Harbour Grace’s grave mystery

The Telegram
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Help The Telegram find the truth about who’s buried here

This mysterious grave in a Roman Catholic cemetery in Harbour Grace has no names associated with it. The Telegram is asking for readers’ help to learn more about the grave. — Submitted photo

A mysterious grave with five concrete carved surfaces has piqued the curiosity of The Telegram’s newsroom.

Located in a Roman Catholic cemetery on Bennett’s Lane in Harbour Grace, the grave prominently features two sets of skull and crossbones. In between them are carved surfaces displaying lambs, crosses, and an angel.

No names are displayed on any of the five surfaces of the grave.

A photo of the grave appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The Compass newspaper, a publication owned by The Telegram’s parent company, TC Media.

According to a marker record form prepared for the Newfoundland and Labrador Genealogical Society in 1994, the grave has a height of 55 centimetres and a width of 114 centimetres.

A plot records document said the cemetery is the oldest Roman Catholic site in the community, with the oldest documented grave dating back to 1802. Some of the graves are said to belong to people originally from Europe.

A submitted story by Paul McCarthy that accompanied the photo said members of the local Knights of Columbus and church parishioners recently cleaned the neglected cemetery.

Does Harbour Grace’s connection to pirates like Peter Easton have anything to do with this grave? Or maybe it relates to an over-looked aspect of the community’s history.

The Telegram is asking readers with any knowledge or inclination as to what sort of person may be resting eternally in this grave to contact its newsroom by emailing telegram@thetelegram.com.

 

telegram@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Telegram, The Compass, Newfoundland and Labrador Genealogical Society Knights of Columbus

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Walt
    December 27, 2013 - 21:49

    During conversation my wife she mentioned she grew up next to the graveyard. Regardless who rest there, it is a shame the state of the grave site. I have been to Germanios grave in fort sill where it is maintained and respected. Shame on us!

  • Colleen
    August 26, 2013 - 12:27

    Although we associate the skull and crossbones with pirates and outlaws, the symbol used to be commonly associated with the graves of Freemasons. Maybe not so exciting, but perhaps a more logical link. Whoever was buried there was obviously of means; it's a very elaborate marker. I'm not very familiar with the other symbols... but perhaps there are some clues there?

    • Colleen
      August 26, 2013 - 13:31

      On the other hand, it would be strange for a freemason to be in a Catholic cemetery... perhaps the death was from communicable disease.

  • Don II
    August 24, 2013 - 12:13

    I wish to inform Mary Fowler that I have visited the site of the fictional Cupids Cove Plantation and I am not convinced that John Guy ever set foot on that site in Cupids! There is no proof provided to support the claim that Cupids is Cupers Cove, otherwise, the site in Cupids should have been designated by the Government of Newfoundland and named as the authentic site of the Cupers Cove Plantation. The so called historical information which was supplied to me was highly speculative, self serving and ignored the facts contained in the historical record in favor of promoting an obviously fictional version of that historical record. The story of Cupids that is being promoted is not supported by the historical record or by the artifacts and remains found on and in the ground at the Cupids site. Earlier claims that Cupids is the site of John Guy's personal Sea Forest Plantation were debunked by findings of historical facts contained in the historical record. I refer you to the webpage created by the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation which contains several entries regarding the discovery of graves at the site including an entry dated November 9, 2010 which states: "The grey-Lias stone clearly dates to the 18th century and another, carved from Portland stone, appears to be dated from the 18th century. However, some of the other graves may well be from the 17th century. Indeed, given it's location, just a short distance south of the 1610 enclosure, it seems highly likely that this is the cemetery fist established by the colonists in that year...." It appears that these statements infer that some of the graves found at Cupids are those of John Guy's colonists. The grave site claim is based on the flawed assumptions. Another flawed assumption is that the remains of an enclosure built by John Guy's colonists in 1610 has been located at the site in Cupids. I saw no proof that an enclosure built by John Guy's colonists or by anyone else has been located at the site in Cupids! Remains of the foundations of houses, rock walled cellars and rock fences have been speculated as being the remains of a "defensive wall" built by John Guy's colonists. I saw no proof to support that claim! Speculation and wishful thinking is not proof. The historical record contains documents, letters and maps which show that the site in Cupids was not established by John Guy. There is a reliance on pure speculation and qualifier words such as " may well be" and "highly likely" that underpin the claims regarding Cupids. Those claims are not supported by conclusive physical or documentary evidence. Grave stones from the 18th century cannot and do not have any direct connection to John Guy and his colonists! Speculation regarding the graves which have no legible headstones or which are marked by rocks that bear no legible inscriptions should not be used to infer in any way that the graves are those of John Guy's colonists. The historical record shows that John Guy and his colonists did not land at Cupids in 1610. The graves found in Cupids have never been proven to be those of John Guy's colonists. It appears that there are undisclosed reasons and ulterior motives which would explain why the Government of Newfoundland created a Provincial historic site in Cupids to commemorate the Cupids Cove Plantation, a fictional place which is NEVER mentioned in the entire historical record of Newfoundland!

