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Interesting spots in the Chatham Cemetery

By John Skakel. With special thanks to Bryan Prince, The Ursuline Sisters, Mary (Moon) Manninger, Jim Gilbert, Trish Nigh, and Les Mancell.
For information on cemetery restoration please contact Trish Nigh, Bruce Warwick, or Peggy O'Rourke.


In spring of 2009 a group of volunteers was formed to try to restore parts of Old Maple Leaf and Old St Anthony's Cemeteries. We have noticed that many people have questions about some interesting areas in the cemetery. We hope that you find this little tour interesting.

We caution that this is NOT a tour of the graves of the historic people of Chatham. Others are far more able to give information on these people than we are! We do include some of the most notable. But otherwise it is more of a tour the site, and of the stones that are interesting in their own merit for their design, their printing, their builders, etc.

For further information on finding a burial in Chatham Kent contact... James Turner, Family Service Counsellor, Chatham-Kent, Phone 519-352-7354 Ext 4246.
General Information on Chatham Kent history and burials in the cemetery is available from many individuals. Please contact Chatham Library listed below for details\\ Chatham Kent Ghost Walks Tours will almost certainly present tours of the cemetery in the Fall. For information, call Sheila Gibbs, 519-351-2958. EMail
Chatham Public Library, 120 Queen St Chatham, 519-354-2940
The Old Mausoleum is NOT open to the public. If you have a close relative buried there, contact, Cemetery office on Creek Road, Chatham, Ontario

The restoration project.

Our job is to find old stones. Bring them to the surface whether covered with soil or not. Avoid scratching them. Keep them visible in the future, leaving everything as close to original as possible. Gravel keeps mowers away, minimizing damage to stones. Gravel bases provide drainage and badly needed support in all areas to very old and fragile stones. Stainless Steel metal threaded rods and epoxy allow us to put pieces of stones back together. Standing stones up again (even at expense of some text) allows longer life. Photos and text allow us to preserve what we learn for others in the future. Not quite as easy as it sounds. However, we do hope that as work on this project unfolds, that it allows others to know the beauty (and the not so beautiful) of our history in Chatham Kent in times to come.

Pre European History.

All along the creek that meanders through the cemetery there was a Native Settlement in early times. Since most all of the soil in that area has been turned over due to digging graves and flooding, most artifacts that did remain have been buried and/or lost.

Edwin Basset Jones states that in November of 1640 Fathers Brebeuf and Chaumonot went on a tour of many of the Attiwandaron towns in the area. The Hurons he writes had warned the Attiwandarons that these two priests were terrible people who ate live snakes, and that Brebeuf's touch could kill. Everywhere the two priests went they were given no or little food. Little or no shelter. They were not allowed into the towns. etc. We have no record of their actual Chatham visits as to what took place, but it is likely they were treated exactly as above. This tour was done in the worst of winter. When they tried to return home they hit into a violent winter storm, and one Indian woman took them in against the wishes of her family, and fed them and gave them shelter until their health improved. They were then able to return to "St Marie". We are told that if this one Native Woman had not taken them in they would have almost certainly died very shortly after as they were in such terrible shape. Today her name is unknown. She is one of our Canadian Heroes today!

In the 1700's Father Breboef visited one of two former Neutral Villages here called St Joseph on his way to St Marie where he was martyred. Native remains were found during construction work at the Glasshouse Nursery. It has been stated that "Edwin Basset Jones did an archaeological dig, and the remains of 35 fallen citizens were found here and on the McGeachy property. Rather unbelievably they were put into barrels and sold to Medical Students."

Lastly, Edwin Basset Jones tells us of seeing a mound on the "Tobin Farm" that was likely an Attiwandaron Burial Ground. We do not know if this is the same "Tobin Farm" as the Cemetery now sits on but it is quite likely that it is.

Old Maple Leaf.

The Old Mausoleum.
As you enter the cemetery you will see the old stone mausoleum to your left. It houses the remains of many of the early citizens of Chatham. It is not open to the public except for the fall "Ghost Walks And Cemetery Tours" (depending on their yearly routes). On fall tours it is viewable at night. On the inside paint flecks still visible indicate that this building was very well decorated. However, budget concerns do not allow it's restoration. If you look in the door windows you may see the metal framework that was used to hoist a casket up to the top burial chambers. Cemetery people tell us that it is very unlikely that there will be further burials there.
Take a few steps back and look at vents on the roof and in the bottom of the building. As a body decays it produces a lot of gas, smells, and VERY toxic liquids. A mausoleum must be designed properly to prevent smells and allow these gasses and liquids to disappear safely.

