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The Chatham Cemeteries


Document

By Blanche E Shea (Mrs Con E Shea) Sept 1973

Some information in this document has been recorded as disagreeing with other sources. Please see info in square brackets.

In October 1869 the town of Chatham appointed a committee of Messrs Isreal Evans, C W Scane and Thomas Holmes to arrange for the purchase of land for a cemetery outside the town limits. This committee selected 38 [Not in agreement with some other documents.] acres of the John Tobin farm with boundries consisting of the Creek Road, Indian Creek Road and the C and O R.R. The price paid was $3.430.00. Of this 8 acres were designated as a Catholic cemetery to be known as St Anthony's and the other undenominational cemetery was named Maple Leaf. [The transfer of land to St Anthony's did not happen as it was found to be illegal.] A plot of eight graves or less was leased for 100 years. In 1920 an eight grave plot was leased for $20.00. In the early days of St Joseph's Parish the Cemetery was on church property on Cross and Jeffery Streets. (Properly named Jefferre after the first pastor of St Joseph's church.)

A fine brick residence on the northwest corner of the property is occupied by the Superintendent and to date 1973 these have been Thos Salisbury, 1871 - 1895; Homer Turner 1895 - 1910; Ross Stringer succeeded by his wife Gertrude Quinn 1919 - 1941; Charles Moon 1941-1961. The present supertendent George Moon was appointed in 1961.

Also on the property are two buildings for storage of implements etc. A large mausaleim, with all crypts sold immediately, was erected in 1913 [Date not in agreement with other documents.] In very inclement weather services were frequently held here with burial later, until in 1971 the Canadian Legion Branch 23 constructed the present Legion Memorial Chapel, undemoninational, in which Committal services are held.

For many years a wooden fence divided the Old Maple Leaf and St Anthony's cemeteries until City Manager Mr A L Thompson had it removed.

On Cemetery Road at the entrance to the cemeteries an impressive stone arch was erected by the Kent Regiment Chapter Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire in 1920, as a memorial to those who died in World War One.

In 1930 under the direction of Reb Dean John Gnam Pastor of St Joseph's Church the present beautiful Crucifixion Group was placed at the entrance to St Anthony's cemetery on the Creek Road. [This info - date etc - does NOT agree with other sources.] In the center plot reserved for burial of any of the Clergy. To date Rev Dean Gnam who died June 6 1934 and Msrg E A O'Donnell who died in 1966 are reposing there.

Eventually the present cemeteries proved inadequate and another 30 acres were acquired. The East and South portions were deeded to the Episcopal Diocese of London as an addition to St Anthony's. It is designated by a large white cross contributed by the local Knights of Columbus.

When another bridge was necessary over McGregor's Creek, Mr James Doyle who resided on Cross Street was given the contract, with the Government paying 80% of the cost. It was build in 1930 - 31 during the Depression and men were allowed to work three days a week at 35 cents per hour to ease unemployment. With ropes attached to wheelbarows earth was hauled from the bank of the creek to form the entrance and foundation for the bridge. About this time sewers were laid and water provided. The ground was levelled and perpetual care instituted.

On Dec 18 1874 at a meeting of the Council of the Town of Chatham a report of the cemetery Committee recommending that Mr Sansbury act as sextor of the Roman Catholic Cemetery and that he make the same charge for opening graves in that ground as is made in the Town Cemetery, and make a return of the same to the Town Treasurer, and that in the event of there being a funeral at both places at the same he be permitted to engage the services of some person to assist him in attending to them and charge the same to the corporation, was read by Mr Holmes and adopted.

The cemeteries are well known for their very attractive and well kept appearance. Their beautiful trees and shrubs and the graceful driveways.