Friday, July 8, 2016

The Lost Hamlet of Mimosa

Mimosa Union Cemetery, Erin, Wellington, Ontario
Mimosa usually refers to an alcoholic drink combining equal parts of champagne and orange juice. Mimosa is also the genus of the sensitive plant, native to South America but cultivated as a houseplant. Why a lost hamlet in Wellington County northeast of Guelph, Ontario was also given this name is not known.

Mimosa officially came into being in 1860 when inhabitants in the northwest corner of Erin Township, first settled in the 1820s, successfully lobbied for a post office. The establishment of a post office attracted other businesses to the area including a general store, hotel, blacksmith, and a shoemaker. In 1862 a Methodist Church was erected, followed by a Disciples of Christ Church in 1863, and a Presbyterian Church in 1864. In 1872 a school house was built between the Methodist and Disciples Church.

S.S. No. 14 Erin
"Mimosa School"
Mimosa's success, however, was short-lived. When the Credit Valley Railway opened their Elora-Cataract branch in 1879, the nearest station to Mimosa was five kilometres away. Business was soon drawn to the railway location, which was named Orton when a post office opened in 1882.

Mimosa lost its post office in 1914. The general store closed in the early 1920s and was briefly a residence before fire destroyed the building in 1928. In 1922 the wood frame schoolhouse was replaced by a brick structure. The school finally closed in 1965 and the building was converted into a home.

John Small
Mimosa Union Cemetery dates from 1860 when John Small sold a quarter acre to the Methodists. A frame church was build in 1862 but was replaced in 1885 with a brick structure. This in turn was replaced by another brick building after a fire in February 1905. In 1925 the congregation joined with the Mimosa Presbyterian Church and services ceased. The building was demolished in 1938.

It is interesting to note that John Small, on whose property the cemetery was located, died in 1904 at the age of 104. John was born in County Antrim, Ireland and had arrived in Canada in the early 1840s. His wife, Elizabeth McLaren, who died in 1901, was 23 years younger.

According to his gravestone, Henry Reed (1795-1870) was born in Suffolk, England, enlisted in the 68th Regiment in 1815, and served for 14 years.

Henry Reed
The 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) was stationed in Ireland from 1814 to 1818. The regiment embarked for Canada in May 1818, and remained there for eleven years, returning to England in October 1829.

According to his British Army discharge, Henry served from 25 Mar 1815 until 24 Apr 1827. He was "sent home from Canada in 1825 for Epileptic Fits and Ulcerated Leg." Henry appears on a December 1815 pay list when the regiment was stationed in Belfast, and Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner records show that he was admitted as a out-pensioner on 25 Apr 1827.

Henry, the son of Robert Reed and Margaret Kemp, was baptised at Framlingham, Suffolk, England on 19 Jul 17975. He married Ann Holmes (1805-1882) at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Quebec on 10 Jul 1824. Henry and Ann had 12 children. There oldest, James Reed, was baptised in Stoke Dameral, Devon, England on 30 Apr 1826. The remaining children were all born in Upper Canada, beginning with Henry in 1828.

Henry brought his family to Erin Township in 1855, having previously lived in Nassagaweya Township east of Guelph. Two of his daughters were buried at the Ebenezer Cemetery in Nassagaweya in 1838. Henry was appointed Mimosa's first postmaster in 1860. 

Francis Awrey (1855-1856)
A number of stones commemorate the Awrey family. John Awrey (1790-1861) was a blacksmith who was born in New Jersey but came with his parents to Upper Canada (now Ontario) as a child. He purchased 500 acres in Erin Township in 1827, and was one of the first settlers in the area. A schoolhouse known as Awrey's School was built on his land in 1840. The schoolhouse was also used as a church by the Methodists. A small graveyard, known as Awrey's Cemetery, was located beside the schoolhouse. 

When Mimosa Union cemetery opened in 1860, the seven bodies that had been buried at Awrey's Cemetery were re-interred. A few of the older gravestones, including that of Francis Awrey (1855-1856), grandson of John Awrey, likely came from Awrey's Cemetery. Most of the monuments at Mimosa Union, however, date from the late 19th to early 20th century. The cemetery is still active although burials are infrequent.

Mimosa Disciple Cemetery, Erin, Wellington, Ontario
The Mimosa Disciple Cemetery dates from 1863 when Henry Reed (1828-1883), son of Henry Reed (1795-1870) donated land for a church to the Disciples of Christ. During the late 19th century, the Disciples of Christ were very active in Erin and neighbouring Eramosa townships. Regular services church continued at the Church until 1939 when the congregation joined with Hillsburgh Disciple Church. The brick church building, dedicated in 1890, was demolished in 1951.

One of the earliest gravestones at Mimosa Disciple is that of David Westover, infant son of Jacob and Mary Westover, who died in 1867. Another early gravestone is that of John Cawthra who was born about 1790 and died in 1868.

Both Mimosa Union and Mimosa Disciple were vandalized in 1977, however, restoration work was undertaken by two local monument companies.


Hutchinson, Jean, The History of Wellington Country, Landsborough Press, 1998.

Bowley, Steve, Guelph and Wellington County Cemeteries and Burial Sites, Ontario Genealogical Society, 2015.

McMillan, C. J., Early History of the Township of Erin, Boston Mills Press, 1974.