Our History

Milton's Evergreen Cemetery, the last resting place for more than 8647, is often the focus for grief, but it is also an outstanding example of Milton's community care. For more than 130 years the original ground, first carved from a farm on the south-eastern limits of small-town Milton, has been nurtured by caretakers, supervised by administrators and overseen by volunteer Boards exerting the best of stewardship principles and maintaining its original non-profit intent.
Today's mature trees and shrubs, monuments of stone, benches and gardens are a sharp contrast with the early field plowed for sowing wheat and burned off to reduce the stubble. The park-like setting of Milton Evergreen Cemetery is carefully maintained with the benefit of equipment those earliest caretakers could only have dreamed of as they toiled to dig the early graves for $2.
The Cemetery's beginning was not auspicious or the result of protracted municipal debate. It originated as a community's response to a concern. In November 1880 Mayor D.W. Campbell called a public meeting to consider two important local issues; the need for a fire engine and the need for grounds for a public cemetery. The fire engine remained on the municipal agenda for some years but the need for a cemetery was met by individuals taking action. They formed "The Milton Cemetery Company" on 13 December 1880, by signing up as shareholders and paying $5 a share towards the $1000 authorized capital.

The purchase of 10 acres from a farm, near the outskirts of the town, followed the election of the first Board of Directors. Long-time merchant, George Smith was named president while grocer and postmaster Isaac Cartmer was named secretary-manager. As well, the first Board included representative members of the community: merchants W.H. Lindsay and Henry Watson, doctors L.H. Bennett and David Robertson, foundry operator Joseph Brothers and lawyer Duncan McGibbon.
In 1880 Milton's population was under 1,500. It was located in a rich agricultural area and it was the county administrative centre. A small cemetery, on the banks of the Sixteen Mile Creek, which had seen its first burial in 1824, had room only for those who had already purchased family plots. As the community anticipated growth, fostered by the recent completion of two railways, it was also necessary to plan for cemetery space.

The first burial in the "new" cemetery was that of Mrs. Ellen Freeman, age 31. Her husband was H.H. Freeman, who lived a further 60 years, reaching the age of 91 in 1938 before he was buried beside her in Lot 1 Block 1. Two daughters, Louisa Kate, 15, and Ellen Harriett, 21, predeceased their father and were buried close to their mother in 1889 and 1890, victims of "consumption." H.H. Freeman, during his time in Milton played a role, as seen later, in the continuation of the cemetery organization. He was also a member of the Milton Band, playing a piccolo, and of the Milton Poultry and Pet Stock organization. He moved to Guelph in his later years.
The present location of the cemetery was not the first choice of directors. They originally had in mind a four or five acre site of the Robert Mills land close to the Anglican Church. Presumably this was not available and the present larger site was the result.

Those early years were not all smooth sailing. Burials continued in the "new" cemetery but the Board didn't meet for a period of fifteen and a half years during which four of the original directors died, three moved away and only two remained in town. It was they, Dr. Robertson and Walter H. Lindsay who undertook to call the necessary meeting to elect new directors and re-organize the group. Isaac Cartmer, the first secretary-treasurer, had died March 7, 1896 and the cemetery finances were mixed in with his bankrupt estate. An attempt to sort that out was not totally successful but new directors elected were W.H. Lindsay, Dr. David Robertson, John Lawson, William Clements, John Hunter, D.M. Harrison, R.L. Hemstreet, Finlay Chisholm, Thomas Henderson who with H.H. Freeman and J. J. Dalton as auditors began anew in January 1897. One of their first responsibilities was to "lega1ize" the site. It was located within the boundaries of the municipality and legislation did not permit burial grounds inside the limits of the corporation. A municipal by-law and approval by the Provincial Board of Health were required to overcome this obstacle. These were obtained.

The pattern of long service by directors was set by that Board. Dr. David Robertson was elected president. He had been a member of the first Board elected in 1880 and was to continue until his death in 1912, a total of 32 years service. Another original director, Walter H. Lindsay completed his term as secretary-treasurer in 1898 but continued as a director. W.B. Clements succeeded Dr. Robertson as president and served for 33 years. In more recent times the pattern has continued. Mike Ledwith served 25 years on the Board with 21 of them as president. And George Hemstreet first appointed secretary in 1910, then secretary-treasurer in 1929, served until 1942, continued as a director until 1951 and then retired "to make way for a younger man." He was 97.

Today's site is the result of forward thinking by Boards of the past. As early as 1901 members were seeking additional land adjoining the original 10 acre site. In 1931 the purchase of one acre was made and in 1947 thoughts of expansion were raised at Board meetings. By 1951 the purchase of a further 10 acres south of the original site, was concluded at a cost of $4,000 from Active Subdivision Limited. It was to be the last expansion of the cemetery site as development surrounded it. It did, however, provide a new access road from Ontario St. and the erection of gates there in 1964.

Those were not the first gates to the cemetery. In 1924 the board accepted the offer of the John Milton Chapter IODE to erect two granite gate posts at the cemetery entrance from Prince St. The gates, twelve feet apart and set back from the street line, served as the primary entrance well into the 1950s and remain in position today. But that wasn't the only entrance to the early property. Walkers approached the cemetery from Commercial St., crossing a foot bridge over the Sixteen Mile Creek. An early avenue of trees in the cemetery property reflects this entrance and the earliest blocks and lots laid out were along this route. The Board authorized construction of a bridge in 1911. Older residents still have vivid memories of crossing the "swinging" bridge. It's not known how long it remained in place as a pedestrian short cut to the cemetery from the core of the town.

