Thursday, November 5, 2009

the stones cry out...

Yesterday was a cool but dry fall day...and with a weather disturbance coming our way...we decided it might just be the perfect day to take a field trip. Somewhere out in the countryside of this valley is a small private cemetery...that was opened in 1937 for Mennonite pioneers in the area.

I had heard of it often...but never taken the time to visit. Now it seemed there was an excuse...even an make the trip. My great-grandparents lay buried in this quiet and unassuming place. My father has on occasion throughout the years gone to visit his grandpa's grave. He has wonderful memories of his grandfather...who taught by example.

Dad ~ his grandfather

I'll give you a wee glimpse into the background of my great-grandfather. Jacob Wilhelm Baerg was born in Ackerman, South Russia on June 11, 1859. He was well educated...having studied botany in Germany...and was the manager of the government tree plantation, which employed four-hundred men. In 1886 he married Anna Thiessen, whose father was in the grain-exporting business and owned an estate on the Black Sea. Two of Anna's brothers were advisers to the Russian Czar and met with death together with the royal family. Jacob became a successful farmer and blacksmith, and was very innovative. He was the only one is his Russian village to have running water...and also invented a straw blower for the threshing machine. He lived with his family in a village called Grigerjewka, and was the pastor of the church. He came to Canada with his wife and children in 1926...and eventually settled in Aldergrove, B.C.

Jacob Baerg ~ Anna Thiessen Baerg

Anna passed away in 1939...Jacob some ten years later...and both lay buried in South Poplar cemetery...gone but not forgotten.

Earlier this year, dad and a cousin of his went to the cemetery and began reading headstones. They soon realized that their grandfather's headstone was almost illegible...and their grandmother's was nowhere to be found. They contacted the caretakers...who had no record of my great-grandmother's burial whatsoever. How could this be? My father knew approximately where she was buried, but there was no headstone bearing her name. Dad has in his possession papers that show which plot his grandmother was buried in...but it seems the cemetery has some one else in that plot...and a headstone with another name at that very location. My father and his cousin decided that something must be done to honour their grandparents. Their generation would soon be gone...and all would be forgotten. We as a family have pitched in to help with the cost of a new gravestone...and it is now in place.

It was decided that a double gravestone would be placed on my great-grandfather's grave... that would commemorate both him and his wife. I rather like it...including the double ring with the date of their marriage.

Thanks, Dad...for making it your mission to commemorate your grand-parents. Thanks for reminding us once again of our roots...we have so much to be thankful for.

While we were at the cemetery, Dad asked me if I would want to see my maternal grandfather's grave.

He passed away before I was born...and so all I know of him is what I have heard. But of course I would like to see his grave.

I think I will be back one day...with tools to remove moss. It seems we as descendants have not been too diligent in keeping things tidy. Maybe I'll organize another field trip one day...and invite some siblings and cousins to join me.
Cemeteries and gravestones seem to have lost their meaning for many of us in North America today. But I think it is important for us to know where we came remember those who have gone before...who have in some way shaped our lives. Let's tell the stories to the next generation!

Don't expect a post on My Front Porch tomorrow morning...but you might want to check back towards evening.


  1. Thanks Judy for is important to remember our history..I wish I would have been more curious about that while my g'parents and parents were still alive. My Dad immigrated from Russia to Canada at age 13.

  2. Judy what a wonderful post of honouring your descendants. One of the last years my mom was alive . . .she and my dad went to Glenbush where the family buried her grandma and grandpa to try to find their graves.
    Thank you also for the reminder to go tend the stones of my parents. .

  3. I really enjoyed reading this history of your family. My paternal grandparents are buried in a Exclusive Russian Molokan cemetery here in Los Angeles. It's not open to the public so I'm waiting for the right time to see their gravestones. It's great that you have these photos and know these details...

  4. I really enjoyed this post, Judy. Whenever I go home to Cape Breton I visit my grandparents' graves. I have a brother buried in Germany, and it meant a lot to me to visit his grave when we were there. You're right - we don't pay as much attention to cemetaries as we once did, and they provide a wealth of history.

  5. This is a lovely post, Judy. My grandparents are buried in the Mennonite cemetery in Abbotsford. I visited there during the summer but couldn't find my paternal grandmother's grave. I think my great-grandparents are buried in Yarrow, but I'll have to check on that.
    I enjoy walking through cemeteries and reflecting on the lives of my forefathers, remembering them with love. You are right, we of this modern age pay too little attention.


  6. Your great grandfather was a very handsome man! I enjoyed reading this so much, and appreciate your family history. Family cemetary plots used to be a natural way to demonstrate family ties, and a visit was a motivation to once again retell the family story.

