CORNWALL – The city is dealing a piece of its history erased as a historical monument at the corner of Sixth Street East and Sydney Street has been levelled.
Some residents were shocked this morning (Monday) to see a backhoe and dump trucks move in on the property and level the pyramid of gravestones surrounded by a small metal fence.
One neighbour told Cornwall Newswatch he was shocked to see what was happening while walking his dog and was even asked by a motorist passing by, “why are they doing this.”
A dump truck from Wally’s Backhoe Service and Truck Rental and a front-end loader from Woodsman Tree Service were working at what the neighbour described as a feverish pace.
Historian Sara Lauzon is heartbroken at the move to level the monument.
“I’m really heartbroken because this is one of the oldest cemeteries in Cornwall and there was no warning. They could of at least put something in the paper or sent out word that this was going to be happening,” Lauzon told Cornwall Newswatch.
Lauzon said she was met with a bunch of messages this morning and went down to take pictures of the site.
“Since it is now completely demolished and destroyed and I don’t think any of the stones were salvaged, I’m not quite sure about that, but I hope in the future they (the church) decide to put something back in replacement of that, whether it’s a small monument, a stone with a story. People paid for those tombstones even if it was hundreds of years ago and these were our founding fathers,” Lauzon said.
“There should be something on the grounds so that when people drive by…I hope that there’s something there to tell people that this is a cemetery and there are still people buried here.”
She says there are still bodies on the site. “There are people with unmarked graves. If there isn’t a tombstone to tell somebody that somebody is buried there, they’re not getting that person (during exhumation). So I guarantee that there’s still people buried on that property.”
Lauzon also highlighted the history on her website.
“This monument pays tribute to this sites original use: the grounds was once a cemetery that may still be the final resting place to a handful of Cornwall pioneers,” she wrote. The tombstones date back to the 1830s.
After the creation of Woodlawn Cemetery, the Sixth and Sydney graveyard fell on hard times and the monument was created from salvageable tombstones. The bodies were exhumed and moved to other graveyards in Cornwall.
Lauzon told CNW, the name behind Chesley’s Inn – John Chesley – was a member of St. John’s Presbyterian Church and still had a legible tombstone on the monument.
The land is private and is owned by the Presbyterian Church of Canada.
Don Muir, spokesman for the Presbyterian Church in Canada in Toronto, referred questions to the local congregation. He said the Presbyterian Church in Canada would not be involved in the day to day operations.
Though Muir said he was “kind of shocked and surprised” by what he had heard based on information provided in a call from Cornwall Newswatch.
A call to St. John’s Presbyterian Church was answered by a voicemail saying the office is closed and would not be open until Aug. 22.