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DYING OF NEGLECT – Abandoned 19th Century Burial Grounds

There are three existing 19th century abandoned burial grounds in West Bolton. Another, the Witham burial ground, was ploughed under by the landowner many years ago and the graves and headstones lost to posterity.

Catholics tended to bury their dead in cemeteries closely associated with the Church. These cemeteries have legal protection. The English farmers, on the other hand, generally used the corner of a field on the farm as the collective burial site. These burial grounds with no religious affiliation do not exist in law and enjoy no legal protection.

The men and women buried in these sites were the 19th century American and European pioneers in this area. They felled the trees, cleared the rocks and tilled the land; they worked in the mills and taught in the schools, built the roads, the farms and the churches. They helped to create the beautiful landscapes that we enjoy today. Many of today’s residents in West Bolton have ancestors lying in these grounds.

All three burial grounds are on private land and two were threatened by gravel pits. Trees have grown up among the graves and all of the headstones have deteriorated – cracked, broken, fallen over, partially buried, the surface flaking off with inscriptions barely legible.

We have cleaned the three burial grounds, fenced them with a simple chain and T-bar fence and placed a large, engraved marker stone at the entrance to each of them. The fence is there neither to keep animals out nor to keep the people in, but rather to make a statement: This is a special area. The fence sets the burial ground apart from the surrounding woods and fields.

We have not attempted to clean, repair or conserve any of the grave stones because preservation is a contentious issue and there is no agreement among the experts on the best way to do this. We brush the stones lightly and do not attempt to move them.

It is a fitting tribute to the men, women and children who came before us that we were able to protect their last resting places, maintaining and preserving them as part of the heritage of West Bolton and the Eastern Townships. Named or not named, famous or not, those who have passed on deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

The owners of the three burial grounds, none of which is visible from any road, do not want numbers of people visiting the sites. This is why we have not included the whereabouts of the grounds.

Before describing the sites, I wish to thank the Cemetery Committee members for their diligence and perseverance as well as the numbers of wonderful volunteers who helped us fence the cemeteries and place the heavy marker stones.

Figure 11. The Blunt burial ground before cleaning. 2008


Figure 12. Blunt burial ground on a summer’s day, before cleaning. 2010


This burial ground lies on a maple-covered ridge between two fields on what was the Blunt family farm. The original 19th century farm buildings are still in use today. When she was a little girl Robin, who was brought up on the farm, remembers taking advantage of the peace and quiet to sit among the gravestones and read.

In the burial ground are about 38 headstones of which only 10 are inscribed. The rest are plain. Others have been removed for reuse as building materials elsewhere and the bronze memorial plaques on some stones, it is said, were stolen. The remainder of the plain stones in the cemetery are mainly small stones or pieces of slate standing upright in the soil. The Eastern Townships have the richest slate beds in Canada.

The burials date from 1815 (the year of the Battle of Waterloo) to 1878 (Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore premieres). The ages range from one month old to 77 years. The most notable of the headstones is that of Matilda Blunt. She was the first cousin by marriage of Paul Holland Knowlton who founded the vibrant town of that name. On her memorial is carved the following epitaph:

If love of worth thy bosom warm,                                                                                                If virtue please there or of friendship chance,                                                                               Around this tombstone one drops a gentle tear,                                                                        For worth, virtue, friendship, all lie buried here.

This is the first of the three burial grounds that we cleaned, after receiving permission from the owners to do so. About 16 volunteers removed dead wood, cut the grass and bushes growing around the perimeter of the site and cleared the debris which cluttered the burial ground. We left fallen and broken headstones in situ.

In the year 2017 the Town Council of West Bolton declared this a Heritage Site. The cemetery is now a legal entity and is protected in law.


Ralph Fuller and his wife, Elizabeth Elliott, emigrated from England to Massachusetts before 1617. In that year they had a son, John Fuller. He was born in Massachusetts, the first American-born Fuller. This was three years before the Mayflower sailed from England in 1620, carrying the Puritans.

Chase Fuller was born in New Hampshire in 1752, a direct descendant of Ralph and Elizabeth. Chase was a surveyor for the American army during the War for Independence. He married Lova Clough (1753-1842) and settled in Bridgewater, New Hampshire. Lova bore at least nine children, among whom was Joseph Fuller (1779-1872). Joseph married Laura Nelson (1784-1851) in 1803 and moved his family north to Bolton Township, in Brome County, probably to work in the logging industry around Foster Mountain.

