Then & Now: Provencher Cemetery

Then: When 22-year-old Joseph Bergeron died in 1875, his fellow French Canadian settlers didn't have an established cemetery.

His uncle, Joseph Provencher, was the only member of the group to own his land outright so a corner of his land was used to bury the young man.
The area became the Provencher Cemetery.

Now: The cemetery is a plowed field.
A lone granite marker is the only indication that anyone had ever been buried on the land. Even trees that once marked the northern boundary of the cemetery were removed long ago.

No one knows when the cemetery was plowed over or which landowner decided to do it.
Catherine Renschler is a descendant of Bergeron's father, Pierre. She believes the cemetery was destroyed before she was born, possibly in the 1920s or 1930s.

"It's unfortunate that people didn't honor the pioneers and their burial sites," she said.

Renschler found out about the cemetery from her grandmother. Information about the Provencher Cemetery had been handed down from generation to generation through word of mouth, but there were no written records. At the time Bergeron died, resources were scarce. A coffin had to be made from floor boards ripped from Provencher's partially constructed home. His grave was unmarked, as were others buried in the cemetery.

There are a handful of people known to have been buried in the cemetery, but many more aren't remembered. A Hastings Tribune article from April 20, 1979, estimates 40 or more.

"There is no record," Renschler said. "Nobody knows for sure how many (were buried there)."

To read more, see Friday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>

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