Thanks for collective effort.
Local MPP John Yakabuski presents a certificate of appreciation on behalf of David Brown and fellow volunteers after the Martin Cemetery rededication ceremony.
Photo courtesy of JIm Martin
The June 10 rededication ceremony at the 19th-century Martin Cemetery is in the history books, as a small group of volunteers look forward to ongoing restoration of the historical icon.
The cemetery is located atop the hill on Whitton Road, across from the old St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church cemetery and about 200 metres from Gillan Road.
It’s also the oldest cemetery in Renfrew County, says Horton Township resident Dave Brown, who has spearheaded the cemetery’s restoration with help from a few other key volunteers.
About 50 people attended the June 10 ceremony led by Rev. Lori Jensen of the Lochwinnoch Presbyterian Church.
“It was beautiful, it was fantastic,” said Brown. He also noted that MPP John Yakabuski did a “wonderful tribute to everyone involved, past and present,” with the cemetery’s restoration project.
The ceremony also featured welcoming remarks by Horton Mayor Don Eady, the singing of hymns Mansion on the Hilltop and Amazing Grace, Reg Laventure’s historical summary of the cemetery, and Rev. Jensen’s benediction.
“The ceremony was a chance to rejuvenate interest in keeping the cemetery in good repair and appearance,” said Laventure.
That afternoon, MPP Yakabuski presented a certificate of appreciation that acknowledged Brown and fellow volunteers for being “instrumental in initiating this restoration project. It is important that we ensure the historical preservation of this cemetery to honour the final resting place of those interned here.”
The cemetery was formally established in 1837, but Brown says Catholic Women’s Institute documentation shows people were buried on the site as early as about 1818.
Brown, 74, has had a long interest in cemeteries that has included visits to restored cemeteries in Europe, where cemetery restoration days are more common.
Brown, who has lived in the township since 2005, says he was disgusted with the condition of Martin Cemetery when he drove by it for the first time.
“I had to do something. There were broken tombstones all over the place.”
Since efforts to restore the cemetery began about two years ago, Brown says volunteers, donations and paid restoration of the tombstones have helped improve the cemetery’s appearance.
Donors have included such people as Ruth Martin of Renfrew. Her grandfather, James Martin, is buried in the cemetery after dying from the flu epidemic around 1920. Ruth says he was a politician and a gentleman farmer who farmed cattle, sheep and crops that even included grapes.
She says initial efforts to restore the cemetery began at least 25 years ago with her dad, whose name was also James Martin.
“It’s a second attempt (to restore the cemetery),” said Ruth.
She recalls her dad working with one of the Russells and with provincial grants for restoring pioneer cemeteries. But then apparently the grant money ran out, and the restoration efforts ended too.
A second restoration of Martin Cemetery is certainly welcomed, says Ruth.
“It’s just great that people are reaching back through time, trying to recognize their past and where they came from, and whom they came from.”
Restoration of broken tombstones will continue with the help of donations. A total of $305 was donated the day of the dedication ceremony.
“We’ve collected close to $2,000, so I’m quite pleased,” said Brown. For about $300 per tombstone, several tombstones have been, and will be, restored.
Many donations come from relatives of those buried in the cemetery. Proper fencing has also been put in place with the assistance of donated labour and materials. Those interested in supporting the project can contact Brown at 432-1211, or Horton CAO Mackie McLaren at 432-6271. He is the township’s resource person for the Martin Cemetery volunteer working group.