Maintenance of the cemetery property has always been a major concern for Boards and the daily task of long-serving caretakers and grounds superintendents. The cemetery had been operating for 20 years when Board members realized they would have to plan ahead to ensure the perpetual care of the grounds. A list of lot owners was made and each was asked for $10 for the establishment of the perpetual care fund. Future lot sales were to include a percentage which would be set aside for the long-term investment and care of the property. The first perpetual care fund report in 1909 indicated a balance of $1,146. Annually Trustees were appointed from the Board to invest the care funds and the first by-law of the cemetery company details the structure of the fund. The Trustees invested in mortgages, hydro and government bonds and regularly added to the capital. By 1956 legislation required that the perpetual care funds be invested by a trust company and so bonds were sold and the perpetual care fund was professionally invested, with only interest being used for the continuing maintenance of the property. Today every grave sale includes a portion that is added to that perpetual care account. New areas of the cemetery have been opened as required but the careful surveys and computer-assisted record keeping of today were not in place at the beginning. In 1899, 18 years after the first burial, the Board named a committee to "find out whether it will be practicable to make and keep a register of all burials made and to be made in the cemetery." Apparently the task was undertaken and in 1900 the Board "heartily praised Mr. Field for the labor and pains he has taken in securing a record of the burials that had taken place in the cemetery previous to 1898." New areas in the cemetery property were surveyed and opened for use progressively. In 1953, shortly after the opening of the newly-purchased section of today's cemetery, a Roman Catholic section was identified during meetings with Father Lardie and a monument was erected. Changing burial practices have also been recognized with the increasing number of cremations.

A columbarium with niches for the placing of cremated remains was installed in 1997 and special plots of ground have been made available for the interment of cremated remains. Additional columbariums have been added to meet needs. The active use of the cemetery is difficult to predict amid the changes, but it currently appears Evergreen will remain an active cemetery for a number of years yet.
Over the years many of the caretakers associated with the cemetery have served long terms. James Morley, appointed in May 1898, continued to April 1929, a period of 30 years. James Timbers in the 1945 to 1969 period was there for 24 years and more recently Bert Porter served from 1967 to 1985, a term of 18 years. Others who filled this important position have been W. Ross, J.D. Arthur, George White, A.J. Higgins, Bruce Kelman, Oliver McPherson, Chris Connors, and Ron Downs. Current Grounds Superintendent is Jamie Rutherford who is assisted by Bill Kats.

Secretary-Treasurers over the years have included Isaac Cartmer, Walter H. Lindsay, W. B. Clements, C.H. Burling, R. Coates, G.A. Hemstreet, John Lawson, R.W. Galbraith, James Blain, J.F. Little, Charles Lecocq, E.S. Byerman, Alex Cooke, Cliff Lewington, Roy Downs, Jim Strain, Anne Newell, Caroline Brodie and currently Reese Lewis.
Equipment has changed over the years. Graves have not been dug by hand for many years. Edgar Howden was engaged in 1966 to machine dig all graves and today the Cemetery staff operates equipment to complete that task. In 1936 the caretaker was, authorized to purchase a lawn mower and small trailer for use in the cemetery and the power mowers didn't arrive until the mid 1940s. Riding mowers arrived in the 1960s with tractors in the 1970s.

The tool shed, built in 1932, remains on the site but just as the size and number of tools has changed so has the need for a larger facility. A double workshop was erected in 1971 and in 1996 a works garage was built. In 2003 Evergreen Crematorium was opened and the original works garage gave way to that facility while a new works garage was built to the rear. The original crematorium building was replaced with a modern facility in 2011.
Citizen involvement in the care of the cemetery recognizes the important place it holds in the lives of countless families. In 1898 the board accepted the offer of Charles Jones to get some maple trees and have them planted. In 1900, the president Dr. Robertson was authorized to supply 50 maple trees and in 1907 the caretaker reported having planted 31 trees including six spruce. Today the care of several of the flower beds in the grounds is undertaken by individuals who take joy in adding to the beauty of the cemetery.

The tree planting and trimming has continued over the years at Evergreen and the fall landscape still benefits from the profusion of sugar maples planted years ago as their leaves change colour. Other varieties have joined the tree population and even as aged trees are removed new ones take their place reflecting the natural cycle of life.
In 1934 the local branch of the Canadian Legion was given permission to erect small crosses over veterans' graves and in 1978 the Legion placed a memorial behind the cairn at the Ontario St. entrance to the cemetery listing the names of soldiers as they died. Regular plantings are sponsored each spring by the Legion as it seeks to enhance the grounds of Evergreen and the flags on the poles at the entrance dip to half mast in recognition of the death of each veteran.

Gifts in the form of bequests or memorials are welcomed in beautifying the cemetery grounds. The first recorded bequest of $500 came from Robert Patterson in 1940. Since then others have bequeathed funds. Some families and individuals have sponsored the planting of memorial trees and the placement of memorial benches reflecting the desire to have the park-like setting continue as a living memorial.

Today's volunteer Board of Directors includes: Fred Finn, Bob Peddie, Douglas Kocher,Olive Bergin, Anne Newell, Marsha Waldie, Tony Graci and Jenny Strain. Directors are elected at the annual meeting of the cemetery board for four year terms which are renewable. (In the mid 1930s it was agreed directors would be paid $1 for each meeting attended but the practice was discontinued at some unknown date.) The volunteer board continues to represent the "rights holders" of Evergreen in their desire to provide for the maintenance of the property forever. The decisions nearly a century ago about "perpetual care" have been adhered to and enhanced while the board seeks to ensure adequate funds will always be available for the maintenance of the property.

Milton Evergreen Cemetery
230 Ontario Street, South
Milton, Ontario
L9T 2M9
Tel: 905-875-1404