Much of the following dictates you drive down the road between Wards A, and B. To find that road, look just to the right side of the mausoleum. You will see signs to Ward A and Ward B telling you that you are in the correct location. You will see mention of a red brick building. Simply drive down this road and you will come right to it. We will explore Ward "A" first. Then return to look at Ward "B".

Ward A.

The Tolls of disease. Drive down the road between Ward B and Ward A. About 2/3 of the way toward the bridge on the left you will see a huge stone monument with a figure (St Paul?) on top. Near by (across the road) you will see a water tap. Depending on time of year it might be covered with an orange traffic cone or something similar. Near to that pipe you will see a stone to a family called "Rispin". Nearby look for a very plain white standing slab stone with two arches on the top. On this stone you will see how difficult life was for our ancestors. Notice how this family had two children die just 5 days apart, both claimed by Scarlet Fever. Anne Eberts Taylor and Elizabeth C Taylor. The Mother of these girls was a sister of William Duncan Eberts whose stone you will see soon.

Almost directly across Ward A to the South from here you will see the huge stone of the Goodyear Family with a white angel on top. Take a walk to see the beauty of that stone. Not long ago it was badly tipped and was threatened with removal. Thanks to "Smyth's Memorials" the cemetery personnel and the restoration group, it is now standing straight again. People's reactions indicate this stone is like a "mascot" for Chatham Cemetery. Cemetery angels in North America are becoming VERY rare as old stones tip and are removed due to safety issues.

Now walk straight back away from the Rail Road. Before you get to the red brick building you will see a large black fence in "A". Near the corner of that fence closest to the old Mausoleum you will see a large flat stone on the ground. Bryan Prince of the Buxton Museum tells us that Abraham Shadd, was the father of Mary Ann Shadd - and about 11 others. He had a remarkable history in the U.S. and Canada. One of his sons became the Speaker of the House in Mississippi after the Civil War. One son and daughter-in-law worked on the plantation of Jefferson Davis ( president of the Confederacy). Davis and his brother allowed the blacks to run the place. Mary Ann Shadd (1823-1893), was an educator, journalist, and lawyer, and was the first black woman in North America to publish a newspaper.

Ward B.

Two very interesting stones in the cemetery were rather unbelievably found one on top of the other.
Location. Park at the old Mausoleum. Just toward the road between Wards A and B you will come to an area with few stones. Near the road you will see three stones right together. These are now flat but at least one may stand in the future once again. Notice the one on the side closest to the old Mausoleum. Notice the unique carvings on the stone and printing around the top. "Killed by explosion at Ontario Mill". This mill was located either where "Harvy's" is today or just across the road toward the hospital.

Also at that same location look at the middle of the three stones. This stone is very old and beautiful, yet though the printing is not deeply engraved it looks like new. We are looking to find out what this is made of. (It may be a form of slate.) Then look at the very, very bottom under the printing. You will see a number of small drawings. Remember that when the stone was standing in it's base, those were covered. Was Phillip Maggs allowing his children to carve in that area of that stone to "Try what Daddy does"? I'm sure we will never know. However, one drawing looks like the head of a young girl with long hair, and another a leaf.

Moore Stone. Location Drive down the road between Wards B and A again. You will pass by an area that was almost devoid of visible stones until restoration took place. There were only three stones in this large field in spring of 2009 that were visible. Once you get to the area where there is a greater population of stones, watch on your left for the biggest stone in the area by the road with a statue on top. St Paul maybe? The stone is a memorial to Francis and Martha Moore. Look at the printing on the bottom part of the stone describing it's upkeep. It of course gets the same upkeep now as every other stone in the cemetery.

McNaughton. Location.......... Stand on the road at the Moore stone we just talked about. Stand 90 degrees to the road looking straight across Ward B. You will see a large red granite spire stone. It is for the McNaughton family.
In the mid 1800's record keeping and measuring in a cemetery was not always precise. Often stone markers like these big huge spires that you see nearby told the names of those buried there. Notice this plot's layout. Yes, the names are on the big stone, but see the individual head stones. These were to mark the EXACT position of the person buried there. Look around and you will see a very few small foot stones on graves nearby (Almost all have been moved or lost). That head and foot stone says "Do not dig here. Move over a few inches. (Lol as we say today.) Grave diggers were very poorly paid. Often in cemeteries they could not read and/or were paid with alcohol. Rumor is one in Chatham was dyslexic. When conditions of that job improved, graves were located with more precision. AND lawns were being cut and fancy foot and head stones were in the way of lawn mowers. No need to mark that head and foot now. Now almost all foot stones and some head stones have been lost over time. You will notice how we place gravel around these stones. This is for two purposes. It holds the stone in place while providing drainage, etc. But also, it keeps the grass back so mowers do not have to get close to the stone damaging it and allows for faster cutting.

