Titanic Headstones

150 victims of the Titanic are buried in three Halifax cemeteries: Fairview Lawn, Mount Olivet and Baron de Hirsch. 149 have headstones from the Hanson Quarry in New Brunswick. A Dalhousie University professor, Barrie Clarke, spent 15 years figuring out where the stones are from because there are no historical records.

The stones and the quarry were both tested for mineralogy, texture, chemical composition and age to see if they matched. That's harder than it sounds - the original rock is no longer in the quarry because it was extracted, and these features can vary even within a deposit, so he could not do a direct comparison between the headstones and the quarry’s stone.

Still, Clarke’s analysis suggests the stones, donated by Titanic-owner White Star in 1912, are almost certainly from there.

The headstones are 422-million-year-old gabbro (aka black granite) and a popular Halifax tourist attraction.

Researchers believe there were 150 headstones prepared for the Titanic victims, but only 149 were used because one victim’s family used a Celtic cross of grey granite instead.

The J. Dawson whose grave is at Fairview Lawn Cemetery is not the fictional Jack Dawson played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Titanic. It's Joseph Dawson, an engine-room worker.

A Nova Scotian who died on the Titanic was George Wright, a successful catalogue and directory publisher.

Wright, who was born in Tuft’s Cove in 1856, also owned his own construction company which built some of Nova Scotia’s first planned housing projects. He wanted to create better living conditions for the working class and his revolutionary residential neighbourhoods had modest homes and mansions next to one another. Wright Avenue in south-end Halifax was one of his developments.

The Wright Building on Halifax’s Barrington St. was also built by him, but you may know it by a different name – the Marble Building. It was built in 1896 and its façade is marble from Cape Breton’s Marble Mountain quarry. (See the quarry's story at https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/marble-mountain).

In Europe on business, Wright booked his passage home on the Titanic at the last minute. Wright often kept to himself and was not seen during the voyage.

His friends later testified that he was such an incredibly heavy sleeper, he likely went to bed before the Titanic hit the iceberg and slept through the disaster. His body, if recovered, was never identified.