As one passes through St. Aidan’s gates, making their way into Hillside Cemetery, they cannot help but be struck by the tranquility that surrounds them as they gaze upon the gently rolling hills and well-maintained lawns and gardens. For on this uniquely Canadian plot of land rests the stories and memories of hundreds of folks who have called Lakefield their home for various periods of time. It is at Hillside where the history of Lakefield College School can come alive, as does the history of the many village folk who are buried there. This cemetery mirrors Canada’s history, from its gallant servicemen and women, well-read authors, headmasters, farmers, lawyers and “everyday citizens”. This is a gem of a cemetery that can teach us much about ourselves and the institutions that we love.
Hillside was created in 1886 when Christ Church cemetery in Lakefield closed. The land was purchased from the Ross Lumber Company who fortunately had not logged this parcel of land. The lane that we use today as the main entrance to the cemetery was called Casement Lane as it led to Robert Casements farm at the top of the lane. William Casement, the villages Postmaster for decades is now buried in the cemetery in a very distinctive vault beneath what were the two oldest, immense sugar maples on the grounds. Not too far from his grave is the very distinctive cross of Catherine Parr Traill. Canadian author Charlotte Gray speaks of Catherine as typifying “the pioneer woman who displays extraordinary courage, resourcefulness and humour while surviving the rigours of Upper Canada in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was Catherine who gave the name “Douro Lilly” to what we today know as the trillium. Her love of nature was evident from the many books she penned.
Hillside has become a not for profit, nondenominational cemetery. Over its nearly 135 year history Hillside has typified the burial practices of a rural Ontario community. In the early days a cross and Bible verse would have been placed at the head of the grave. But as the years have passed, the headstones have become less religious and more secular. Today as one walks amongst the graves, they would see headstones inscribed with crossed hockey sticks, transport trucks, favourite pets, canoes, the head of a walrus or even the Starship Galactica. The more informal nature of our present society is captured by these more secular monuments. In the past visitors would often place a potted plant, bouquet of flowers, a single rose or pebble on the headstone. This practice continues today, but now family and friends leave more personal items such as bracelets, poems, pictures or ten cent pieces.
A cremation area has now been added that consists of large natural stones that have attractive family plaques placed on their front. These have continued the tradition of maintaining a high aesthetic quality to the cemetery as well as catering to the wishes of our present generation.
Hillside Cemetery is yours to discover. Feel free to get in touch with Hendren Funeral Home to learn a little more about the history of this community treasure.