Touring St. John’s Cemetery creates more questions than it answers. The majority of its stones are left, eroding and falling apart. The words that were once inscribed on them have been worn away with time. There are some modern stones or monuments, some intentionally well preserved ones (most often the ones by the church), and some that do still, fortunately, have distinguishable words, dates and sentences. Upon first walking through the cemetery, it seems that all of the stones have been placed randomly. There certainly are no rows formed, there are some clusters of multiple gravestones from varying, wide spacing years, and there are some bald patches. Most of the stones face east. However, when observing and noting the names, sentences, and dates that are distinguishable on the gravestones, there are patterns that can be found. For example, the names Thomas, Daniel, and Mary were common even then. However, most notable to me was the disproportionate number of women and people from Ireland in the southern part of the churchyard. While other gravestones note the places that the deceased come from, they are sporadic in their location in the cemetery. In this southern part of the cemetery, there are fewer gravestones with discernable inscriptions of men’s names, and a large number with discernable inscriptions of the origin of the deceased, specifically Ireland.
These photos illustrate the chest tomb of Isabella Neilson from Donegal, Ireland (buried in the furthers corner of the southern corner, right next to the fence) and Daniel McDermoth from Dunnegol, Ireland.
As evidenced in similarities in style, orientation, messages, and dates on the stone, the Irish and the women were not ostracized from the community. They still conformed to typical death practices, and probably shared religious beliefs with the others that are buried in the cemetery. However, if the most faithful, religious, and prestigious people were buried on the northeastern side of the cemetery close to the church, then the southern placement with distance from the church would indicate that the people buried under these stones were less faithful or prestigious – or they were considered to be worth less within their community in comparison to the equally gender separated stones without specification of birthplace.
Ultimately, it is clear that there were some racist feelings against Irish men and women, and there were some strong feelings of the subordination of women. Because of the disproportionate number of gravestones that were in a small way “hidden away” of these two classes, it is a reasonable to believe that, while they were still memorialized and remembered through the stones, they were not something that the church wanted to show off by putting in a spot close to the church or easily accessible to the front of the church. The placement of stones is less happenstance than the layout of the cemetery suggests.