  • Rhonda Parsons
    August 23, 2013 - 10:56

    Mr Menson you may not welcome my viewpoint. However, this is a place for individuals to espress their thoughts. I am not going to call you out on your tone, as disturbing as it is. I do not think I am the saviour of Harbour Grace, or whatever other nonsense you are trying to ascribe to me. I am just some one who really cares about my heritage and the importance of maintaining it.

  • Ann
    August 22, 2013 - 21:19

    The Angel family name was somehow connected to pirates. If you want I could give further info but would be more comfortable if it was more private than this forum I'm typing on. Email and I'll hunt what I have.

  • Rhonda Parsons
    August 22, 2013 - 16:17

    A cemetery such as this one which has survived from the past is an indispensable part of NL cultural heritage, both in terms of its historic and artistic value. My hope is that it will get further protection from possibly Heritage Foundation of Nl . It is plagued by the town of Harbour Grace who may be willing to maintain the grounds in some way, It is a fantastic piece of history.

  • mark menson
    August 22, 2013 - 15:59

    does ms parsons ever shut up, she has only just returned here and see`s herself as the savoir of the town.

    • Rich mercer
      August 24, 2013 - 15:58

      I find Harbour Grace a very negative town. When someone comes along and express interest in heritage, town grounds, and starting a new business they r shot down by nay Sayers . Then degraded !!!! People like this r what's wrong with Harbour Grace in regards losing our business to other communities . I really enjoy the excitement in some these articles maybe they or wrong but they don't need to put down personally. Let Harbour Grace open its eyes and let new ideas and opportunities IN.

  • Bob Stacey
    August 22, 2013 - 14:04

    I onco live across the street from this grave yard and remember reading the inscription " Mary Pendergast " as being buried in this grave, Complete with crossbones. that was about forty years ago.

  • Holly
    August 22, 2013 - 13:13

    Maybe there is more than one body down there that died of the same disease so this could be the reason for the centre markers with the lamb crosses and an angel. Just a thot.

  • james bursey
    August 22, 2013 - 10:21

    there were markers at both the head and foot of the grave when i was a child ( lived very close by) seems to me that some of the pieces are now missing as both markers were quite tall before they fell over about 15 years ago

  • Rhonda Parsons
    August 21, 2013 - 22:33

    As some who is passionate about my Nl heritage, I am very happy to see this grave on the front page of the Telegram. In fact I have been disturbed to see this historic cemetery left in such deplorable shape for years, which prompted me earlier this year to investigate the origins of this cemetery.  Some months ago, I initially was uncertain what church denomination I was dealing with. I started to contact some of the residents in Harbour Grace to my surprise, who actually knew very little about the cemetery. I was told that I should possibly contact The Knights of Columbus, and then this followed up with telephone calls to the Grand Falls Catholic Archives, who directed me to speak with the Catholic parish secretary in Harbour Grace. Finally after weeks of trying to figure out whom I should be speaking with. I was given a name. I did contact this fine gentleman who is a member of the Knights of Columbus. It was quite ironic really, as he shared some of my concerns, and questions. Some of the questions raised were why this cemetery was left in such horrid condition for so many years? It is plaqued by the Town of Harbour Grace, but clearly was not being maintained by them. I query where is the Historical Society that Mayor Don Coombs spoke of so fondly starting back in 2008? A cemetery such as this one which has survived from the past is an indispensable part of NL cultural heritage, both in terms of its historic and artistic value. However, the vital importance of safeguarding this cemetery and gravestones are still very much underestimated, as evidenced by loss of historical structures in the town of Harbour Grace, which is tragic Consequently when one does go inside this cemetery, it is hardly surprising that damage such as stone weathering and displaced stones with overgrowth is due to the complete neglect and the deterioration. You enter at your own risk. One will come across several turned and broken stones in most areas of the cemetery. It is a utter disgrace that these forgotten souls: have been abandoned. Shame on those who are responsible It is extremely important to raise public awareness of this historic cemetery and old gravestones, before we lose any more of our valuable historic documents from our memory. It goes beyond individual involvement and will take the effort of local citizens to create a plan of action, to implementation. It is my hope... that this cemetery in future will have protection of the established historical society... referred to as the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • laura miller
    August 21, 2013 - 21:35

    Actually the name is pronounced OOOOODD rhymes with RUDE and i think it is DANISH ?

  • tonya twyne
    August 21, 2013 - 20:49

    I would contact Eric Pilgrim from Rodickton. He writes alot of books on newfoundland and the information he knows is an information session overload. His grandaughter went to school with my daughter here in alberta. It's amazing what this man knows about newfoundland stories etc.....Worth looking into anyhow. Nothing wrong with asking.

