Spade & the Grave

death and burial through an archaeological lens

Curious Canadian Cemeteries: Kilworth (Baker) Cemetery, Delaware Township, Middlesex County, ON

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Today’s Curious Canadian Cemeteries is brought to you by being trapped inside during Week 3-to-4 of work-from-home-quarantine. What an interesting time we are living in…? Let me help distract you for a moment with this post about a small burial ground near London, ON, the Kilworth (Baker) Cemetery, Delaware Township, Middlesex County, Ontario.

I came across this site while heading out to a sugar bush (several weeks ago, when we were still able to go outside and do things! #socialdistancing). Despite living in Ontario since 2017, I hadn’t managed to go to a sugar bush before, so that in itself was exciting! Of course, I was more than happy to add a little burial ground visit into the trip when we spotted this one along the side of the road.

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View looking east from the entryway (photo by author 2020)

The Kilworth Cemetery, also known as the Baker Cemetery, is located at 2275 Oxford Street West. According to the 1862 Tremaine map of the area, the land where the cemetery was eventually established was owned by Thomas Bateman at the time the map was drawn, with a school house indicated on the property as well. By 1878, the Randall map shows that the land had been purchased by B. Kilbourne.

While neither map shows the burial ground on the landscape, the sign at the entrance to the site claims that the burial ground was established in 1825. The oldest gravestone recorded on Find A Grave dates to 1874, however it is odd that the site is not indicated on the 1878 map when it was clearly established by that point. You can see clearly that the site is marked with ‘C’ for Cemetery on the 1913 topographic map of the area!

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Sign at the entrance to the cemetery (photo by author, 2020)

It is very likely that earlier graves were part of a family burial plot on a farm property, as was common in early settler communities that were not near urban centres, and earlier burials were not documented or marked. Early markers could also have been made from materials that have since degraded, like wood! According to Find a Grave, there are 47 monuments present at the site, and while visiting, it is clear that there are several unmarked burials at the east side of the site. The site is also recorded on the Ontario Genealogical Society‘s online database of burial sites.

It is also interesting to note that the site used to have the name ‘Baker’, while the historic maps do not indicate someone by that name having lived there. This may be the name of the first individual to have been buried at the site, or a notable family in the community, or the family who owned the land when the site was first established, between or before when the maps of the area where recorded. If anyone has more information on the site, I’d love to hear about it!

Nearby to the burial ground was the site of the Kilbourne homestead, a family who did in fact own the land that the burial ground was located on for some time. While the home no longer stands, there is an image of it on the sign, and it would have been fairly close to the burial ground along the road.

The site itself is fairly large for only having a few dozen gravestones, with a large area of grass in the middle. Many of the fallen gravestones have been set into concrete slabs, which was unfortunate to see, but this of course was the old method of conservation for decades (but that doesn’t mean you should keep doing it today). You can see that Emma’s gravestone was also reset into concrete, but upright, and the date on the gravestone was on the break, and is no longer visible.

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Gravestone maker plate (photo by author 2020)

One additional feature that I wanted to show you all is a tab on the back of one of the headstones. While earlier headstone carvers used to sometimes put their names and shop locations on the base of the stone, this was eventually disbanded in favour of little brass tab at the back of the stone, tucked between the granite and the base (you find these on more contemporary granite monuments!). This one is in excellent condition, and is so cute and ornate! The London Marble & Granite Company Limited was started by John Peel (father of Canadian artist siblings Paul Peel & Mildred Peel) and George Powell in the mid-late 1800s with no additional staff, and was taken over by Mr. William Loveday in 1938. The shop was located at 493 Richmond Street by this point, suggesting that the shop was owned by Mr. Loveday by the time this gravestone was made (Lacy 2019).

Overall, this was a lovely burial ground, and I’d love to know more about it! If you have any information for me, send me an email or a comment! Don’t forget to stop at your local road-side burial grounds as you explore the countryside…once public spaces are open again, of course!

References

Lacy, Robyn S. 2019. ‘In Memory of…’ The Story of Brick Street Cemetery, London, Ontario. Written with support of the Friends of Brick Street Cemetery, forthcoming.

 

Author: Robyn Lacy

Archaeologist / Cultural Heritage / Burial Ground Restoration

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