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Caledonia's Historic Cemetery Fence

February 1, 2017

Ian D. Thompson, U.E.- Modern Memories

 

When I was growing up, it was a rare occasion to eat out at a restaurant. In the Summer, however, when my sister's and I were feeling hungry, we'd hop on our bicycles travelling past McKinnon Park School, down Wigton Street and straight to the Oasis where one 'Combo Deal' (which was $3.99) would feed the three of us.

 

More rare than eating out was the ability to indulge in a soda- Coca-Cola was the beverage of choice at the Oasis and the 20oz. cup proved too much for the three of us- my oldest sister had the cup holder on her bike- and we'd pass it back and forth between us, shouting "Coke-me" as we passed the Cemetery on our return trip home.

 

In those days I never paid much attention to the cemetery- it was, after all, a creepy place for children. Later, when I began to work at the Oasis, I'd ride my bicycle past the fence twice daily. In the mid-late 2000s, the County tore out half of the low concrete fence to replace it with a high steel fence with a black veneer. It wasn't long before the veneer peeled off in certain places and left the cemetery looking in disrepair. With some constructive criticism, Barbara Martindale was able to convince the County to send some summer students over to paint the fence where the veneer had disappeared.

 

 

The low-concrete fence became of interest to me when I was transcribing the Caledonia Cemetery. In several places there are benches along the fence where I would sit to copy down the information on gravestones close to the roadway. Children walking with their parents hopped along the top of the fence jumping over the decorative spheres on each post, giggling and chattering as they went. I immediately wondered how many generations of Caledonians had done the same- I certainly had when I was younger.

 

O.T. Scott, who at one time was the Secretary Treasurer of the Caledonia Cemetery Commission, remembered the cemetery being surrounded by a dilapidated high board fence, "overrun with wild roses, hazelnut bushes, thorns, and weeds," in 1922. Further, "The graves were mounded up and the lots in many cases were fenced in with dilapidated wood or iron fences." It was important for Mr. Scott, and a group of others who had family buried in the Cemetery to get it cleaned up- so the Cemetery Commission was created.

 

Curiously, the only reference to the low concrete fence is that it was reinforced with the iron fences removed from around the gravesites in the cemetery! I wonder if, when Haldimand County removed a large portion of this fence, any remnants of these old grave-fences were visible within the debris?

 

It is fairly safe to say then, that the fence made an appearance in the mid-1920s, and so about 4 generations of Caledonians have come into contact with the fence. Hopefully- Haldimand County will recognize it's longevity and history and will preserve the little bit of it which still remains!

 

More on cemetery transcriptions next week.

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