photos by: Ken Watson, 2004
|McGuigan Cemetery is one of the oldest burying grounds along the Rideau Waterway. The earliest known grave in the cemetery is that of Samuel McCrae, an early pioneer into this area, who died on November 15, 1806. The cemetery operated until about 1892. In the picture on the left, simple fieldstone markers are visible in the foreground. One of the plaques on the site reads "Despite the scarecity of records, it is believed that many died of pestilence, principally malaria, during the construction of the Rideau Canal. From 1826 to 1832, they were mostly Irish labourers and the children of pioneer settlers. Their graves were marked only by simple fieldstones, some of which remain visible."
For some of the more poignant deaths, those of children, efforts were made to erect regular gravestones. The photo on the right is the marker for Margaret Davidson, who died at 2 years of age on either November 5 (Brockville Gazette) or 13th (gravestone), 1829. One of the stonemasons working on the canal carved the likeness of her face on the headstone.
The Brockville Gazette on December 4, 1829 reported:
"DIED at the Rideau, near Merrickville, on Thursday the 9th ult. Francis Ivers, son of Mr. R. Frayne, Master Mason of that part of the Rideau Works, and belonging to the Royal Engineer department, aged 18 months.The graveyard was very run down by the late 1970s. It was the efforts of Dr. Robert F. Legget and the Merrickville and District Historical Society that got the cemetery restored in 1979/80. The Society continues to do a great job at maintaining the site. For another photo and more info about the cemetery see: McGuigan Cemetery.
Technical note: I found that the infrared photograph of the cemetery worked well to put the headstones into stark relief against the background. The IR photos also show more detail than natural light photos on weathered headstones. Unfortunately at the time of day (~2 p.m.) that I was shooting the photos, I had to shoot almost directly into the sun to get the photos of Margaret Davidson's headstone. Much better results would have been obtained with the sun at a better angle.
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