Funds needed for cemetery restoration

Eric McCarthy
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SPRINGFIELD WEST -- Names like England and Wilkinson were once common in the Springfield West/West Cape area. Those names can still be found in the Springfield West Baptist cemetery, but even there they are starting to fade away.

A restoration fund has been established for the Springfield West Baptist Church cemetery. A restoration committee estimates it will cost $40,000 to carry out the necessary repairs to the headstones.

Headstones, including some that have stood for nearly 140 years, have gradually deteriorated or have gotten overgrown with moss. Some are leaning or have loose pieces and need to be repaired.

The Church established the burial ground in the 1870s. Land to accommodate expansion was later donated by Keith MacDougall, Wilbert Currie and John MacLean.

A young boy, Robert Ellis, is believed to be the first person buried in the Springfield West cemetery. That was in 1874. His father, Neil Ellis, was buried there four years later. Names like Harris, Smallman and Ellis are numerous both in the cemetery and in the local communities. Other common names include Jelley, Gay, Silliker and Rix. At last count there were 343 headstones in the cemetery.

A 10-member committee was formed last fall to oversee a restoration project for the cemetery. They have two special celebrations planned, a memorial service on Fathers’ Day, June 15, 2014 to celebrate the beginning of the restoration project, and a second service on Fathers Day, 2015 when the names of all donors who supported the project in memory of or in honour of anyone buried there will be read.

Brian Ellis, vice-chair of the Restoration Committee, said an estimated $40,000 will be needed to straighten and repair headstones and place some on new bases.

Ellis said the cemetery’s perpetual care fund needs to be subsidized by the Church annually just for regular maintenance. That included cultivating and re-seeding in 2012 following damage to the grounds caused by cinch bugs.

Ellis said a special fund is being established for the restoration project and none of the monies donated to that fund will go to regular maintenance.

Committee members are hoping friends and family of people buried in the cemetery will give their financial support to the campaign. Pledges spread out over three years can also be accommodated.

Pledge sheets are available by contacting Ellis at 859-3210 and donations, made out to Springfield West-O’Leary Baptist Church, in care of Brian Ellis, 3092 Route 14, O’Leary RR, C0B 1V0, should indicate in the memo area that the money is for the Cemetery Restoration Project.

Receipts for income tax purposes will be issued for all donations.

Ellis said the committee is hoping donations for this year can be received by April 30 so that restoration work can commence this spring. 

Organizations: Restoration Committee, Springfield West-O’Leary Baptist Church

Geographic location: Springfield West, Rix

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