Marilyn (nee Meikle) Hunt says she is excited to see the result of the restoration project for the John H. Meikle Memorial Gate at Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Lakeshore Drive west of Morrisburg.
Last fall, in cooperation with the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Board, Hunt initiated the restoration of the beautiful two-sided wrought iron gate, which is a memorial to her great-great uncle John H. Meikle (1839-1911).
It started with the removal of the gate pieces and side fencing to Cor-Tek Industrial Services & Steel Fabrication in Cornwall for the refurbish.
“I actually started last June, when I contacted Ron Marcellus [Cor-Tek],” says Hunt, who after living most of her married life with her husband Joseph in the Washington DC area, now calls Owen Sound home. “I’ve been working on my family history for 15 years, and I have been thinking of the gate for a very long time. I thought it was getting quite rusted, and I was afraid it was going to fall apart.”
When approached about the restoration project, the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Board came on board. Like so many graveyards in Ontario, the cost of maintenance (mainly mowing) has become difficult to cover. In some cases, the graves and stones have been in place for well over 100 years. Money provided at the time of their purchases is long gone and families have drifted away.
So today’s Board, in addition to welcoming the restoration, decided to launch a major initiative to coincide with the Sunday, June 5 rededication of the gate to reconnect with those who have family buried at Mount Pleasant.
Through mail outs, media advertising and word of month, it is hoped to reach all persons with family at Mount Pleasant to come out to the ceremony.
Donations for the continued upkeep of Mount Pleasant will be accepted June 5, or can be mailed to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, c/o Jack Dikland, 5449, Cty Rd. 8, Morrisburg, On, K0C 1X0.
Mount Pleasant Cemetery came into being in April 1890, when Charles Casselman conveyed one half acre of land to the trustees of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Over the next few months Knox Presbyterian Church came on board, and in November of 1890, an agreement was made to convey the half-acre property, to a joint board of trustees from St. Paul’s and Knox.
Once the gate pieces were removed last fall, the four support pillars and the side fencing were dismantled, stone by stone.
The stone work was completed by Ralph Bouwman of Bouwman Construction in Riverside Heights. Four new cement pads were poured, and the stones were cleaned.
Each of the four stone pieces making up the two large pillars weighed 700 pounds, and when the pillars were dismantled it was discovered each was hollowed out on the top to allow the one above it to set into the recess.
“The large pillar on the west side was out by 4 inches, and the east pillar was out by about 2 inches,” explained Bouwman of the need to construct a level base. “They fit perfectly together, so when we took them off, we made sure they were placed them in order.”
The eight 700-pound stones that form the two large pillars to hold the swinging gate and the 12 smaller stones that make up the two pillars for the side fencing were replaced on Wednesday, April 27, by Buster Sneath whose family business is Buster’s Back Hoe on the Church Road. Sneath is also the caretaker for Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
That done, the next step in the massive project was to refit the refurbished gates and fencing to the pillars and that was completed last week, May 17-18, by Cor-Tek.
The end result is the return to its former glory, of the very impressive historical gate that was originally installed to the entry of Mount Pleasant Cemetery in 1913 in memory of John H. Meikle, who with his brother William, owned and operated the W.&J. Meikle General Store in Morrisburg.
According to information provided by local historian, Jim Jordan, the Meikle brothers were born in Glasgow, Scotland. John H. came to Canada at the age of 15, and located in St. Andrews, Quebec, where he received training in commerce from an uncle.
He settled in Morrisburg in 1860, the year the village was incorporated, and with his brother formed W.J. Meikle General Merchants.
According to his obituary, John H. Meikle did not marry. “In religion, Mr. Meikle was a Presbyterian, being one of the pillars of Knox Church. He was reeve, village councillor, counties councillor and counties warden.”
In 1876, John H. built his beautiful residence, referred to by the architect, Hutchison & Steele, Architects of Montreal as a “cottage” at the corner of First and St. Lawrence Streets in Morrisburg. The home is currently owned by Bob Ruddock who over recent years, has completed extensive restoration.
The Meikle family, who became well known in Morrisburg and area, descended from John’s brother William who, with his wife Georgina, had six sons, William Fulton, George Duncan, John Hotson, James M., Fred Henry and Duncan H.
John Hotson and his wife May Merkley had a son John Hotson. He and his wife, Elsa (nee Kastner) raised Margaret Mary (Richard), Catherine (Diguer) and Grace (Lundy) in what is historically known as the stage coach house.
The house is the large white frame home, located on the south side of Lakeshore Drive as you are leaving Morrisburg.
Fred Henry Meikle and his wife Dora (nee Armstrong) had two children Mildred and Harry. Mildred married Archie T. Shannette MD, (Dick Shannette’s parents), and Harry was Marilyn and Elizabeth’s (McDonald) father.
After the death of his young wife, Fred married Jessie Greer. They had a daughter Jean.
Marilyn grew up in Morrisburg and left for a teaching career. She met her husband Joe, while teaching military children in France…..Over the years, Marilyn returned regularly to Morrisburg to be with her father Harry and mother Mae (nee Hollister) who lived first in the Meikle block before the Seaway, and in the new home on Park Avenue that they built.
“My mother passed away in 2002, but I still try to visit once a year,” says Hunt.
Hunt has contacted a number of her Meikle relatives and is hoping to see them at the June 5 celebration to re-dedicate the gate.
“We don’t see each other often and some of the younger generation I have never met myself. I think everybody is excited about this.”
The Mount Pleasant Cemetery Board and the Meikle family are inviting the entire community, with special invitations to those who have family resting at Mount Pleasant, to please join them at the cemetery on June 5 at 2 p.m.
Both are hoping this will be the beginning of a new connection to the cemetery that will see families come on board with annual donations to help maintain, this beautiful burial ground.