Mystery man at cemetery

Community Featured

There’s a mystery to solve at the Central Caribou Cemetery.

The expansive cemetery contains graves that date as far back at 1859.

Among the old graves is one that was marked by a simple white, wooden cross painted with the name Alex Duff. No birth date. No death date.

Donna Bullerwell, who is secretary/treasurer of the Central Caribou Cemetery Association — a job she inherited from her father, she laughs — says she does not know anything about this person.

“I even question whether that’s a real name or a nickname. But I’ve been assured there are Duffs living in Pictou County.”

The grave for Alex Duff has been in the cemetery ever since Bullerwell can remember.

“When I took over the books for the cemetery it was told to me that when cemeteries were initially formed a piece of land in the cemetery had to be kept aside for people who might be homeless, or who die but nobody knew who they were, for example a sailor on a ship. So this is the man who is in our spot.”

Bullerwell says she found two people in the community who remember Alex Duff. “They’re both in their 90s, but they can remember him from when they were little kids. Alex Duff was, to them, an older gentleman who lived on the farm near the Bernards in Central Caribou and he lived with an elderly couple and helped look after them, did all of their chores for them and made it possible for them to stay in their home. That had to have been in the 1940s.”

Other than that, Bullerwell draws a blank as to who he is and how he came to have Central Caribou Cemetery as his final resting place.

“The only thing I can think of is he passed away without family.”

She says, “We don’t know a birth date or a date of death, or when he was buried here. We don’t know if he has family or if anyone ever looked for him; but here he is.”

The simple wooden cross that marked his grave was repaired on a fairly regular basis. “And it was a problem because little white crosses made of wood don’t last very long. Every year we were straightening it up or replacing it.”

So, the cemetery board decided to pay for a stone marker on his grave site. It was delivered and installed recently by the cemetery association.

“We’re hoping someone can come forward with a little more history on him. There’s not a lot of room left on the stone, but there is just enough to put dates on it. At the very least, we’d have the information.”

She says they would like to know if anyone in the community has a little more history on Alex Duff. “Or if there’s family and they want to contribute to his grave stone that would be lovely, too.”

Donna Bullerwell, secretary/treasurer of the Central Caribou Cemetery Association, kneels beside the stone that was recently placed with the name Alex Duff. The association is looking for information about Duff. (Jardine photo)


Another stone in the cemetery has been damaged and Donna Bullerwell feels it was damaged by lightning because of the cracks in it.

The names on this stone are Charles Ross 1879-1961 and his wife, Elizabeth MacKay, 1890-1970.

“Who are these people?” she asked. “It’s another mystery. I wanted to notify the family that the stone was damaged.”

She says, “A cemetery becomes an important feature of your community. It’s not where your loved ones are, but it’s where you come to remember them.”