Mother’s Day Homage: The Wilcox Family Gravestones


 Base of Gravestone of Susan Wilcox (1834-1918), “Mother”


The sorrows of motherhood and the difficulty of raising children safely to adulthood more than a century ago were poignantly brought to mind by a grouping of gravestones I happened upon last Fall in the cemetery of the old Pembroke Chapel (originally Methodist and later a United Church) in Pembroke, Nova Scotia.

Situated beside the gravestones for Susan Wilcox (1834-1918) — prominently marked “Mother” — and her husband, Nathan (1827 -1899), are markers for five of their children, each of whom predeceased their parents:  Cyrus, who it’s noted “Drowned At Sea”, aged 27 years, 1887;  Norman F., aged 2 yrs. 7 mos., 1861; Annie E., aged 13 mos., 1871; Frederick W., aged 1 yr., 1873; and Cora M., aged 1 day, 1877.

My curiosity prompted a search of old genealogical records here, which revealed that Susan and Nathan Wilcox had a total of 11 children (born between 1859 to 1880) — quite a brood!  Families were larger then partly because additional helping hands were needed and life was understood to be more precarious.   To lose a child is an unbearable thought for any parent and to have five leave this world before either parent sounds utterly tragic.  Even though they had six children that survived them and considering that many things about life being very tough may have been taken in stride back then, I imagine that this mother and father must have endured an immense measure of grief.

Thus, this homage to motherhood and Mother’s Day and a reminder to be thankful for family, friends and other loved ones, as well as to treasure each of our precious days (on Mother’s Day and beyond).


Gravestones for Nathan and Susan Wilcox Family, Pembroke, Nova Scotia



 Markers of Norman F., Annie E., Frederick W. and Cora M. Wilcox



 Markers of Cyrus Wilcox and his mother, Susan Wilcox



Old Pembroke Chapel, Pembroke, Nova Scotia




Similar posts on O’Canada:

* Saint John’s Transcendent Old Loyalist Burial Grounds

* Halifax’s Beautiful Old Burying Ground

* Canada’s Oldest Regular Cemetery:  Garrison Cemetery, Annapolis Royal, N.S.

31 responses

  1. Dear Brett,

    This is beautiful, and a very important message indeed. Here’s to being grateful for family, and honoring where we came from.

    Peace, always,


  2. I love wandering around old graveyards – a rich source for stories…even if many of them only stay in one’s head! I often wonder what someone like the Wilcox family members would make of their being noticed, and written about, now. It’s a double memorial in a way.

  3. This is very close to where I grew up. I used to love looking around old graveyards- I haven’t done it in a long time. Thanks for this!

  4. I always get sad when I visit cemeteries and see the plaques with little lambs and angels. I remember being very moved in 1995 when I read one with the same DOB and DOD. It said, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”

  5. Brett:
    What a surprise to find your site and the beautiful words you wrote about the Wilcox parents that were buried at Pembroke along with those five children who had gone before them.

    This was very personal to me as Nathan and Susan Wilcox were my husband’s great grandparents. I have done the family history on his family and like you I was touched to see how many children had died before their parents.
    Also nice to see the pictures of the little chapel where so many were married and more laid to rest from there to be buried in that little cemetery. I live an hour away so can visit there at times.

    My question is, how did you find this little cemetery? It isn’t one that is known too well, and is a bit out of the way.

    Yes, life was hard in those days. Thanks once again for your beautiful expression of your thoughts.

    • Juanita,

      Thanks for your kind message, which is also a nice surprise for me to receive! I appreciate you sharing here your very personal connection to the Wilcox family members laid to rest in Pembroke. Such things are, for me, good reminders about not taking things and one another for granted and appreciating all those who preceded us on this earth and without whom we would not be here.

      As to how I came across the chapel and its cemetery, I enjoy traveling down the backroads of places I visit with or without my camera in hand and, over a number of visits to the beautiful province of Nova Scotia, I (along with my very patient and adorable wife) have traveled down many of its twisty trails and out-of-the way backroads.

      As you know, the Pembroke Chapel is nicely situated along an isolated stretch of road, so it called out for attention and it would have been difficult for me not to stop and contemplate up close such a well-preserved connection to the past. I’m glad that I did, both because of what it helped me to appreciate about part of your husband’s family history as well as its reminder of the essential connectedness and kinship between people and generations.

      And your nice words now give me another reason to be thankful.

      Best wishes,


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