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Cemetery Guardians ensure history is kept alive

Puzzles of Wilson's Hill Cemetery explored at recent Tecumseth and West Gwillimbury Historical Society meeting

The Tecumseth and West Gwillimbury Historical Society was pleased to host Tracey Melidy’s talk, The Puzzles of Wilson’s Hill, in February.

Wilson’s Hill Cemetery (also known as Wilsons Hill Cemetery) may have opened in 1839 or 1858 and is located on Highway 27 and the 12th Line in West Gwillimbury.

Melidy is one of three primary volunteers (along with Vaughan Harris and Louis Theriault) who act as Cemetery Guardians for the Society. They, with some help from other volunteers, have amassed an impressive 669 hours restoring the Wilson’s Hill Cemetery and documenting its history.

The restorative efforts of the crew included clearing all brush to locate the standing and fallen stones, removing trees safely, and clearing grass and vegetative matter from the stones and concrete pads.

Melidy also curated the visitor’s’ log book on site and was able to transcribe some of the information contained therein (Wilson’s Hill was the most visited Cemetery in Simcoe County in the 1980s!). Vaughan restored the box containing the visitor’s log book and restored many of the cemetery’s signs.

While much of this back-breaking work was cosmetic, it allowed Melidy to start documenting the site and creating a record of the burials there.

Prior to the arrival of the Society’s Cemetery Guardians, comparatively little was known about this early cemetery or its inhabitants. There are possibly 300-500 burials in Wilson’s Hill.

Some of the people resting here include the Dinwoodys and Duffs, who walked to Tecumseth from York; Meargareth McBride Kirk, who was among 98 people drowned when the steamer SS Asia sunk in Georgian Bay in 1882; and Bert Harper, who worked on the Gazette and was a close friend of Mackenzie King, drowned in 1901.

The preservation of Wilson’s Hill is paramount. The cemetery offers us a glimpse of the social history of the 19th century, popular art styles and motifs, stories from the township’s early history and the names of people once forgotten but for now ‘immortalized’ in stone.

The TWGHS Cemetery Guardians have dedicated themselves to this task before that information is irrevocably lost.

The next meeting will take place Monday, March 18 at the Women’s Institute Hall in Newton Robinson at 7:30 p.m.

Heather Massey, Historical Society Secretary and last year’s ‘Grace’ from the Society’s play ‘Saving Grace’, will present a talk on the basics of Archaeology and her experiences as an archaeological field technician working in the GTA.

Non-members are welcome to attend for a $5 fee per meeting or can purchase an annual membership for $20 (individual) and $30 (family). All meetings end with delicious homemade refreshments and friendly conversation.

For more information regarding the Society or its monthly meetings and programs, please contact Janine Harris-Wheatley at 905-936-6549 or