|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Street Address: next to 37 Halson St near Wilson St East intersection
City: Ancaster, Ontario
Lot/Concession: Concession 2, Lot 45
Township: Ancaster Township
County/District: Wentworth County
Municipality: City of Hamilton
OFFICE ADDRESS AND PARISH HALL:
272 Wilson St East
Ancaster, Ontario L9G 2B9
The Parish of St. John was started in 1816 by the arrival of a missionary priest, the Reverend Ralph Leeming, sent to Canada West from England by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Bishop Mountain of Quebec directed him to serve the area known as "Head of the Lake", at the western end of Lake Ontario, centred in Ancaster. After his arrival in October of 1816 Rev. Leeming reported that the area had about 800 Methodists, 200 Anglicans and 200 Presbyterians.
By 1824 the Anglicans and the Presbyterians had built a 'union church' together, on the site where the limestone structure of St. John's now stands. In 1826 the Rev. George Sheed arrived in Ancaster to minister to the Presbyterians. After two years, in 1828, the Presbyterians moved to their own church on Sulphur Springs Road. The Anglicans bought out the Presbyterians' interest in the Ancaster Free Church with money loaned to them by Job Lodor. On October 10th, 1830, Bishop Charles J. Stewart consecrated the smart looking frame church as an Anglican place of worship and named it the Church of St. John. A limestone chancel was added to the frame building in 1865, when the Rev. Featherstone Lake Osler was Rector. Tragically, an overheated stove caused a fire which destroyed the frame portion of the building in February 1868. By May of 1870 the congregation had rallied and had built the present stone building in a neo-gothic style. When the debt was cleared, the new building was consecrated on May 1, 1873.
Built on a high point of the Niagara Escarpment, the tower with its finials could be seen for miles around. Over the years memorial stained glass windows added old-world charm to the building, and one is further reminded of the rich history of the area when reading the memorial brass plaques on the interior walls.
The Churchyard is a crucial part of St. John's history. The cemetery, consecrated immediately to the east of the church, dates back to these earliest days when many notable people of Ancaster's history were interred here. Those visiting St. John's can see the extent of its parish life in the churchyard from the 1820's. A walk around it today tells us 'who was who' in the little village. In fact, Ancaster history is captured through the many lives past - from the lady who was responsible for the Queen Victoria holiday, to the native Canadian princess who inspired Longfellow's famous poem Hiawatha. Over 1500 people have been laid to rest in these quiet, beautiful grounds.
St. John's has been an active parish and cemetery at the hub of Ancaster and aims to remain so in the future. The new Parish Hall houses the Archives Room. As the community had its beginnings nearly 200 years ago, there are many records - newspaper articles, bulletins, photos and records of births, marriages and burials - which had been stored for years in various houses, closets, basements and offices. The process has begun of listing the holdings, creating a catalogue of names, events and dates from an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 items contained in 12 filing drawers and two storage cabinets. Curios such as a century-old piece of wedding cake, a front door key from 1870, and a piece of wood from the old foundation of 1868 also form part of the collection. There is a three-year set of parish magazines from the 1880s and more from the 1940s. Church bulletins date from the 1940s to the present, and various 'histories' from 1880, 1923 and 1966 are included. People interested in visiting the Archives are invited to call the Parish Office and arrange to meet the Curator or another member of the Archives Committee, who are all volunteers. They will be glad to greet you, show you around and give you a cup of tea while sharing stories of St. John's and Ancaster.