Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Toronto, Ontario

From my trip to Ontario last week, I have a double Tombstone Tuesday story.

From correspondence many years ago with my Uncle George, I knew that my 2nd great-grand uncle, Alex Ritchie was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. I even had an old (and slightly fuzzy) picture of the stone that Uncle George had sent. So, really, why did I even want to go??

Well, my only plan for Thursday was to go from Thorold, ON to Oakville, ON. Since that is not a very long trip, and I couldn't get into my hotel room until 3:00 anyway I thought I might as well go into Toronto and visit Mount Pleasant Cemetery. I even had the information regarding the section and plot for the stone so I should be in good shape.

When I got there, I couldn't make sense of the notation O-61-3 that I had from Uncle George. The only sections I saw were all numbers - and this was clearly the letter O. So, I ended up having to go into the office and ask - good thing for me! The lady there looked up Alexander Ritchie and told me he was indeed buried in section O - which was across the road. Since we were chatting I asked, almost off-hand, if there was a James Ritchie, who died in 1891, buried in the cemetery. Yes, she had an entry and I started to feel very excited - I'm sure you all know the feeling! - and then she said, "He's buried with Mary Davidson Ritchie."

Well, that was NOT right! My great-great-grandfather was married to Jane Swinton so this didn't seem like the right person at all. It also made me question the death date and information I had been given. Although I have a copy of a death entry I have to admit that I had always wondered if it really was "my" James ~ James Ritchie being such a common name. There was nothing on the death registration that I could point to as tying it to my James. With a sinking feeling that I'd been wrong about this, I asked for the location of the stone. If nothing else I would find it and then possibly the information on the stone would tie to the death registration and I would know it wasn't the right person.

Armed with the information and a map I went over to the correct part of the cemetery. It was a drizzly, misty day but the cemetery itself was really beautiful. It was full of old trees and well groomed. The rainy weather just made everything lush and green. I know that most people reading this will understand when I say that I was really enjoying just driving around and admiring this cemetery. It had a very peaceful feeling.

Without much trouble I found Uncle Alec's stone. He was buried with Romeyn Lawyer - who I'm told was a lawyer and a business partner and Romeyn's sister Adelaide.

In Memoriam
Romeyn Lawyer
Died March 6th 1915

Adelaide Lawyer Willson
Died December 10th 1908

Alexander Ritchie
Died October 3rd 1924

Now to try and find James. Fortunately he was buried in section N so it was very close. Unfortunately most of the stones I was seeing in this section were old, moss-covered and almost totally illegible! I walked around, my feet getting wetter and colder by the minute, but just couldn't seem to orient myself with the map. I didn't know if I was even close to the spot that was marked. Still, I kept looking. Finally, I found a marker on the ground with a number...I used that to orient myself and kept looking...found some more numbers on the ground. Now, I knew I was at least moving in the right direction. There were 2 completely illegible stones - I even took pictures of them thinking that maybe those were them [if Mary had a separate stone.]

But I still kept walking ~ you know that feeling that you are so close to something? I just couldn't leave. I found another marker in the ground and knew I had to be almost on top of it! I kept looking at the ground for more numbers..and then suddenly there is was - a stone that was set in the ground. It read, "In Memory of Jame Ritchie, Stonecutter, Who Died Oct 5, 1891, Aged 51 years, Late of St. Andrews, Scotland, KIND LOVE"

That just HAD to be him! Now mostly I don't get very emotional about my cemetery finds, but those words, "Kind Love" made me cry. Suddenly I could see a woman in a strange country with 6 children, whose husband had just died. I still don't know what happened after that, but this stone made me feel the loss in a way I can't quite explain.

As I was pondering this, I remembered that Alex was married - and his wife was Mary Davidson! I don't know how that escaped me originally. Now it all made sense and made me even more sure that I had the correct person. Alex would, most likely, have seen to the details of his brother's burial and then later also buried his wife there. I did not see any indication of a stone for her.

Sorry for the long story...but I was beyond thrilled to find this!!

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