  • Barbara Peddle
    August 21, 2013 - 20:06

    It's likely to be the grave site of a family that died of disease and marked with skull and cross bones to warn grave robbers not to unearth their remains.

  • Mary Fowler
    August 21, 2013 - 17:40

    DonII. I visited the Cupids dig site the year the graves were found and never heard them say they were John Guy's colonist. It was early in the season and they had two gravestones uncovered and told me the dates were from the early 1700's and mid 1700's. NOT once did they tell me they were John Guy men. Don II you need to chill about the Cupids story. I am sick of hearing your version, which is far from the truth. You sound like a bitter man. You never comment on the positive in Cupids. Have you visited the site? Have you seen the new discoveries? It is without a doubt to me it is John Guy's plantation. The artifacts there are unreal. Sad when people like you discredit such a fact. I guess you also believe St.John's is the oldest city in North America. LOL Time to get a life Don II. Whatever your grievance with Cupids is should be laid to rest!!!!!!!

  • Eddie Dwyer
    August 21, 2013 - 17:20

    It can relate to piracy but only if the crossed bones pass behind the skull IE the jolly roger. It the crossed bones are underneath the skull, there are several possible theories: Relating to the Knights Templar, as they used the insignia to deter enemies. On crucifixes, sometimes the crossed bones are under the cross to denote Golgotha or the place of skulls where the crucifixion took place. Connected to some European churches, where the S&C displayed at entrances. In 1700's the southern Scots used the S&C on their headstones denoting death. My thoughts are that the grave possible contains the remains of a Freemason, and the Fremasons used this symbol to denote a Master Mason. The grave looks signoficant for its time, even though you cannot read the inscription and date, I guess it could have been someone important and Freemasonary was common in officials and wealthy folk. I think that the freemasonry idea was probably correct - there were alot of freemasons burried in the cemetary and it seems the most likley answer

  • Suzanne
    August 21, 2013 - 16:46

    Amazing amount of history in Harbour Grace! It would be great to find out more info on the stone.

  • Steve
    August 21, 2013 - 16:25

    The stones were actually, four sides and a cover about 50 years ago.

  • Kelly Drover
    August 21, 2013 - 16:03

    I would live to do some research on this and figure out the story. Looks like crypt structure. Probably for children with smallpox or another disease.

  • bob
    August 21, 2013 - 14:35

    I say "Dig'em Up"

  • Mr C
    August 21, 2013 - 13:46

    Actually the grave belongs to a former resident of Harbour Grace call John Odd. He was forever tormented by his name. School kids teased him consistently in his younger years. The torment followed him throughout his life. Odd sock, Odd fellow, odd ball etc etc. His dying wish to his wife requested that his grave be unmarked. Now when ever people notice his grave and the comment is made that it is unmarked someone in the group is sure to say `That`s Odd.

    • Sylvia J. Wilson
      August 21, 2013 - 18:39

      LOL....you got me on that one and I KNOW most of these jokes. Good one!

  • Jeremiah
    August 21, 2013 - 13:44

    Wonder if this another fabrication like Carbonear's Sheila Nageira??

  • seen that
    August 21, 2013 - 13:28

    humm,,it looks like these slabs don't quite fit right. I'm wondering if these are several grave markers just "put together" way back when. Skull & crossbones symbols were used on English graves too. A list of some of the people buried in this cemetery is available on the Newfoundland Grandbanks genealogy website. An interesting story!

    • Ken Haire
      August 21, 2013 - 15:31

      The grave parts belong to this one grave. I remember the grave when I was a kid.. we used to play in that cemetery... when it was better cared for... I moved home 10 1/2 years ago and visited this site.. I was sorry to see the neglect and damage done to the cemetery. All of those pieces definitely belong to that one grave.

  • Ridley
    August 21, 2013 - 12:54

    Looks too new. Shouldn't the stone be covered in lichen like the other grave markers in the photo? It hardly looks weathered at all.

  • John Pratt
    August 21, 2013 - 11:51

    The use of the skull-and-crossbones motif on headstones and crypts seems pretty widespread. last summer we visited the Roskilde Domkirke in Roskilde, Denmark. It is filled with the crypts of Danish royalty, while many more tombs lie under the floors. These crypts and tombs are thick with skulls and bones, and even full representations of skeletons.

  • Edward hearn
    August 21, 2013 - 10:26

    So glad to hear tthat this cemetary has been cleaned up. Thanks Knights. As regards those buried there, keep digging, figuratively of course, you never know what you might find , not treasure , history.....

  • ML
    August 21, 2013 - 10:17

    lambs on grave stones often mean it is a child's grave ..

