Correspondence with a family historian this week has shed some light on this cryptic comment in the ‘Local items’ section of Deseronto’s newspaper, The Tribune, in the April 27th, 1888 edition.
The decision to build a cemetery in the town had been taken earlier that year: on Monday, February 6th, 1888 a meeting was held in Deseronto’s Town Hall to discuss the establishment of a Cemetery Company under the terms of the Cemeteries Act. It was agreed that the Deseronto Cemetery Company should be formed, with a capital of $4,500. Within a week a prospectus had been issued and shares were being sold at $100 each.
The Tribune reported the outcome of the meeting in the following way:
The prospect of the early opening of a cemetery in this vicinity is everywhere hailed with satisfaction. The people of Deseronto and neighbourhood have in the past been compelled to bury their dead here, there and everywhere, a state of affairs in no way creditable to their public spirit. We are glad to know that so many are taking shares in the company. The Tribune, February 10th, 1888
Forty acres of land to the east of Deseronto were purchased by the Rathbuns for the cemetery in April 1888. “Before long, it would be a ‘pleasure’ for anyone to be buried in the Cemetery”, reported The Tribune, chirpily, on April 6th.
A. J. Hopkins, a landscape architect from Oswego, New York, was hired to design a layout for the site in early May of the same year. The choice of an Oswego landscape architect reflected the industrial interests of the Rathbuns in that town and the fact that there were no landscape architects in Canada at that time. By the summer of 1888 the cemetery was in use.
As the cemetery was not yet open in April 1888, the comment in The Tribune about a birth there seems odd, but our correspondent was able to share another newspaper clipping with us (probably from the Napanee Express) which gave some more information:
Edwin R. Langton was the son of an English grave digger called William Langton and was born in Hanwell, Middlesex (just to the west of London) in 1852. He came to Canada in 1883 and married Martha Penney in Sillery, Quebec, on October 26th, 1886. On their marriage record, Langton is described as a gardener from Deseronto and a widower.1 In 1891 the family are listed on the census in Deseronto, with Edwin as a gardener.
The cemetery originally had a cottage just inside the gates, which was occupied by the cemetery caretaker. Perhaps the Langtons were in occupation of this building when William was born and the new cemetery was taking shape around it. Edwin, with his gardening experience, may even have been the first caretaker of the cemetery grounds.
By 1901 the Langtons had moved back to Sillery with their five children. The eldest (the one born in the cemetery) was called William. It does seem appropriate that a child born in a cemetery should be named after a grave digger!
1 It turns out that this wasn’t true: my correspondent informs me that Langton’s first wife, Ruth (née Winkworth), died in England in 1894 (read more in his article about this family [PDF]). This is the second bigamist we’ve come across in Deseronto.