Standing at the McNaughton Plot, if you look toward the old Mausoleum, you will see a tree with a simply huge trunk that must be close to a meter in diameter. The trunk has a stone that has been swallowed up right into it. You will see why you want to be extremely careful where you plant trees in a cemetery. We cringe when we see trees planted next to stones. Over time they will totally ruin that stone. Have a look at the old stone on the South West side of the tree.

From that tree, walk directly West toward the old Mausoleum about twenty meters as I recall. Look for a row of tiny marker stones in the ground lettered A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D. with a bit of gravel around them. If your back is to the mausoleum, look on the right side of that row. Notice how the grave markers are much closer together. Can you guess what is going on here? Only a few of these have been uncovered to show the pattern, etc. Most are now under ground. Look at the dates on the markers right there. 1930. This area was used in the depression era. People had no money for markers and were buried here and then simply forgotten. Many if not most of these plots are indeed occupied. The small plots on the end? These are children's graves. Count the number of adults plots in a row. And the number of kids. It will give you an idea on just how many kids died back then, even in the 1930's. As you walk further back, the kid's area at the end indeed disappears. I have no proof as of yet but believe that this area was indeed laid out for kids. However, by the late 40's health care had improved to the point where most kids survived. Thus there was no need for those extra graves. So, conditions seem to indicate that they modified the area and made 4 kid's graves into one adult's spot.

Ward "E"

White Bronze Stones. Drive down the road between A and B til you get to the Red Brick Protestant Mortuary building. Later in this tour you will see the St Anthony's Mortuary. This red brick building we believe was the Protestant version of it. Park near by. Just behind the chapel on the same side of the road is Ward E. Walk to the center of it and look toward the cemetery fence (Indian Creek Road). Right on the fence line (almost touching the fence) not far away you will see a stone that looks very Bluish gray in colour rather than the gray of other stones. (Name - Blackmore) You may notice others now that you know how to recognize them. Look at the quality of printing and it's age. These stones were very expensive but text has been very well preserved.

Ward "F"

Stone carvers. You will notice that many stones in the cemetery have the names of the carvers carved into the stone at the very bottom. Many were done by two brothers. J. W. and Phillip Maggs. Just look at the bottom of many stones, and often you will see their names. Both of these men were buried in Ward F. To see their graves, cross the bridge by the red brick building. Immediately across the bridge you will see a "T" intersection. Turn to the left and park. Look for the Maggs stones on your right. You will see a fairly large black stone with nothing more than "Maggs" written on it. Rather ironic that the man who carved so many beautiful stones has one with only his last name on it and nothing more! Secondly, If you go back and walk along the road that the bridge is on toward the back of the cemetery (away from the bridge) just a few meters you will see the plot of Philip Maggs on your left right beside the road. That one is a huge modern looking black granite stone.

Ward "G"

Directly across from the Black Maggs stone where you parked you will see three monuments with large brick bases with square white tablets on top. Bryan Prince of the Buxton site writes (Quote) "These are the monuments to Rev. William King, his 2nd wife, Jemima, and his niece, Annie Kane. Rev King could not legally emancipate the 15 slaves he had acquired in Louisiana so he brought them to Canada to set them free. He arranged for the purchase of 9000 acres south of Chatham and established the Elgin Settlement and Buxton Mission - commonly known as the Buxton Settlement. With a population of nearly 1200 people drawn from many parts of the continent, Buxton became Canada's largest and most successful planned colony for former slaves and free blacks. The history of Chatham-Kent is very deeply rooted in the African culture, and the Underground Rail Road and Rev King played an important role in the larger anti-slavery movement. The above ground crypts that are before you are reminiscent of the burials in Louisiana and other places with high water tables in the deep South. For more information please visit the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum or call 519 352-4799." (End of Quote)

Not far from the King monuments is a shorter but otherwise pretty much identical monument. It has recently been restored to it's former beauty. This monument is to the Eberts Family who had a great deal to do with the success of early Chatham. Historian Jim Gilbert tells us that they were involved with merchandising and ship building in Chatham, and they were known as the "Merchant Princes of the Western District". Their shipyard was the largest in Western Canada. They brought grain on their ships, made lumber, purchased staves, potash and produce, and they became known as the foremost commercial concern in the west.

