Monday, April 9, 2012

Virgil Baptist Graveyard

Virgil Baptist Graveyard, Niagara-on-the-Lake

I took advantage of the long weekend and the warm Spring weather, and visited a couple of cemeteries near Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. One was the Virgil Baptist graveyard which I wanted to photograph for the CanadaGenWeb Cemetery Project.

Virgil Baptist Cemetery, in the small community of Virgil, is hidden behind a cedar hedge just to the northwest of the junction of Niagara Stone Road and Four Mile Creek Road. A church building was located here from 1831 until the late 1930s. The congregation originally consisted of escaped slaves who had fled to Canada, however, white settlers in the vicinity also became members.

Most of the gravestones are in good condition. Many have been laid flat on the ground, so in some cases it was necessary to carefully remove the grass and soil which was encroaching around the edges. There were also quite a few fallen branches to move aside. Only one monument appears in need of major repair. A large tree had tilted the base of the monument to James BROOKER (1843-1913) causing the rest of the monument to fall over.

When I later cross-referenced my photographs against the Ontario Genealogical Society transcription I discovered a problem. There were four stones listed in the transcription that I had not photographed. These four stones are also referenced by W.G. Reive in his Cemeteries and Graves in the Niagara District. When Reive visited the Virgil Baptist graveyard in 1927, he described it as being "in a wretched condition and many stones mentioned by Miss Carnochan in her visitation of twenty-five years ago have disappeared." Janet Carnochan, however, in Inscriptions and Graves in the Niagara Peninsula, published by the Niagara Historical Society, only recorded the inscriptions for two stones, both of which I photographed.

Reive also mentions looking unsuccessfully for the monument to Barnabas CAIN who fought at the Battle of Lundy's Lane during the War of 1812. David Hemmings in his recent Disappearing History of Niagara also states that Barnabas CAIN was buried at Virgil Baptist. Carnochan, however, mentions "Barney Cain" under the heading for the nearby Virgil Methodist graveyard, so it seems likely that he was buried there and not at Virgil Baptist.

A return visit to Virgil Baptist will be needed later this Spring in order to locate (if possible) the four missing gravestones, and to retake some of the photographs. A visit to photograph the Virgil Methodist cemetery is also likely.