Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Book Cemetery

Book Cemetery, Ancaster, Wentworth, Ontario

The Book Cemetery is one of several old family cemeteries in the Ancaster area of Ontario. Unlike the nearby Shaver Cemetery, time has not been kind to the Book Cemetery. Many monuments are weathered, toppled or broken, and there is evidence that vandalism has been a problem in the past. A number of very old monuments, however, survive in situ, including two from 1815.

The cemetery is located at Lot 45, Concession 4, Ancaster on land that John Book (1754-1827) was granted in 1801. Johannes Buch, later anglicized to John Book was born in Heidelburg, Germany. About 1774 he married Anna Gertraute Zimmerman (1752-1829), who adopted the name Charity when she came to North America. In 1786, the couple and their seven children emigrated to the New Jersey, where their eighth child was born. Two years later they relocated to Canada. By 1789 they were one of 22 families squatting in the Ancaster area. John and Charity eventually had 12 children, nine of whom are buried at Book Cemetery. One of their daughters, Mary Catherine, married William Shaver (1771-1846) and is buried at Shaver Cemetery.

Book House in 1960
In 1811, John Book began work on a two-and-a-half story red brick house, but construction was interrupted by the War of 1812 when John's sons George, John and Adam served with the 5th Regiment Lincoln Militia. The Georgian style house, was completed shortly after the war and featured a five-bay symmetrical design with chimneys at the gable ends. The sash windows originally would have been 12-over-12, and the door had sidelights and a half-moon fanlight over the door. The house, surrounding farmland, and cemetery remained in the Book family until 1907. The building was the oldest brick house in Ancaster until it was destroyed by fire in 2005 in a suspected case of arson.

Mary Book 1759-1815
While oldest gravestone in the Book Cemetery is that of Henry Book (1795-1815), tenth child of John and Charity, far more interesting is the red slate gravestone of Mary Book (1759-1815), possibly an unmarried sister of John. John and Charity's gray slate gravestones are also extant as are their footstones.

Completing a photographic inventory of this cemetery was a challenge. The 1985 Ontario Genealogical transcription is incomplete as at least six gravestones were not listed. It also contains numerous errors, and does not appear to have been completed in any sort of systematic fashion. This made it next to impossible to identify the several unreadable gravestones based on their location. Fortunately an 1890 transcription is also available, as is a cultural heritage assessment report prepared in 2010.
John Book (1754-1827)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Prendergast Gravestones

Gravestone of Penelope Prendergast (1774-1845)
St. George's Anglican Church, St. Catharines, Lincoln, Ontario
Partially hidden by the barberry shrubs that grow in the courtyard cemetery of St George's Anglican Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, is a 19th century gravestone to Penelope and Jedidiah Prendergast. What is unusual about this stone is that there is another stone to Penelope and Jedidiah in the Prendergast Cemetery in Mayville, Chautauqua, New York.

Portrait of Jedidiah Prendergast
St. Catharines Museum
Jedidiah, a physician, was born in Pawling, Dutchess, New York on 13 May 1766. He was the fourth son of William Prendergast (1727-1811) and Mehitable Wing (1738-1812). Jedidiah married Penelope Chase, the daughter of William Chase (1754-1813), a Rhode Island merchant, and Catherine Rodman (? -1789). Penelope was born in Kingston, Washington, Rhode Island in 1774.

The year Jedidiah was born, his father was charged with leading an armed revolt against landowners in the Hudson Valley. When he was found guilty and sentenced to hang, his wife Mehitable rode over 100 kilometres on horseback from to beg the governor for a stay of execution. Eventually, William Prendergast was granted a full pardon by King George III.

Portrait of Penelope Prendergast
St. Catharines Museum
Almost four decades later, William and Mehitable departed New York for Tennessee, accompanied by most of their children and grandchildren. Tennessee was not to their liking, so they headed north to the Chautauqua Lake area of Western New York. It is unclear whether Jedidiah and Penelope went with them. What is know is that Jedidiah moved to Upper Canada and settled at St. Catharines, then know as Shipman's Corners. Jedidiah was the first non-military doctor in the Thorald and St. Catharines area.

When his father died in 1811, Jedidiah rejoined the rest of his family in Chautauqua, and became a merchant in partnership with his brother Martin Prendergast (1769-1835). Jedidiah would eventually go on to become a New York State Senator.

In the few years Jedediah and Penelope had been in Upper Canada they had become acquainted with the Merritt family, including young William Hamilton Merritt (1793-1862). William married Jedidiah’s daughter Catherine Rodman Prendergast (1793-1862) in 1815. William Hamilton Merritt was a soldier, merchant, and politician, and is considered the “father” of the Welland Canal. The numerous letters held at the Archives of Ontario, and the letters published in an 1876 biography, show that William frequently turned to his father-in-law for advice.

Gravestone of Penelope Prendergast (1774-1845)
Prendergast Cemetery, Mayville, Chautauqua, New York
Penelope Chase Prendergast died at St. Catherines on February 1, 1845 during a visit to her daughter and son-in-law, and according to the burial register was interred in the churchyard of St. George’s Anglican three days later. Jedidiah died in 1848 at his home in Mayville, Chautauqua, and was buried at the Prendergast Cemetery. When William Hamilton Merritt erected a gravestone for his mother-in-law at St. George’s, he also decided to commemorate his father-in-law Jedidiah. Apparently, Jedidiah’s relatives in Chautauqua had the same idea.

Drawing of the Prendergast Gravestone from
the 19th Century Tombstone Database Project