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In the fall of 2007, QAHN launched its Cemetery Heritage Inventory and Restoration Initiative (CHIRI). Our objective was to evaluate cemeteries of English speaking communities and / or religious congregations in several areas of Quebec, including the Laurentians.

From a rather rainy but mild October to the early snowfall of mid-November, I traveled throughout the vast and diverse landscape of the Laurentians, sometimes with an enthusiastic assistant, sometimes alone. As time passed and my cemetery visits expanded beyond my familiar home turf of Morin Heights and Mille Isles, the assignment began to take an “Other Worldly” feel. There is a whole geography quite different from what we are used to. The season of the year and the wild natural environment at many of the sites I visited contributed to this feeling. In addition, each cemetery was unique, with its own history and its own present situation.

Edina Cemetery. (Photo - Sandra Stock)The most interesting, and emotionally intense, sites were the very old cemeteries, many of which are the only remnants of long-vanished pioneer settlements. St. John’s Anglican Church and Cemetery of Shrewsbury in the Municipality of Gore was already known to me, but was not the most obscure site by any means. The church is still functioning, albeit seasonally, and there is a concerned group looking into the future of this site. However, a friend and I -- after promising not to reveal the location -- were taken to another cemetery in the Gore area that pre-dates St. Johns. Off the beaten track and in dense forest, it dates to the 1820s and was the final resting place of twenty-seven Irish pioneers, the first settlers of the district. The remaining stones are small, homemade and without inscriptions. There are footstones as well as headstones and many of the trees that had long ago grown among them are now dead and have been replaced by second or third growth. The extremely tough walk through the bush, and the fact that one has to know what to look for to find this grav