrish, wife Clara O.