Stone Mills council asks staff to examine grave situation

Adam Bramburger
For the Beaver

Stone Mills Township is asking staff to provide prioritized cost estimates related to the maintenance of abandoned cemeteries within the municipality.

Prompted by a request from councillor Deb Thompson to review the properties, chief building official and properties manager Jake Detlor offered a report at a recent meeting on the condition of local cemeteries and suggested a small amount of dollars be placed in the parks and recreation budget in future years to aid refurbishment.

Detlor visited seven abandoned cemeteries currently maintained by the municipality last month — the Ingle Cemetery on County Rd. 41, the Huffman Cemetery on Shibagua Road, the Fifth Lake Cemetery, the Vrooman-Thompson Cemetery on Maple Avenue, the Lochead Cemetery on Centreville Road, the Yeomans/McGill Cemetery north of Embury Farms, and the Quaker Cemetery on County Rd. 6 in Moscow.

His findings included headstones in need of straightening, others lying flat on the ground or sinking into the ground, trees in need of trimming or removal, top soil needing replaced, and a fence in need of painting.

Detlor also noted he visited three privately maintained cemeteries that might need municipal attention.

A “mystery cemetery” on Drummer Hill near County Rds 4 and 41 has sunken limestone monuments inside a rock perimeter. He commented people don’t seem to know who is buried in the location, though Detlor suggested they could be early Irish inhabitants of the Erinsville area. He suggested the township might approach the property owner to put a chain-link fence around the cemetery and cut weeds regularly.

The Camden East United Church Cemetery is one Detlor says may require considerable work. It has been maintained by the Yarker Riverside United Church and it requires much upkeep. Detlor said several headstones had fallen over and others likely would. Two trees had fallen at the cemetery over the winter. He suggested the township could help, adding it could one day be Stone Mills’ responsibility.

Lastly, there’s a cemetery at Beaver Lake on a Rd. 15 farm that the landowner says contains 300 graves. He claims a Methodist minister gave away free plots to the poor and other non-denominational community members.  The cemetery was overrun with crabapple trees and sumac, according to Detlor.

Thompson said there are a number of abandoned or neglected cemeteries in Stone Mills that would fall under municipal responsibility under the Cemeteries Act and suggested that Detlor prioritize them.

“I think we should take a look at them all,” she said.

Deputy reeve John Wise said within reason, council should be making decisions about how to proceed. He said he saw the opportunity to plant trees within the cemeteries and to consolidate memorials.

“We can talk about them all with community input, but once a certain amount of time has passed, if no one has any interest in that place and we have a responsibility, let’s take responsibility and maintain the intent of the headstones to memorialize by putting them in a central location like that one on Maple Avenue, where they’ve been put in a cement kind of display.”

Detlor said he heard complaints from relatives of someone buried at a Centreville cemetery after it elected to do something similar and he advised caution.

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