The history of the Anglican Church in the former Whitby Township begins in 1835 when St. Paul’s Church, Columbus, was established by The Reverend Adam Elliott. Surrounding the church was a parish cemetery. The church cemetery, along with a woolen mill, store, school, and wooden sidewalks, a boarding house for the workers in the mill, were the central part of a village called Empire Mills. (Empire Mills has long since disappeared and only one home nearby was part of that very early village.)
Many of the earliest grave stones in St. Paul’s Cemetery are those of the pioneer workers in the mill. Most of those persons emigrated from Lancashire and Yorkshire in England.
The first St. Paul’s Church was constructed of logs, situated at the corner of what is now known as Columbus and Thornton Roads in Oshawa. This structure was burned in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. A frame building was later erected on the same site and in August 1843 was consecrated by Bishop Strachan. This second building was also destroyed by fire in 1922.
From 1923 and onward to today, St. Paul’s has been cared for by the parishioners of St. Thomas’ Brooklin. Some of the family names of those who have tended the sacred ground are Browne, Howden, Bailey, Campbell and Greaves. Many others more recently have volunteered and done much good work.
Records from the diocese of Toronto indicate that the cairn and cross were put in place in 1939, to commemorate the early pioneers buried there. In 1968 Mr. Nelson Hyland donated the south facing Memorial Wall located in front of the patio, in memory of his mother. On the patio each September we hold our Annual Memorial Service which is well attended and the offerings received are used to maintain the grounds. In 1970 a large pink granite stone was set in place at the north entrance gate. This local stone was transported to Montreal and back for the engraving of the name and denomination of the cemetery.
This project was accomplished largely by the efforts of Dr. Guthrie Grant and Brig. Jock Spragge, both parishioners of St. Thomas’, now deceased. Just recently it has been found that WinValley Construction Co. of Whitby, then owned by Mr. Bill Winter, set the stone in concrete after it was returned from Montreal. It is noted in one Memorial Service bulletin that the driveway was extended to the west gate in 1980. Since 1980 and indeed, each year recently, many changes and improvements have taken place – a new sign at the west gate; many new trees have been planted, the patio and benches installed and more recently the board of St. Paul’s decided to erect a Columbarium for the provision of niches for resting places of cremated remains. The columbarium was blessed at the September 2006 Memorial Service. Recent improvements were the replacement of the wrought iron fence with a fence which will not need painting for many years and has a lengthy warranty, and 2011 a four way stop at the intersection of Columbus and Thornton roads was installed in an effort to eliminate damage to our fence and save lives as it is a very busy intersection. The four way stop was accomplished through the co-operation with the Councillor John Neal, City of Oshawa, and the Community Services Committee. A new sign made of long lasting materials was also erected in 2011 at the west gate of the cemetery property.
The cemetery, the responsibility of our parish, is administered and overseen by a board consisting of current members of St. Thomas’. The board is responsible to the Wardens and our priest, the Reverend Claire Wade. All cemeteries in Ontario are governed by provincial legislation from the Ministry of Consumer Services. (The Funeral, Burial, and Cremation Services Act, 2002.)
Inquires regarding plots or niches can be made via the church office, 905-655-3883. Tom Eschle (Treasurer), Betty Cincurak, Diane Bethune, Co-Chairs.