Almonte Gazette Photo- 1934
In the issue of December 30th of 1898 the Almonte Gazette wrote about the history of Auld Kirk and additions were made to complete the history in 1934 to document its 100th year.
The Cemetery dates from 1834, when the congregation of St. Andrew’s Church in connection with the Established Church of Scotland, elected its first Session, celebrated its first Communion Service, and made preparations to acquire a burial ground and to build a place of worship.
From the first settlement of Ramsay Township, 1820, religious services were provided for the scattered settlers by occasional visits from Reverends Bell of Perth, Buchanan of Beckwith, and Gemmill of Lanark; but it was not until 1830 that a regular preaching station was established under the ministry of Rev. John Fairbairn at the Eight Line of Ramsay, and not until 1836 that the Church Building was complete.
The site selected was the southeast comer of lot 16 on the 8th line, where the land at the extreme corner was shallow and suitable for the location of a building, and elsewhere is a deep clay mould well adapted for burial purposes. The deeds show th a t two-and-a-half acres were bought from Jno. Mitchell and th a t later 3 acres was bought from Elizabeth Mansell; and that finally Range D was bought from Jas. Camelon; the whole forming a compact area of seven acres, stretching westward to the Tannery Creek, and northward along the 8th line towards the 8th Line School-house.
Andrew Cannon, a lad of four years of age who met his death by drowning, was the first person buried in the cemetery, a fact attested by an inscription on the Cannon
Monument situated just west of the Auld Kirk. The burial service was conducted by Rev. John Fairbairn who about this time, 1836, resigned his charge and returned to Scotland.
In 1876, the ground first purchased was surveyed by Robert McFarlane and laid out in burial plots of about ten feet square intersected by streets crossing one another at right angles. About twenty years later the second purchase was surveyed off similarly by E. T. Wilkie; and years later the last addition was surveyed in the same checkerboard design by Mr. Malcolm M cFarlane, B.Sc., a cousin of the first surveyor.
The Cemetery is thus laid out in parallel strips designated as Ranges A. B. C. D. etc., the plots being numbered consecutively across each Range along the east side of each cross-street, and back along the west side. Any plot can be located readily by giving its Range letter and plot number as they appear on the old surveyors drawings.
No plot was sold outright, but only the burial rights; and no deed is given. The Cemetery is owned by the congregation. From its beginnings the Auld Kirk was split into the Established Church and Free Church adherents; and the Free Church acquired a site for a place of worship and a cemetery a short distance south of the Auld Kirk on the 8th Line. The soil here proved unsuitable for burial purposes; so, even before the Free Church was moved to the Town of Almonte arid established there as St. John’s Presbyterian Church, many of the bodies had been removed to the Auld Kirk Cemetery.
M any re-interments have been made in the Auld Kirk Cemetery from other cemeteries and from private burial grounds. Shortly after the Great Disruption of 1843 took
place in Scotland, the congregation of The former Free Church cemetery became practically clear of bodies and even of grave markers; and the church itself was destroyed by fire. A Methodist cemetery opened five years earlier than the Auld Kirk Cemetery, and located on the 9th Line of Ramsay about half a mile from Almonte, was found to have good burial soil only in spots. This cemetery is now seldom used, and re interments from were made in the Auld Kirk Cemetery.
On the 10th Line of Ramsay is the cemetery of the McDonald family and their near relatives, which is used as necessity arises; and in the fence corners of farms here and there are still to be seen a few headstones marking the sites of private burial grounds from which the bodies have been removed. Some have been removed from the Clayton cemetery also and re-interred at the Auld Kirk.
In 1913 the members of the Cemetery Committee, of which Mr. Peter McCallum, Mayor of Almonte, was chairman signed a joint note to raise funds to build a mortuary
chamber in the Auld Kirk. A portion of the interior was walled off with cement, and roofed in steel and cement; and the inside was fitted with racks to hold thirty or forty bodies. As the vault fees are so arranged that vaulting and burying amount to no more than winter burial, few interments are made now-a-days during the winter.
The grounds were well kept; but some improvements as to shade trees, hedges and ornamental shrubbery are yet to be made as soon as funds are available. Some additional drainage is also needed, as well as a mortuary Chapel alongside of the vault in the Auld Kirk.
The first of these is the Gemmill plot. Many services of worship had often been held in his home, and even in his barn. A descendant of his, the late Lt. Col. J. D. Gemmill, took a deep interest in the Auld Kirk Cemetery, as well as in the activities of the congregation. In 1904 he made a strong effort to induce the congregation to incorporate the Cemetery under the Ontario Cemetery Act, offering to take majority of the stock in the incorporated body in the name of the congregation to ensure the congregation’s control of the new body, and also to contribute funds towards enlargement of the grounds, and towards beautifying-them by extensive landscape gardening; but he failed to convince the members of the congregation that they would not be giving up control of “the banes their fathers.” Despite his rebuff, he immediately donated sufficient funds to put the Auld Kirk into such a good state of repair that it has needed little attention since.
To the right of the Auld Kirk is a row of single plots which contain the graves of ministers or their relatives. The first of these is that of Rev. John Macmorine, D.D., the second minister in succession to Rev. John Fairbairn. Doctor Macmorine had two sons who became clergymen in the Anglican Church—the lateRev. J. K. Macmorine of Kingston,and Samuel of: Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Rev. Robert Shields of the Reformed Presbyterian Church occupies the .next, plot, along with a child of Rev. Dr. A. S. Grant, of Toronto. Then comes Rev. John Bennett D.D., father of the late Walter Bennett of the staff of the Toronto Telegram, and of George Bennett of Ottawa. Next to Dr. Bennett of St. Andrew’s Church lies Rev. William McKenzie of St. John’s Church, Almonte, father of the world-famous sculptor, R. Tait McKenzie, who has one of his studios a few miles north of the Cemetery. (Mill of Kintail)
Alongside of the McKenzie plot is a monument to a daughter of the late Rev. Robert Knowles, pastor at Blakeney and Clayton, whose son, R. E.Knowles, is very well known as a correspondent to the Toronto Star. At the end of Ministers’ Row are plots containing the graves of Rev. W. Lochead and Mrs. (Rev.) William Creighton.
The Wylie Plot near the northwest corner of the Auld Kirk contains a monument in memory of Hon. -William Hamilton Wylie, member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada; and also that of James H. Wylie, for many years postmaster of Almonte, and treasurer of the Kirk, and prominent as a mill-owner in Almonte.
The First Teacher In Ramsay in the south-west section of theCemetery is the grave of the first school teacher in Ramsay, over whose remains is a headstone erected by his students bearing the inscription:
“John Gillan, bom 1777, died 1854. A native of Aberdeen, Scotland,
who taught the youth of Ramsay for upwards of 20 years.”
A short distance from this is the monument to Daniel Galbraith, M.P., which also was erected by his friends. On a sunlit bank of the little Stream lies all that is mortal of one of Almonte’s most distinguished citizens, Dr. James Mackintosh Bell, geologist,mineralogist, explorer and author of international renown. This is surely an appropriate resting place for a nature-lover to whom the meanest flower that blows held thoughts too tender for tears, and whose disciplined mind saw books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything, whether in “Far Places” or near places of the Earth.
There are few residents of the Ramsay district whose family names are not to be found on the tomb stones of the Auld Kirk Cemetery. They are all here, our relatives and I our acquaintances; decrepit age and vigorous life, blooming youth and
“Loved long-since and lost awhile.
And as we too must soon lie beside them, may we approach our
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams”
- The Ottawa Journal,
- 20 Jan 1973, Sat,
- Page 38
- March 1968