Local Historic Sites: Willowbank Cemetery

May 015

P.S. this is the first of my historic site visit posts. This one was done really on the fly, but I promise future ones will have more information and be generally better planned out. Stay tuned!

Last week while going to Gananoque to visit the kitties at the Humane Society, I had the opportunity to stop at Willowbank Cemetery. My reasons for doing this were twofold: one, I love exploring old cemeteries so much that if left to my own devices I’d probably stay in there for three and a half hours and forget to eat lunch; and two, one of my very favourite local history people, Joel Stone, is buried there.

My sister was slightly cranky and wanted to get home, so I had to act fast. Willowbank Cemetery is a sizeable place, and I had no idea where Joel Stone’s grave was located. I also wanted to look around a bit (and we had the perfect day for cemetery-exploring, cloudy with a slight drizzle). Luckily I had brought my camera along, so I snapped a few photos for you to look at…

(my photo)

(my photo)

Willowbank is kind of a picture-perfect cemetery. It’s situated in a gently hilly area and is full of mature trees, giving lots of opportunity for dramatic landscaping, made more so with a crumbling headstone or two. The grounds are overall well-maintained and it feels almost more like a nice park than a graveyard. The location also has an interesting history (especially relating to Kingston), as detailed in the plaque below:

(my photo)

(my photo)

It reads, “This cemetery is located on land granted in 1798 to Loede as a Hessian soldier following the American Revolution and passed to his wife Mary Klein UE on his death. They are buried here in the area known as the old Lloyd family cemetery (Private Grounds).

“Loede and Klein met on Carleton Island at Fort Haldimand in the summer of 1783, and moved across to Kingston in May 1784.

“Their son, John G. Lloyd UE, was the first child born in the new Loyalist settlement of Kingston in May 1784. He was one of the militia members captured in the Forsyth raid on Gananoque on September 21, 1812. He was buried here in 1889 at the age of 105.”

(my photo)

(my photo)

Other important local families are buried here, such as the Brittons – above are only three of their family markers. Willowbank is also an interesting place to look at old headstone designs. I think I saw more than one with a spherical top, as you can see in the photo below:

(my photo)

(my photo)

Some lilies…

(my photo)

(my photo)

This headstone has some strange metal stakes in front of it. Does anyone know what those are? This one is also notable for the “corrected” mistake in the deceased’s name: it was actually McCrone, but apparently the stone-worker didn’t know that…

(my photo)

(my photo)

Anyway, my gut eventually led me to the place I had been looking for: the Stone family plot! However, before I get to that, I’ll tell you about the mysterious other monument to the Stones in Gananoque Cemetery. This article from the Gananoque Reporter goes into the details: Joel and his second wife Abigail were originally buried in a cemetery which closed in the late nineteenth century, at which time their remains were moved to Willowbank. There they have remained since, and as far as anyone can tell, no Stones were ever buried in Gananoque Cemetery.

Yet, there is a large granite monument there which reads, “In sacred remembrance of Col. Joel Stone and Abigail, his wife, United Empire Loyalists who founded Gananoque. A.D. 1792-1799.” Problem is, no one knows who commissioned that monument or why, and no one knows what the dates 1792-1799 mean, either. My own guess is that 1792 refers to Gananoque’s “founding moment” (despite the fact that Stone bought his land in Canada a few years earlier) and 1799… uh, maybe when he married Abigail? Even if that’s true, those are kind of random dates. A mystery to be unravelled!

One thing that Reporter article certainly gets right is that the Stone family graves in Willowbank are “totally inadequate . . . frequently covered with spreading weeds and grass clippings.” I had to clear a lot of grass clippings off the graves so I could read them, and there are no plaques or anything to mark out the spot. Here are Abigail’s and Joel’s headstones (I love the stylized weeping willow at the top of his):

(my photo)

Abigail Stone’s grave. (my photo)

Joel Stone's grave. (my photo)

Joel Stone’s grave. (my photo)

Abigail’s reads, “Sacred to the memory of Abigail Cogswell, Relict of the late Col. Joel Stone, born in Preston Conn. August 13 1750, And died at Gananoque August 4th 1843, aged 93 years. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”

It’s a bit odd that they say Abigail was ninety-three at her death, when she apparently wasn’t quite ninety-three yet – old gravestones are usually really specific when it comes to a person’s age.

Joel’s reads, “Sacred to the Memory of Col. Joel Stone, Born in Guilford Con. Aug. 17th 1749 and died at Gananoque Nov. 20th 1833 aged 84 years 3 mo. & 3 days. An upright and faithful Magistrate a Loyal Subject and an Honest man he was Esteemed and respected by all who knew him. For the last 50 years of his life he resided in this Village of which he was the founder and where his loss will be long mourned as that of a warm friend and Generous Benefactor.”

I wanted a picture of me with Stone’s grave just for fun, but my mother is camera-challenged, so I took this selfie instead (what, you’ve never taken a selfie with a gravestone before?). As you can see the photo didn’t really work out, but I subsequently put it as my Facebook profile picture anyway in the hopes someone would ask me, “Why are you sitting in a graveyard?” No one has so far – I guess for now that secret will remain between you and me and Colonel Stone…

Some heavy fangirling going on. (my photo)

Some heavy fangirling going on. (my photo)

Willowbank Cemetery is located on the north side of Highway 2 about five kilometres west of Gananoque.


4 thoughts on “Local Historic Sites: Willowbank Cemetery

  1. if someone had nearly completed their year — for instance like Abigail, who was only a week or so from completing her 93rd year, they would say aged 93 or in the 93rd year of her life. (your birthday number means you’ve completed that many years — you’re not born aged 1 🙂 )

  2. Willow Bank is my family’s cemetery we have placed our loved ones there since about 1960 . Our family has a rather large plot since there are so many of us .
    We love the fact that it is a country setting , they are a litte lax on the matinence there but overall is quit a beautiful place with lots of trees & beautiful flowers around the many unique head stones.

  3. You know for an “on the fly” post this one was pretty detailed and all around great so 😛 I’ve never actually gone exploring in an old cemetery. (If I lived somewhere more historic than Mississauga I might have…) Willowbank looks really beautiful and peaceful.

    “He was buried here in 1889 at the age of 105.”

    Wow! What was his secret?

    Haha camera challenges and selfies with gravestones can only be filed under #historybuffproblems.

    Looking forward to your other historic site visits!

    • Aw thanks! Now my next ones have to measure up to this standard, haha. You should definitely explore an old cemetery if you get the chance! Sometimes there are really old forgotten ones out in the countryside which are the best, but often city cemeteries have some older parts to them too. Yep I was worried that some workers who were doing stuff at the cemetery were going to see me taking selfies and be like “???” but it’s all in a day’s work for a history nerd… 🙂

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