Friday, June 8, 2012

Howitt Memorial Cemetery

Howitt Monument, Howitt Memorial Cemetery
Howitt Memorial Cemetery is a well-kept cemetery in Puslinch Township southwest of Guelph, Ontario, located on the southwest corner of Laird Road West and Sideroad 10.

Howitt Memorial Church
Until 1983, a small church stood beside the cemetery, although regular services had not been held there since 1929. The stone church was built in 1886, replacing a wooden church that built on the property of John Howitt in 1843. From 1843 until 1925, the church served a Methodist congregation. In 1925 the Methodists merged with the Presbyterians and the Congregationists to form the United Church of Canada. Four years later, however, the members of Howitt Memorial decided to join the congregation of  Norfolk United in Guelph, and the church was closed.

Dominating the cemetery is the monument to John HOWITT (1805-1881). John was born in Derbyshire and came to Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1834. Shortly after his arrival he purchased 500 acres in Guelph Township known as "The Grange" and 800 acres in Puslinch Township including the land now occupied by the cemetery. He married twice and had 22 children, 13 of whom are commemorated on his monument. Other Howitt children are buried nearby. Despite being a Methodist, John was known as "Quaker" Howitt due to his pacifist beliefs. He was said to be the largest landowner in Wellington County, and was a breeder of purebred shorthorn cattle.

John KIRKLAND (1804-1857)
Most of the gravestones in the cemetery date from the second half of the 19th century. The oldest stone is that of Frank HEATH (1835-1848). Frank was most likely the son of Edmond Field HEATH (? - 1871), a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo. Another important early stone is that of John KIRKLAND (1804-1857) and his wife Sarah ATTENBOROUGH (1802-1858). The stone is now broken (although still quite readable), however, a photograph of the intact stone from the 1960s survives.

"Gone Home"
In the process of photographing and indexing all the stones at Howitt Cemetery for the CanadaGebWeb Cemetery Project, it became clear that I had possibly missed a stone. As part of the process of indexing the photographs, I cross-check against published transcriptions, in this case a 1985 transcription published by the Wellington Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS). According to the transcription, a gravestone to Hannah EVANS (? -1877), daughter of James and Sarah EVANS, should be found beside the monument to her parents, which is located at the treeline bordering the west side of the cemetery.

While I didn't find Hannah's gravestone (although I did find a base for one), I did find two other monuments not listed in the 1985 transcription. The first was a fragment of a gravestone bearing an epitaph that implores the reader "Weep not" because "I am not dead but sleeping here." The second turned out to be a footstone. The stone was almost completely buried by soil and leaf litter. Using plastic tools and my hands (never use metal tools around gravestones) I uncovered a footstone with the words "Father" and "Gone home" and an engraving of a winged crown.

Unknown, Died Oct., 8, 1881
There is also one gravestone which I photographed that wasn't listed in the transcription. The gravestone is broken, so no name is visible, however, the date and age of death is quite clear. Unfortunately, a check of Ontario death registrations using did not reveal any likely candidates. So not only do I not know why this gravestone wasn't included in the OGS transcription, I also do not whose gravestone it is.

The caretakers of Howitt Memorial have done a good job of protecting the older gravestones. While many of these gravestones are no longer vertical, and some are broken, concrete pads have been poured and the gravestones laid on top. This has prevented grass from encroaching on the stones, and made my job of photographing them much easier.