Saturday, 3 September 2016

Rural Mysteries

This is not related to my family but I found it intriguing nonetheless.  Recently I came across a post in a New Brunswick genealogy forum by someone asking for help with a mystery.

The rural community of Pokiok - from the Maliseet "a narrow place" - is located on the west bank of the Saint John River in Dumfries Parish, 60 km west of Fredericton.  A stream of the same name empties into the Saint John nearby and was known for its waterfall and gorge before it was flooded as a result of construction of hydroelectric installations in the 1960s.

Approximately three kilometers west of Pokiok is the intersection of Allandale Road, which leads south past Brown Lake to the former farming settlement of Allandale that at the turn of the 20th century had a population of 125.  On the east side of the road is a little cemetery with only two visible stones.  The larger stone is relatively recent and reads:

Site of Saint Dominic's Catholic Church
circa 1864 - 1979
In Memory of the Souls Interred Here
May They Rest in Peace
Erected and Maintained by Woodstock Council #2234 K of C

The other stone is much older and reads:
In Loving Memory of Our Children

Who were these people, and what happened to the site?

The only record concerning this site that seems to be available is a single mention in the New Brunswick Provincial Archives, where the cemetery is referred to as Saint Dominic's Catholic.  Despite exhaustive online seaching and attempts to contact the Catholic Diocese in New Brunswick I've been unable to find any other information on this now-defunct church.  If there were other stones here once, they are now missing or buried.

Archival maps and land grant indices show that there were four grants around Brown Lake to families with the name Simmons; most likely brothers.  According to census and burial records, they were Anglican of Scottish descent and many were buried in Barony which is 10 km away, so why would some be interred in a Catholic cemetery?

Possibilities include: 1. If they died from a communicable disease, burial would have to be swift to minimize the risk of passing the disease to others, and the Catholic cemetery was the closest burial ground available.  2. At that particular time the family was unable to travel the distance to Barony to bury their dead.  3. Some of the Simmons men married Catholic women, their children were christened in the Catholic church and so were eligible for burial in the Catholic cemetery.

Whatever the case, two stones and a few remote cottages are all that now remain of a community that housed families who were determined to make a living in the forests of New Brunswick. (Forests which, at the time of this writing, are in the process of being clear cut.)

Photo courtesy of Tim Scammell, 2016

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