St. John’s Presbyterian Church and Cemetery, Coulson’s Hill, held a Decorating Day on Sunday, May 29, giving the public and family members an opportunity to honor those who came before them, meet neighbors , find former members of the church and share stories.
Family histories and genealogy were on display from founding families such as Bell, Sturgeon and Roberts, among others.
The church has not been used since 1966. It is associated with St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Bradford. Donations from the church community and the community as a whole are welcome in the ongoing effort to maintain and restore the old church. The project will preserve history while deepening the sense of community.
Work completed on the church includes a metal roof, new gutters, upgrading and painting the iron fence, and the front steps of the church have been replaced. There is still a lot to do, such as replacing the front doors.
The hamlet of Coulson’s Hill is named after the Coulson family, who settled there in 1822. John Coulson donated the land at Yonge Street and Line 11 for St. John’s and St. Paul’s Anglican Churches. The cemeteries are merged on the property.
According to Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library records, “The Anglican Church was built in 1854, the Presbyterian Church in 1857. The hamlet housed a hotel, stagecoach shop, blacksmith shop and Orange Hall.”
Doug Moriarty’s great-great-grandfather was John Coulson. Moriarty spent his summers with his grandparents in Coulson’s Hill and played on the local baseball team. He also explored the abandoned hotel with a brass bar with friends, and found it a scary place full of cobwebs, but fascinating. The hotel no longer exists.
He also told a family story of how his great-great-grandfather sat in an armchair behind the minister during services and tended to fall asleep, distracting the congregation. He said: “The congregation took a delegation to try to wake Coulson up. When Coulson heard about it, he told them that once someone had done as much for the church as he had, they could wake him up.
Moriarty appreciated having the opportunity to be in the church and the community again. He said maintaining the property has been difficult and it looks like things are now turning around the corner.
Heather Sturgeon came back to where she grew up and sold little books about the people and the area, written by her father, Robert. She said being at Decoration Day was like a high school reunion. She explained: “Our family came in 1837 to this area and settled on the 14th concession and that was their church. We have strong family ties. »
She spoke of her father as well as her uncle, Dyce Sturgeon, who looked after the cemetery over the years – her father until he was 90. She said that even when he wasn’t doing it anymore, he was supervising. He knew each person’s graves and knew their family history.
Caring for the cemetery is honoring lives lived. There are still plots available in the cemetery and one of the ongoing projects is to restore and convert the old Sturgeon Mausoleum into a columbarium to store and display urns containing cremated remains.
Decoration Day in Canada began in 1890 when veterans who fought in the Battle of Ridgeway on June 2, 1866, during the Fenian Raids, protested the lack of recognition for their efforts to protect Canada from the invasion and laid wreaths at the Canadian Volunteer Monument near Queen’s Park.
St. John’s hosts a Decorating Day on the last Sunday in May.
Plots can be purchased at stjohnspresbyterian.ca.
Contact Leila Lloyd, treasurer of St. John’s Presbyterian Church, for more information at [email protected] or 905-775-6618, or the church at 905-775-7274.
Rosaleen Egan is a freelance journalist, storyteller and playwright. She blogs on her website, rosiewrites.com.