Figure 16. The Fuller cemetery looking towards the gravel pit. 2009

Figure 17. Jessica Brown made a documentary for the CBC. 2008


When the logging was finished, Joseph and his family moved to another area of Bolton. They built a house and farm in Pleasant Valley. He and his family were among the earliest settlers of European origin in this part of West Bolton. Joseph fathered 12 children and lived to 95.

Five of Joseph and Laura’s sons built farms in the area. This became known as the Fuller Neighbourhood and later The Lost Nations because, according to a man of the cloth, the Fullers were irreverent agnostics and told him where to go! Some of Joseph’s daughters married locally and also farmed. These farms were well established by 1842, according to the national census taken that year.

Daniel Taylor Buzzell, who was married to a daughter of Joseph, Mary Fuller, built a water mill to make chairs, cabinets, barrel staves, butter tubs and sap buckets. This later became the Giddings saw mill. The Fullers turned log heaps into potash which they sold in Montreal. They raised sheep for their wool, grew flax to make cloth and tanned cow and sheep hides to make leather goods. The Fullers also built a schoolhouse in the neighbourhood. This was moved in 1914 to its present location where it was remodelled and consecrated as St. Andrew’s Anglican Church (please see above).

The Fullers farmed in the area for more than 150 years. Peter Fuller, who died recently, spent most of his life helping his brother Leman on the farm. He drove a horse and buggy to Knowlton every day, and this well into the 1980s. Carrie has fond memories of him when she was a little girl as he often took her to town with him in the buggy when he went to buy tobacco from the general store. She lived, with her parents, near the Fuller burial ground and often played there with her friends among the headstones.

The Fullers used a plot of land on one of their farms as a collective burial site. This is known as the Fuller cemetery. It stands on a sylvan knoll, covers an area of about 700 square metres and contains at least 28 headstones inscribed with the names of 41 people as well as five small rectangular stones with no inscription at all. Perhaps these were stillborn infants or babies who died very young. The earliest burial dates back to 1831 (Charles Darwin sails on HMS Beagle) and the latest to 1898 (Will Kellogg invents Corn Flakes).

In 2013 we cleaned and fenced this burial ground with help from a great group of volunteers and placed a marker stone at the entrance. The same year the Municipal Council of West Bolton declared the Fuller burial ground a Heritage Site, thus giving it legal protection in perpetuity

Figure 18. Laura Fuller (née Nelson), wife of Joseph & mother of 12 children. 2009


Figure 19. Abraham Norton’s headstone, broken and almost illegible, next to his wife, Catherine. Her gravestone is in good condition. 2007


This small site of six engraved stones lies in what resembles a disused gravel pit. The soil is sandy and lies in the woods at the bottom of a slope. The earliest burial is 1847 (Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre published) and the last was in 1869 (Folies Bergère opens in Paris).

Four of the burials are small children and several small pieces of standing slate might also have been memorials to babies and little children. In the 19th century child mortality rates were high, up to 40% of children under five years old. Since roughly half of all births are girls, a farmer required at least eight children to get two live sons who could work on the farm and eventually take it over.

It is said that many of the headstones were removed and reused in local building projects such as flagstones in a basement floor or a garden path and a doorsill. This is normal practice because, throughout history and in all areas of the world, old and abandoned buildings and other structures have always been used as ‘quarries’ for ready-cut stone. To see the stones of ancient Carthage, for instance, look no further than the Tunis medina, 16 miles away.

Fifteen volunteers turned out on a frosty fall morning to fence the site and place the marker stone. This was levered onto the upside-down hood of a chevy and pulled up the slope by a small tractor. It was then manoeuvred into place at the entrance to the burial ground and stabilised.

Figure 22. Volunteers at the Last Wayside burial ground. 2012


Figure 20. Tree growing around a slate grave marker. 2008

Figure 21. Reading the headstone of Simeon Martin. 2008


Sources : 

  • Société historique du comté de Brome
  • Tony Rotherham
  • Jack Walker
  • The Wallings Map 1867
  • History of Brome County, Quebec
  • Beldon & Co. Historical Atlas, 1881



  • Phyllis Hamilton. With Heart & Hands & Voices.
  • The Tempo, John Griffin.
  • Matthew Farfan, Cemetery Heritage in Quebec; A Handbook. 2008
  • Louise Abbott and Niels Jensen: The Heart of the Farm. 2008
  • Gerald Potterton. Communication personnelle
  • Margaret Badger. Communication personnelle


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