The Bronte Street Pioneer Cemetery in Milton, Ontario, Canada
Three decades or more ago this triangular shaped lot, with many very old broken gravestones, toppled over and covered in vines, had a wonderful atmosphere to it. It was in a state of decay yet you could feel the history just by looking over the iron fence.
The Milton Historical Society undertook the task of preserving the early gravestones, and in 1986 the restoration of the cemetery was complete and a ceremony was held to unveil the plaques and cairn.
In Memory Of / Milton’s Founder / Jasper Martin 1797-1833 / Sarah Coates His Wife 1797-1830 / Settled Here From England In 1818 / The Martin Family.
1986 / Milton Historical Society in co-operation with / The Town of Milton / Maplehurst Correctional Centre.
I can understand the need to preserve these old stones from further deterioration, but the placement of them in concrete slabs bordering the cemetery has given it a clinical feel. It just doesn’t feel like a Pioneer cemetery any longer.
This ancient burial ground (the earliest date on a headstone is 1755 and the latest is 1917) is now preserved by the Town of Milton.
Tho’ lost to sight
To memory clear.
Husband thou art gone to rest
Thou has found thine earthly tomb
For God has summoned thee away
Thy Father called thee home.
Friends and physicians could not save
My mortal body from the grave
Nor can the grave retain it here
When Christ my saviour shall appear.
In death’s cold arms lies sleeping here
A tender parent, a companion dear
In love she lived
In peace she died
Her life was asked
But was denied.
Death is swallowed up in victory.
One of the few remaining gravestones in good condition is a tall column with 4 inset panels bound with rope detail containing two hands in a handshake with oak leaves in 4 corners. An inscription below states, I Am The Resurrection And The Life / Because I Live Ye Shall Live Also. A second panel in bas relief shows a kneeling figure clinging to the crossbar of a cross. The legend is inscribed with Here I Lay My Burden Down / Change The Cross Into The Crown. The top of the column is draped and terminates in an urn with a blaze.
Symbolism on this memorial stone:
- Drape represents mourning
- Figure clinging to cross symbolizes faith
- Flame depicts eternity or resurrection
- Handshake means farewell
- Oak leaves mean strength. The oak is believed to have been the tree from which Jesus Christ’s cross was made. In smaller pioneer cemeteries, it was commonly to situate children’s graves near oak trees.
- Rope symbolizes eternity
- Urn represents the soul
- Urn with a blaze/flame is undying friendship