The early pioneers who settled this Lanark county cross-roads community can rest in peace. While other historic graveyards have fallen into neglect or have been ploughed under in Middleville century-old markers have been preserved. Here-25 weathered headstones have been inlaid into a flower-bordered monument in the village’s four-year-old pioneer cemetery, located over the original gravesite adjacent to Trinity United Church. The tombstones are there for the viewing and telling of 19th century tales. One marker covers three graves. Agnes Affleck, age 7, died Aug. 19; her – sisters, ‘ Jane, age 4, Aug. 28, and Elizabeth, age one, Sept 3 all in the same year, 1856, victims of one of the periodic epidemics of scarlet fever or diphtheria that swept the countryside.
In fact it was fear of the epidemics that led to the establishment of the Greenwood cemetery site north of the village in the early 1870’s. Because of the worry of seepage from the old graveyard affecting well water, several of the plots were dug up and the remains transferred to the new site, recalls 80-year-old Agnes Yuill the village’s “unofficial” historian.
Over the years, the old site fell upon hard times, although in the 1960s attempts were made to clean it up. But attempts expired because of fear of damage to the many fallen and crumbling markers buried under the overgrown grass, noted Mrs. Yuill .
However in the late 1960’s a savior was found and the pioneer “happy-hunting grounds” began its resurrection. A donation from Amprior resident, Mrs. Jessie Stewart Gilles, funded the reconstruction as it was part of a bequest of her husband, the late David Gilles, that the ‘gravestone of the family’s Canadian founder’, James Gilles, be restored. His headstone, dating back to 1851, is the oldest in the cemetery. He had come from Scotland in 1821 at the age of 55 with a wife and five children. He established a saw mill near the village shortly after it was founded in 1820 as part of the Upper Canada district of Bathurst (comprising most of Lanark and Renfrew counties and all of Carleton).
Borrowing the monument idea from the pioneer site at Upper Canada Village, the work was completed in 1971 and dedicated in official ceremonies by former Ottawa mayor, the late Charlotte Whitton, in 1972. The gravestones cover a 26-year-old period from 1851 and the ages of the deceased range from one to 92.
The strong Scottish, traditions of the village are evident in the names Reid, Clark, Angus, Mclnnis and Brash. The area’s first’ church, Presbyterian, was built at the site and later taken over by the United Church. The village itself was first called Middleton, but was later changed when it was found a Nova Scotia post office had the same name.. The pioneer-cemetery has become a tourist attraction, for passing motorists on the route between Almonte and the Lanark-Calabogie road.