Many paupers’ cemeteries have been abandoned over the years and more than a few were eventually plowed under for agricultural purposes or paved over for new construction. Such disregard for the lives of the deceased is always sad, but one story from Canada seems especially heart-wrenching.
The cemeteries contain the bodies of some of the residents of the County of Waterloo’s House of Industry and Refuge, the “poor house” built in 1869 that was the last resort for the destitute, elderly, disabled, mentally challenged and orphaned of the era. Those who died at the Frederick Street house and weren’t claimed by family would end up in one of two potter’s fields, or informal graveyards, located nearby. They received no grave markers, and only a short entry in the House of Refuge’s burial registry.
An article in The Hamilton Spectator says, “For over a century, they’ve been buried underneath city streets, sidewalks and backyards — out of sight and long forgotten.” Perhaps the strongest statement is, “There are folks who probably have bodies buried in their backyard and have no idea.”