Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The special gravestones for Nicholas C. Brown's three wives - Dunboyne Cemetery

If you are ever researching or just visiting the Dunboyne Cemetery south of Aylmer, Ontario you might want to take the time to take a close look at the gravestones of Nicholas Carter Brown and his three wives, all lined up in a row in the center of the cemetery.

Nicholas Carter Brown with grandaughter Margaret Chase - circa 1915
Nicholas C. Brown was my great-great-Grandmother's older brother who lived to age 94 and kept a diary of the weather and his major daily events for most of his life. He married three times. Four of his eight children survived to adulthood but he selected and placed the gravestones for all of his 3 wives. His children were successful and accomplished in medicine, law and military service. Education and religious faith were always very important for him and his family (although he wasn't particularly proficient at spelling).

What is particularly interesting about the gravestones of his wives are the carefully crafted sculpted images on the monuments. When I first looked at the stones many years ago I thought "how nice" - a carving of a mother and her children on the gravestones.

Nicholas' first wife Mina Maria Backhouse, died 30 March 1867. In his diary Nicholas gives.

March 1867 23 S[at.] Wife very ill give her clothing and keepSakes to [Trier?]
28 T[hur.] Wife Deceas at 10 oclock ev was last words to me ["] I am geting cold and if I never get warm I shall be glad and you nead not be sory for the Lord will take care of me ["]
29 F[ri.] Arange for Funeral
30 S[at.] Funeral gathering large conducted well 2 oclock ?? of j. Walker coffin and thence and Teams to carry her corps to meeting House [she was a Quaker]
Miss Catherin Kusling Niece agrees to Keep house for us this season for one dollar per week.

23 November 1867, Sat.; "Go to receive Tombstone wrongly inscribed rejected."

6 December 1867, Received Wifes Tombstone a little short - $85.00.

29 April 1868, Wednesday; "Fix Tomb Stones plant Roses by grave
The gravestone for his first wife, Mina, that Nicholas was so particular about was apparently carefully designed with specific criteria. It depicts a a Mother seated reading a book to two standing boys, one who could be 11 years old and one who appears younger, maybe about 8.

Father and us miss you dear Mother - Mima Maria / Wife of / Nicholas C. Brown / Died / Mar. 28, 1867 / Æ 35 ys. 1 ms. / & 6 ds. / And so the actions of the just / When memory has sustained them / Breath upward from decay and dust / And leave sweet scent behind them / Teale & Wilkens / London.

After Mina died Nicholas married second, Margaret Williams, a sister of his cousin's wife. He had 4 more children by her but one died before wife Margaret died on 22 March 1877.At the time of her death he laments in his diary:

"S[un.] 18 March 1877 Good Sleighing Wife very ill Children better

M[on.] 19 Draw saw logs, Send for Dr. j Williams Wiffes Brother got here 10 oclock

T[ue.]Doctors McClay and Williams here. Wife sinking

W[ed.]Wife still sinking at Six oclock this morning she called for her Family and Friends one after another and talked with them and bid them goodby asking them to meet her in Heaven.

T[hur.] 22 Wife Margaret Died this morning at half past one oclock her end was peasce She sayed all was well

F[ri.] 23 Wifes Funeral they laid her away at half past two oclock P.M. large gathering day very warm Snow turns to slush and slop

M[erritt] & L[eopold] got home from Montryall (sic-Montreal) time for Funeral Return from Funeral with my two large and three small Motherless Children their prospects dreary no apparent way for me to keep or care for my Family my way appears entirely hedged up."
The inscription on her tombstone, at the Dunboyne Cemetery, a white marble rectangular stone on cement base, with sculpted mother and three children reads as follows.

Mother's Love and Farewell / Margaret / Wife of / Nicholas C. Brown / Died / March 22, 1877 / Aged / 35 y'rs. 11 m's & 20 d's. / Pa! take good care of the children./ I want you all to be kind to your / Father / Hutchinson Aylmer.

I never really thought that there was any special significance to the sculptures on the stones until recently when I was studying the ages of the children. I then realized that when Mina died she left behind 2 boys, Merritt age 11 and Leopold age 8. Two other of her children had died before her.
When second wife, Margaret died she left 3 children, Cora, age 8, Walter age 4 and an infant baby, Franklin about 9 months old.

Lately I came to realize just how these stones were meant to comfort the mourning children. The words on the stones were meant to be the mother speaking to her family when they visited her gravesite and the children on the stone represented her children and how she was to be remembered by them. They would see themselves with their mother and be reminded of her love and affection for them. What a thoughtful and deliberate father Nicholas must have been.

Nicholas married third (another "M") Martha Ruth Birdsall in 1878. She Died in 1909 and her gravestone is inline with the first two wives. She is represented like the first two wives on her gravestone, apparently seated and possibly at some task (maybe carrying a basket). There are no children in the sculpture since no issue occurred with this marriage.

Entered Into Rest/Martha R./wife of Nicholas C. BROWN/died/March 8, 1909/Aged 80 y'rs. 6 mo's & 8 d's

Nicholas had very neatly represented his family who survived to adulthood in his purchases of the 3 gravestones for his 3 wives. When Nicholas died in 1920 his surviving four children erected a gravestone next to his three wives (their two mothers and stepmother). On his monument is an open book, inscribed "Holy Bible." For a man of strong Christian faith who attended his own nearby Methodist Church regularly and supported generously all the area churches including his father's Quaker meetings the sculpted Bible was the obvious choice.

Nicholas Carter/BROWN/Died/Feb 19, 1920/Aged 94 years/Son of/Walter & Jemima/

The transcriptions for the gravestones for Nicholas's 4 children who preceded him and who are buried at Dunboyne can be found at :

Bruce Johnson
Elgin OGS