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Tombstone Tuesday- Size Does Matter

That is what I said, at least to my Great-Great-Grandfather George Vogel, it certainly did. When I first stumbled upon George Vogel’s tombstone imagine my surprise, this chunk of stone was huge by comparison to his ancestors and his descendants. His father Gabriel Vogel, was an early pioneer in Waterloo County, Ontario, Canada, who immigrated in 1833, his tombstone no longer existed assuming there even was one.

However, his son George, a first generation Canadian, would not be forgotten. The size of the headstone caught me by surprise. It didn’t occur to me at the time, that the size of the tombstone was telling me something about this man’s life. It was later, when all the pieces of his story began to unravel through census, birth and death certificates that I truly came to understand the real significance of the size.

 George was a first generation Canadian born in 1843 in a small farming village of New Germany, Ontario, the son of a pioneer farmer. However, when George became of age, he chose a different path for himself. He moved away from farming, and became a general labourer, a wise decision. George's second critical decision was to move his young family to Berlin, Ontario, just 9 miles down the road. Berlin began to experience a real growth spurt, the railroad came to town, and industrialization was occurring on George’s front door step. As a general labourer there was no lack of work as furniture stores, factories and tanneries began to spread across the city.

George worked hard his entire life, even at 66 years old, he was still working a 70 -hour workweek, grossing an annual salary $330.00 in 1911. George died in 1923, his accumulated wealth resulted in him leaving each of his three sons a house in Berlin, Ontario, he had the luxury of spending his final days in an old age home, he also had a substantial life insurance policy of $2000.00, and then of course there is the tombstone.

My opinion of George changed upon uncovering his story. I no longer thought of him as man, with perhaps a rather large ego requiring a rather large tombstone, but a man who felt the weight and responsibility of being a first generation Canadian. A man who felt he needed to make the most of the risk his ancestors took in setting sail to North America, and a man who appreciated the sacrifices his parents made becoming pioneers in this primitive land.

George worked hard, he made his ancestors proud, he left his children with great advantages and he deserved a big tombstone.