Old St Anthony's

The back of the cemetery as we know it today was where you would enter St Anthony's originally. If you look closely you will have no problem figuring which gate was the main gate due to the large Crucifixion Group monument there that is typical of Catholic Cemeteries of that time period. In a circular pattern around the front of that monument you will see the graves of some of the priests who have served in the City of Chatham. Please find that point as this is the starting point for the rest of our tour.

The Stone building near the old entrance to St Anthony's. (i.e. at the back of the cemetery as we know it today) is St Anthony's Mortuary.
On the North East end of the Mortuary (toward the main road) you will see where a round window was closed in. That was a stained glass window. Today it is badly broken, but there are remainders of it inside. NOTE: The window has been replaced about 2016. Family Bibles have proven to us that room was used to shelter family before and/or after services. We have also talked to a fellow who attended a full funeral held there, so we now have proof that it was used for a funeral chapel. It may also have been used by grave diggers/caretakers for shelter. The other door on the same side of the building as the door into the chapel leads to a VERY tiny tool shed? In 1913 of course when this was built a pick, three or four shovels, sythe, prod, and a rake would be the tools of the caretaker/grave digger. It does not take a large room to store those. The rest is entered by the large doors at the back. This was the Morgue. This area was probably used to store caskets in the winter time while the ground was frozen too hard to allow burials and possibly even to store bodies not yet in caskets. At the funeral mentioned held here above the funeral itself was held in the rest room. Then, since it was winter the casket was rolled around to the back and into the "casket storage area", and the grave side service was done there.

Block O
The Founder of St Ursulas and the Pines...
Standing in front of the metal double doors at the Morgue, walk around 30 metres down the road. Turn right and walk into the cemetery “Ward O”. You will see a row of identical stone markers. These are the markers of the Ursuline Sisters buried here. In the middle of these stones is a large black, modern looking stone. On it is written: “Foundress of the Ursuline Sisters of the Chatham Union. May 9, 1860.”
The following information was given to us by the Ursuline Sisters. (Quote) "Mother Xavier LeBihan – Religious Name; (Yvonne LeBihan) – Birth Name
Mother Xavier came from LeFaouet, France, braved treacherous transatlantic travel and arrived eventually in Chatham, Ontario having received letters from Father Jaffre, a Jesuit Priest and Mr. John Baptist Williams, a prominent Catholic layman and trustee of the Chatham School Board, to begin the important work of education. Mother Xavier was the first Ursuline Sister to be buried in the cemetery. There were eight Sisters buried at the Ursuline Motherhouse (“The Pines”). They were eventually moved to St. Anthony’s Cemetery. (End of quote)
Interments of St Ursula's Sisters are now found in two locations here only a few metres apart and in the more modern parts of the cemetery as well.

St Joseph's Hospital in London was opened in 1888 by Mother Aloysia Nigh of Sisters of ST Joseph. In 1890 she opened St Joseph's in Chatham in an abandoned Salvation Army barracks and became it's first Superior, and Superintendent. She died in 1932 in London and is buried there.

Chatham's soldier who fought in both the Crimean War and the Fenian Raids.
After walking across the interments of the Ursaline Sisters, you get to the road next to the creek. Take just a few steps to where the road only just begins to curve toward the Old St Anthony's Entrance and the Crucifixion Monument. Look for memorial stones to the McMahon Family.

Notice the fairly large gray stone just 4 stones in from the road for James McMahon (Printing is not easy to read.) (There are two new stones right next to the road marked McMahon.) Inscription tells us that he fought in both the Fenian Raids and the Crimean War. His Great Great Grand Daughter tells us that he used to sleep in PJ's that Florence Nightingale made for him. This stone was up-righted by the Volunteer restoration group with help from the family.

The "New areas" A Must See!

On your way out drive back along the road running along the rail road that you came in on. Watch for the last road into the cemetery on your right. It is right at the NEW Mausoleum. Turn right back into the cemetery again. Look carefully at the stones along the road to your right. About a third of the way back you will see one with a telephone on it. This one is a "Must see" before you leave the cemetery.

We hope that this little guide gives you some insight into the Old and New Maple Leaf and St Anthony's Cemeteries in Chatham Kent.