Old St. Thomas Church Virtual Cemetery Tour
There are many interesting facts, stories and legends based on people within the Old St. Thomas Church cemetery. Many of these people were pioneers of the community and helped to settle the St. Thomas area. This cemetery tour includes only a few of the legends and information surrounding the many people laid to rest in the cemetery. For more information, please visit the church and cemetery for a free tour.
Judge Hugh Richardson
Judge Hugh Richardson is not only an important figure in local history, but in national history as well. He was the man who sentenced Metis rebel Louis Riel to hang. It seems odd that a man from the Northwest Territories would be buried in a St. Thomas graveyard. This was because he wanted to be buried with his daughter, Charlotte, who settled in this area and married Charles Oakes Ermatinger.
The Rapelje monument is located in the back corner of the cemetery along the ravine. It looks like a bench or small table and is very hard to read. This is the oldest grave in the cemetery. Daniel Rapelje, the original owner of the land the church is on, buried his two sons here in 1819. Since there was no churchyard at the time, he buried his sons in the most beautiful spot on his land. Daniel later donated the land so that his sons could be buried in consecrated grounds. The bench stone records the burials of six family members.
Samuel Eccles came to Canada from Ireland via New York City. He had managed a brewery in New York and decided to go into business for himself. Mr. Eccles opened a brewery in London and took on a junior partner who was a local farmer. After teaching this man the business , Mr. Eccles sold the business to his partner because he saw no long-term profit in the trade. This junior partner, named John Labatt, did very well.
The most valuable monument in the churchyard is the Chisholm Monument. It was constructed of imported Italian marble placed on a sandstone base with a two foot concrete footing. Built in 1873 for Robert Bruce Chisholm, this monument cost around $5000 at the time, which was more than the price of two large homes. Many legends surround the deaths of the family members; according to the monument seven members died in seven years. One rumour is that the Curse of Ireland was placed on the family, being that all immediate family dies within seven years and not in their beds. The legends mentions tragic accidents, a train derailing, possible disease and even murder.
The tall black monument with the corner posts still intact is known locally as the ‘witch’s grave.’ However, this rumour is completely false. The grave is black because of the effects of acid rain on the sandstone. It is unique in these graveyard and very rare in this area, as the stone was imported from the Toronto area. The monument is to the memory of Maria Baldwin and her young baby. During the 1980’s and 1990’s rumours spread throughout the area that she was a witch. However, if this were true she would never have been buried in an Anglican churchyard. She was the daughter of Edward Ermatinger, who were a very prominent family in this area, and wife of Reverend Maurice Baldwin, who later became Bishop of Huron. Maria died during childbirth and her young baby died soon after.
The Scattering Garden
The Scattering garden was planted in 2000. It was designed after similar gardens in England. After a cremation, ashes are scattered over the Myrtle by a minister. A plaque may be purchased to commemorate that person. Many spots are still available, which is nice because all of the cemetery burial plots are taken. Scattering in our garden gives people the chance to still be laid to rest in the Old St. Thomas Churchyard.