The old grave on George Street


Across from the stage

A hundred and forty years ago, George Street was a place of tradesmen and warehouses, where a ship owner could restock his vessel. Or a family could go to pick up a gravestone.

But not all the relics of that time are buried beneath the bars and restaurants of George Street. At least one is above ground—unlike the people whose names it bears.

At the top of the concrete stairs beside the Rock House building you’ll find a stone with the names of at least four people etched on it.

Isabella Whiteford is written on the side facing Turkey Joes.

Apparently she died on April 4, 1865 at 75 years old, two years before her husband, Alex, whose epitaph is above hers on the gravestone.

Charles Pollock Reynolds and Mariam Whiteford Reynolds are written on the side facing the Majestic Theatre.

According to the Directory of 1864-65, Mariam worked at Reynolds & Co., a dry goods supplier located at what was then 293 Water Street. Isabella Whiteford also worked there.

The last two names, Olivia McNeilly Whiteford and James Alex Whiteford, are on the Rob Roys side of the stone.

James, who died in 1887, was a watchmaker, and lived in “Dunluce Cottage” on Portugal Cove Road.

After searching the names on the provincial archive registry, I discovered another headstone for the Whiteford’s at the Protestant cemetery on Waterford Bridge Road. The inscription on that stone is almost identical to the George Street stone.

It’s impossible to say for sure why two gravestones for the family exist and why one of them is on George Street.

There were a few stone mason shops nearby back then, according to street maps of the late 19th century. Perhaps it was a practice stone the masons left behind.

Or perhaps there’s more to it than that.

— Shawn Hayward

7 comments

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27 January 2012

  1. Elling Lien · January 27, 2012

    I’ve always thought that the St. John’s zombiepocalypse would begin on George Street. Finding this gravestone brings us one step closer.

    Seriously though, if anyone knows anything more about this gravestone, definitely let us know here.

  2. Sean · January 27, 2012

    Shawn, I’m impressed. Thanks for this little discovery.

  3. Rodney Wall · January 27, 2012

    What A great little mystery.
    This is the best Nooks & Crannies in a long time.

  4. Ken O'Brien · January 27, 2012

    Great little story. I’ve often wondered about that grave marker, why people were buried there (was it part of a larger graveyard?), and if the remains are still in the ground there. It’s a little part of George Street that is almost completely unknown.

  5. Suzanne Sexty · January 27, 2012

    Shawn, your discovery of the stone near the Rock House is a most interesting one. I have been working on a history of the General Protestant Cemetery and some of those resident there. While I have not done the Whiteford family, I can tell you that Isabella and Alexander Whiteford were the parents of the poetess Isabella Whiteford Rogerson (see http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7139&interval=25&) The others are probably 2 other daughters, a son-in-law, and a son. All, including the Reynolds are in the GPC.

    It is unlikely that this was ever a grave site as burials were forbidden in the City after 1849. The GPC had started burying in 1842. However, it is a mystery as to why the stone is there and mentions some of the Whiteford children, but not Isabella.

    If you discover any further information, I would like to hear it. I will also do some more checking.

  6. Kayla · January 27, 2012

    For the record, its called the “Zombocalypse”

  7. Ken O'Brien · January 27, 2012

    I came across an article by Suzanne Sexty in the Newfoundland Quarterly (volume 103, number 2) from 2010 that talks about the stone and the Whiteford family. She concludes that the stone does not mark a grave but was a practice stone, and that the final stone is the one that marks the Whiteford graves in the General Protestant Cemetery.