Sunday, October 18, 2015

Melville White Church Cemetery

Melville White Church Cemetery, Caledon, Peel, Ontario
Located northwest of Toronto in the Town of Caledon, the Melville White Church is one of the oldest square timber frame churches in Ontario. The church reflects the plain architectural style favoured by Protestant denominations in Upper Canada during the early 19th century. The church was built in 1837 on a one-acre lot donated by Daniel McLachlan, one of the area's first settlers. The timber frame church replaced an earlier log church, and was named Melville Presbyterian after Andrew Melville — an early follower of John Knox. Gaelic was often used in early services.

McLachlan Monument
In 1925 the congregation joined the United Church of Canada, and the church was known as Melville United until it closed in 1964. The church building was designated a heritage property by the Town of Caledon in 1998, and has been restored by the Belfountain Historical Society. Restoration work revealed that the building originally had simple rectangular windows. The Gothic windows were a later addition.

The Melville White Church Cemetery is located to the south and west of the church and contains many 19th century gravestones. A stone wall with iron gates was built in 1902. A transcription of the gravestones was undertaken by local historian William Perkins Bull in 1932, however, his work contains a number of errors. A more systematic transcription was completed just over 40 years ago by the Ontario Genealogical Society. Remarkably, all 145 gravestones recorded in the 1974 transcription are still identifiable.

McNabb Monument
Most of the  gravestones commemorate the original Scottish settlers of the area and their descendants. Many of these pioneers were from the Isle of Islay off the west coast of Scotland and were the earliest settlers in Caledon Township. The area in which the settled was named Rockside after a village on the Isle of Islay. And while the raised stone slab for Daniel McLachlan and his wife Mary MacDonald is of modern origin, it does provide a date for when the area was first settled — 1821.

Another notable stone is the double slab monument in the northeast corner to Alex McNabb, Duncan McNabb, and Duncan McNabb. The inscription reads "Alex McNabb and Wife" but his wife is not named. Nor are death dates recorded. Unfortunately not much else is known about them other than they were "of Scotland" and lived for a long time.

Currie Monument
Perhaps more interesting are the numerous 19th century limestone grave markers. Frequently the stones are carved with a willow tree motif, although a lamb is common for stones commemorating children.

One double headstones records the deaths of four children of Donald Currie (1799-1892) and Jessie McGregor (1815-1887), three of whom died in a one week period in 1859. Diptheria may have been the cause. Another gravestone records the death of three children of Alexander Binnie (1811-1866) and Elizabeth Fead (1815-1891) who died in an one week period in 1848.

It is interesting to note that Donald Currie was considerably older than Jessie McGregor. A significant number of gravestones at Melville reflect the marriage of older men to much younger women.

Archibald McNaughton 1794-1834
The oldest gravestone in the cemetery is that of Archibald McNaughton who died in 1834 at the age of 40. According to his gravestone, Archibald was "vituous and intelligent, and enjoyed that sympathy and friendship so usual among the settlers of Caledon."

Melville is one of numerous old cemeteries in the Town of Caledon. In 2007, the Town began a multi-restoration program to repair individual monuments and cairns at its pioneer cemeteries. The Melville White Church Cemetery has certainly benefited from this commitment to history.

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