    Bernie was telling me about how the first and best property that Abraham purchased was used to bury his wife means of honoring her. I wonder what it says that today it is so popular to just "scatter" ashes about.

    I do hope someday Google will map Russia photographically.

  7. PS: I wonder where Jacob studied Botany in Germany. University of Heidleberg or Mannheim? Those schools still exist...wouldn't it be fun to see his academic "transcripts"?

  8. Enloyed reading your story and admire the wisdom of those who knew when to leave a country where they would soon lose many of their freedoms.

  9. This is a valuable and very interesting post. History, and all those who went before us, have and continue to teach us important lessons. I really enjoyed reading about your great grandfather and your grandfather. I think it is so sad that you did not have an opportunity to learn to know your grandfather. You are right, about informing our younger generation that value of remembering. Thanks for this great post!

  10. This is a lovely post, I have really enjoyed reading through and looking at the photo's. I have traced back aout 7 generations on my mothers side and less on my fathers bu to go and visit the graves would be so interesting and what a wonderful Godly heritage your family has.

  11. What a switch - Disneyland with the grandchildren one day, the cemetry with the grandparents the next! It must say something about my childhood that I find the cemetry more interesting than the amusement park. Many thanks, Judy, for the photos. Dad standing by the graves with the tall evergreens in the background is a great picture! I really like the gravestone they had made. Thanks also for the photo of Grandpa Isaak's gravestone.

  12. Thanks Aunt Judy! Now I have the story straight! I remember asking Grandpa & Grandma about 10 years ago, about his uncles (or great uncles) and I didn't quite remember it correctly. So interesting! There is a sort of urgency to get all those details down since they get lost so quickly. I wish I knew to ask more questions, before Grandma passed away, but I am so glad that there has been efforts to keep the stories alive :)

  13. Thanks Judy for the family history - Bev clued me in via face book. You are so fortunate to be so close to these places. One day I hope to see them for myself - until then, thanks so much for sharing, especially the photos!
    -your cousin, Wenda

  14. That was so interesting Judy. I hope to make a trip some day to look up my roots in Italy. I think to honor and respect what others have sacrificed for what we have today is very important.

  15. Thanks for this post, reminding us of the importance of remembering the past, where we've come from, and what (who) before, helps to make us who we are today. I also love cemeteries; my father researched our family history and gave us that love. As children we tagged along with his research and he'd offer us a nickel for every family grave we could find, that he hadn't already. I don't remember making any money!

  16. Wonderful history - I've spent some time gathering history of our ancestors as well, and we've made the effort to visit and get pictures of gravestones to try to preserve some of that family connection. My sister, the librarian, says the term for people who are interested in gravestones is 'taphophile' - she wrote about it in her blog last June. We did a cemetery crawl together just for fun last summer when we had an opportunity to spend some together time at a family reunion - now that was fascinating, even though we were nowhere near any of our ancestor's graves. Thanks for encouraging all of us to honor our ancestors.

  17. Wonderful post Judy! It is good to remember and honor those that went before us. I know where my grandparents are buried in Pennsylvania and we've visited their graves a few times over the years.
    Your great grandfather and I share a birthday....but he was born almost 100 year before me :-)

    My husband and I volunteer at a historic cemetery and often gravestones sink into the ground...that may have happened to your grandmother's headstone. The new one is so lovely.

  18. Such an interesting post Judy. The pictures really help give your story a face.

    Have a great weekend!

  19. Judy .. that is soo strange.. I was at that cemetary just a couple of weeks ago to visit Vic's Mom's grave ... and we looked for his grandmother's grave and could not find it .. Vic knew approximately where it was but the stones in that area are illegible. We thought it would be an easy thing to find the records.. Now you have me worried! We'll have to try though..
    Thank you for post and photos.. I love family history stories !

  20. CORRECTION to "ellen b" (Nov 5, 2009 7:09 AM)

    The Molokan and Jumper Cemetery near Los Angeles IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. The gates are open most days, but the office hours are limited to Tue & Thur (9 am to noon) -- phone: 323-724-3984.

  21. Wow they really track me and my comments down. I'll test this out when I come back in January and see how welcome I'll be on the grounds...Big Brother is watching me :0)

  22. You are welcome Little Sister. Thanks for the promotion to BB.

    I regularly search for "molokan" and found your statement worthy of a response.

    Another interpretation of "open to the public" is that this cemetery buries (enturns) those dedicated, as children or adults, in the ethno-religous sect of Spiritual Christian Molokans, Jumpers, Maksimists, and Sabbatarians, which is a lot of people.


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson