gardens


April 27th, 1881, local item about the cemetery in the Deseronto Tribune

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:

Newspaper birth announcement of William Langton

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.

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Bob Almey, 1918, 2011.18 (9)

J. Robert (Bob) Almey (1895-1989) was one of the last group of pilots to be trained at Camp Mohawk, one of the two Royal Flying Corps establishments near Deseronto in the First World War. The photo here shows Bob in his Royal Flying Corps uniform. It was brought into the Archives for scanning a few weeks ago by Bob’s grandson, Rob Woodward.

The war ended before Bob Almey was posted to Europe, which was fortunate for him, given the short life expectancy of pilots on the front line in those days. Bob returned to his studies at the Ontario Agricultural College (now the University of Guelph) and completed his degree in horticulture. In 1921 he was appointed as Manitoba’s first ever provincial horticulturalist.

He went on in 1928 to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway as their Chief Horticulturalist. In this role, Bob was responsible for landscaping the surroundings of 2,000 railway stations across the West of Canada, giving new immigrants and visitors a favourable first impression of the region. By the 1940s, 11,000 packets of seeds were being distributed to stations each year, while CPR greenhouses across the Prairies and British Columbia grew 600,000 plants a year, of up to 125 varieties.

Gladiolus mortonius from Sericea on Flickr

Bob Almey knew each station so well that he could “recite from memory their layouts, the variety of flowers they grew and the amounts needed”. He retired in 1960 but continued to be active in the Manitoba horticultural community (being particularly famous for his gladioli) until his death in 1988.

In the early twentieth century the Rathbun Company had numerous industrial interests in the town of Deseronto which developed from the firm’s lumbering business in the late 1800s. Two of the Rathbun’s (perhaps) less well-known ventures were the experimental farm and gardens either side of Boundary Road at the eastern edge of the town. This newspaper advertisement, taken from the edition of The Tribune published on this day in 1903, shows some of the range of plants available for purchase from the Company’s gardener (the aptly named Mr Potter).