Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ponsonby Pioneer

Ponsonby Pioneer Cemetery, Nichol, Wellington, Ontario
After three and a half days of "off-and-on" rain, we had a few hours of partially cloudy skies, so I took advantage of the good weather and visited Ponsonby Pioneer Cemetery in Wellington County north of Guelph, Ontario.

The Ponsonby Hotel
Ponsonby started as a stagecoach stop along the Gaxafraxa Settlement Road, leading north from Guelph into the wilderness known as the Queen's Bush. The settlement was originally named Thorpeville, after the first postmaster, John Thorpe. In 1863 the named was changed to Ponsonby. By this time Ponsonby was a thriving community with a hotel, wagonmaker, carpenter, butcher, blacksmith, and general store. Ponsonby today is a ghost town. The only remnants from its heyday are the hotel, which is now a private dwelling, and the cemetery.

In 1843 a 3/4 acre lot for a cemetery was purchased by Bethany Methodist Church. The cemetery remained active until about 1888. In the 20th century the cemetery became the victim of road widening. The existing gravestones were placed into a sloping concrete pad facing the road. In 1958, a cairn was erected on the site by the congregation of Bethany United Church, the successor to Bethany Methodist. 

Thomas HOWSE
The gravestones are for the most part in good condition, athough no longer in situ. The gravestone of Thomas Howse is particularly striking and bears a poetic epitaph: 

     He's gone! the loved and cherished one;
     Like some bright star he passed away.
     Death claimed his victim and he sank,
     Calm as the sun's expiring ray.

Thomas Howse was born on 20 Apr 1788 in Aynho, Northamptonshire, England. He emigrated to Canada with his wife Mary Churchley (1787- ?) and seven children in the 1830s, and settled in Pilkington Township west of Ponsonby. Thomas's family was one of several Aynho families that emigrated from England to the Ponsonby area.

Also at Ponsonby are the gravestones for Thomas's son George Howse (1819-1858), his daughter Elizabeth (1826-1878), his daughter Mary (1823-1855), Thomas's unmarried sister, Ann Howse (1788-1880), and two grandchildren.

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