  • russ
    August 21, 2013 - 09:38

    it could be the grave of a high up member of the free masons they have skull and crossbones lambs etc. symbols I think

  • Sean
    August 21, 2013 - 09:19

    I don't believe concrete would have been a common material for a headstone prior to the 20th century. Furthermore, the style - large inset square around the skull with column-like features on the sides look very art deco to me, which would suggest early 20th century, possibly 1920s or 30s.

    • Keith
      August 22, 2013 - 09:14

      If you truly believe that concrete wasn't a common material prior to the 20th century,you should first check out the history of concrete:http://www.nachi.org/history-of-concrete.htm

    • Kirby
      August 22, 2013 - 21:44

      Sean! FYI! As per Wikipedia! "Concrete technology was known by the Ancient Romans and was widely used within the Roman Empire—the Colosseum is largely built of concrete and the concrete dome of the Pantheon is the world's largest.

    • joan dwyerhallam
      September 05, 2013 - 09:54

      Went to visit the grave yard this summer,was in better shape than I had seen it last time.Just so sad it wasn't cared for all these years.Would like to take my grandkids there,hope it is around for them to see.

  • Don II
    August 21, 2013 - 09:04

    It would be an interesting research project for somebody to try to find out who is buried in that grave. Local folklore and myth making will go into overdrive on this one. The presence of the Skull and Crossbones emblem on the grave stone will support stories and claims of a famous pirate burial. Before these unproven stories take root as established historical fact and are promoted to tourists as the truth, some real research should be undertaken to discover the truth if at all possible. Interestingly, claims were made in Cupids that the graves of John Guy's colonists had been found there. However, when close inspection of grave stones found at the site was made it appeared that the grave stones were dated from the years 1720 and 1780 which meant that the graves had no connection whatsoever to John Guy's colonists who died in the early 1600's. The claims that Cupids was the location of the Guy colonists graves could have continued to be promoted until the grave markers were actually unearthed and the truth was revealed. The claims that John Guy owned land and established a Plantation in Cupids have been shown to be without foundation by findings of information contained in historic documents, letters and maps which show that John Guy established the Cupers Cove Plantation near Avondale and his own land which he named Sea Forest was also located near Avondale. Some of the so called important "history" of Newfoundland which has been taken for granted over the years is usually found to have no basis in historical fact when it is properly researched and the myths and folklore are shown to be without merit.

    • Sylvia J. Wilson
      August 21, 2013 - 18:45

      Bring in the tourists and let them do the research.

  • Ian
    August 21, 2013 - 08:54

    In the acient gave yards in Scotland, the skull and cross bones acted as a warning not to open teh grave due to the potentail for disease..not pirates

    • Sylvia J. Wilson
      August 21, 2013 - 18:47

      I think you've got it figured out. Probably three very young children who died from typhoid or something. It makes sense now.

  • Joyce
    August 21, 2013 - 08:09

    I have been telling people about the skull and cross bones headstone for years! A guy from the area told me that the symbol was there to tell people that the person buried in that spot had passed away from a disease (small pox if I remember correctly) so no one would dig up the grave looking for things.

    • joann
      August 21, 2013 - 18:15

      I heard the same story, that skull and cross bones on a grave stone warned that the death was caused by a contagious disease.

  • pat
    August 21, 2013 - 07:32

    Do they have a database of the names of people buried at the Bennett's Lane RC cemetery.

    • Dianne Palmer
      August 21, 2013 - 09:37

      I grew up in Harbour Grace, Bennett's Lane. There are only 10 houses in the lane, none of them as old as the graves. We played hide and seek in that grave yard but we were always fasinated with this paticular grave.

    • coco
      August 21, 2013 - 11:24

      http://ngb.chebucto.org/Cemetery/cem-old-rc-hr-grace-hg.shtml

  • Dawn
    August 21, 2013 - 07:09

    You need to read this and talk to this guy here in the UK. http://www.rodcollins.com/wordpress/skull-cross-bone-grave-stones-the-history-explanation

  • Saucy Face
    August 21, 2013 - 06:41

    Arrr matey! Thar be the grave of Captain Jack Sparrow.

    • Newfiealso
      August 22, 2013 - 09:57

      No, no its Johnny Depp. He has gone missing in Hollywood for a while. It could be Jimmy Hoffa.Yes that is it, Jimmy Hoffa.

  • Kirby
    August 21, 2013 - 06:33

    Wikipedia- "Actual skulls and bones were long used to mark the entrances to Spanish cemeteries (campo santo). The practice, dating back many centuries." Peter Easton was English although he lived/settled in his final days in Monaco with considerable local influence. So perhaps he knew something or someone of Spanish/French origin which might explain why he went to Monaco in the 1st place. A quick web search suggests the "mystery" is quite widespread with a number of possibilities presented.

  • Brenda
    August 21, 2013 - 06:25

    THis is very intersting. A follow-up, when more information becomes available, would be greatly appreciated.