Book review: Sacred Ground Loyalist Cemeteries of Eastern Ontario

Last month, I was pleasantly surprised when an author reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing his new book. Based on the title alone, I was very interested. The book is called Sacred Ground: Loyalist Cemeteries of Eastern Ontario, Volume One by Stuart Lyall Manson. This book, published in 2021, focuses on Loyalist cemeteries in Eastern Ontario, and the stories behind the Loyalists buried there. 

For the book review this month, I wanted to share my thoughts about Sacred Ground. Canadian cemeteries and history is something I am always interested in reading. I will also admit that while I read along, I created a map of all the cemeteries explored in this book. I would love to visit them all one day. So who or what are loyalists, you may be asking. Loyalists were American colonists who supported and fought for the British cause in the American Revolutionary war. Thousands of these Loyalists settled in British North America during and after the war. They left an indelible mark on Canada.

From Global Genealogy:
“This book describes six notable loyalist cemeteries situated in the Eastern Ontario counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. They are: Trinity Anglican (Cornwall); St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic (St. Andrew’s West); Iroquois Point (Iroquois); Knox-St. Andrew’s United (Bainsville); Maple Grove (Cornwall), and the Pioneer Memorial (South Dundas). 

In each chapter the author discusses in depth, an individual cemetery containing United Empire Loyalist mortal remains. Numerous cemeteries in this region contain many such burials… all of the sites described in this book also contain non-loyalist burials. An historical overview of each of these burial grounds, along with biographical information on specific loyalists with particularly-remarkable stories. The locations chosen for this volume are based on geographic distribution, religious diversity, and other factors. The book is based on rigorous primary and secondary source research.

Sacred Ground: Loyalist Cemeteries of Eastern Ontario complements other publications that list burials or transcribe tombstone inscriptions. Those publications are important resources. This book supplements that basic data with greater historical context and additional research into the lives and experiences of these men, women and children who laid the foundations of modern Ontario.” 

As mentioned above, the book is broken down into six chapters, each focusing on one loyalist cemetery. Each chapter provides an interesting look at the cemetery itself, and it’s history, along with the history of the notable loyalists buried within it. The stories of the cemeteries themselves are fascinating, and made me want to visit them to experience them for myself. The history of the cemeteries are deeper explored when we delve into the history of the Loyalists laid to rest within them. In the life stories of the loyalists, we also get a look at broader historical aspects, such as slavery and colonialism. This book is extensively researched and it shows; it’s filled with old illustrated maps, letter samples, and many lovely gravestone photographs. 

I enjoyed this book immensely, and found it very engaging. There are some incredibly interesting histories and stories in this book, like the Pioneer Memorial in South Dundas. It isn’t a cemetery per say, but a memorial made from bricks collected from the buildings demolished before the flooding for the Seaway project. This memorial is the new home for the tombstones of those who are buried in the now sunken cemeteries. They moved the headstones, but didn’t move the bodies. There are quite a few historical gems like that, to be found in this book. I am looking forward to the next volume! I would highly recommend this book to those interested in Canadian and Loyalist history, as well as genealogists and those interested in tombstone mysteries. 

I am always searching for cemetery-related book recommendations. Please feel free to share in the comments. If you are an author and have a cemetery-related book you would like me to review, please reach out at hello@chantallarochelle.ca. I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

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