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Sudbury’s buried history

Much of Sudbury’s rich history is buried – literally- where Regent Street meets Lorne in a sleepy plot of land surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the 21st century.
The Eyre and Anglican cemeteries are the final resting places of pioneers such as Frederick Eyre, Moses Gatchell and William McVittie.

Members of the Sudbury and District Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society have been working for several decades researching and recording lives lived for families interested in tracing their roots, and for the community at large.

This is a labour of love. Genealogists throughout the province do this valuable research without any government funding.

Their work is particularly important because the information on old headstones fades or can be damaged.

In parts of the Anglican cemetery nearest the church and closest to the street, there are no headstones. Branch members checked Anglican Church records to determine who is buried in that area. The records show that there are about 200 graves belonging to babies and young children.

Ashley Thompson, writing on the 1890s in the book Sudbury Rail Town to Regional Capital says, ““In spite of the doctors and hospitals, infant mortality was common; so too were sickness and death, especially from typhoid fever.”

In 1893, Dr. William Howey became the town’’s first medical officer of health – his job was to enforce a bylaw keeping farm animals 70 feet away from any home.

The Anglican cemetery was established when Frederick J. Eyre set aside land from his farm to be used for this purpose. He died Sept. 19, 1889 – a time when the city’’s population was around 1,800. Most of the population was male from all parts of Canada, the United States and Europe. Many different languages could be heard on the rough and ready streets of the railroad town.

Eyre’’s is the earliest dated tombstone in the Anglican cemetery. It is marked by a distinctive gunmetal coloured monument that has withstood the test of time. It can be found near the church.

Eyre was an early prospector who discovered one of the first mines for the Canadian Copper Co. Many of his descendant”s still live in Greater Sudbury.

After Frederick’s death, his widow, Clara, married Alexander McLeod. Many Eyres and McLeods are buried in the same area.

In 1906 Clara Eyre McLeod gave the Diocese of Algoma an additional plot of land next to the existing Anglican cemetery, and in June of 1932, the heirs of Clara Eyre McLeod gave the City of Sudbury an additional 3.4 acres of land which became the Eyre Cemetery. (The Eyres are buried in the original Anglican cemetery.)

Not far from the Eyre/McLeod area of the Anglican Cemetery is W. J. CresseyÂ’s gravesite. His wife was an Eyre. Cressey died in 1946 at the age of 75. He worked at the Sudbury Journal newspaper and bought it in 1918 from James Orr when he retired. Shortly afterward Cressey closed the newspaper but retained the printing business.

Sgt. Fred A. Davidson is buried in plot No. 326. The Sudbury Police erected a monument to Davidson who was shot by two men on Riverside Dr. in the line of duty on July 17, 1937. He died several days later. He was 37 at the time.

The suspects, Victor Gray and Tom Ponomanenko, were subsequently cornered by police near the Spanish River railway bridge and gunfire was exchanged. Gray was killed in the shooting. Ponomanenko was charged and convicted of murder and hanged in Sudbury at midnight Jan. 22, 1938.

Davidson was from Wales and had no known family in Canada.

Today it is hard to see where the Anglican Cemetery ends and the Eyre Cemetery begins. The earliest tombstone in the Eyre cemetery marks the graves of Hugh Jones who died on New YearÂ’s Day in 1890 at the age of eight, and his brother, James, who died a week later at the age of six.

A familiar name in the Eyre Cemetery is Gatchell. Moses Gatchell, who died in 1950 at the age of 89, is buried here. The area of the city known as Gatchell in the West End is named after his family.

In 1903, he and his brother purchased two parcels of land on Copper Cliff Road, now known as Lorne Street, from the town of SudburyÂ’s first mayor Stephen Fournier. Moses was born in Fenelon Falls in 1861 and had worked as a camp cook, bush worker and river driver.

The Gatchell farm was used to grow oats, corn, wheat and potatoes. The Gatchell brothers had a herd of 146 dairy cows which supplied milk to residents in Copper Cliff and Sudbury.
Gatchell was a councillor for McKim Township from 1907 to 1909 and was reeve from 1929 to 1933.

In 1916, he began to subdivide the area. He named the streets after Sudburians who died fighting in the First World War.

Not far from the Gatchell monument, you’;l find the name Lockerby. Robert Lockerby died in 1916 at the age of 82. His family came from Scotland in 1890 and he was in the farm implements business.

His son, George, was reeve of McKim Township from 1934 to 1938. The Lockerby area of the cityÂ’s South End gets its name from this family.
William McVittie, a business pioneer and one of the community’’s first millionaires, is buried near Lockerby.

McVittie owned the area’’s first power plant on the Wahnapitae River with Frank Cochrane, who would later become mayor of Sudbury and a prominent provincial and federal politician.
The power plant’s first customer was the Town of Sudbury. Its second customer was the Mond Nickel Company.

In 1928, Ontario Hydro purchased Cochrane’’s shares in the company for slightly more than $1 million, and two yearÂ’s later, bought McVittie’’s shares for roughly the same amount. McVittie died three years later in 1933 at the age of 81.

Earlier McVittie discovered the Kirkwood and Gertrude Mines in 1892 and sold his mining property, known as the Frood Extension, to the Mond Nickel Company in 1911.
The story of Greater Sudbury does not end here, of course. There are 23 civic cemeteries in the city and one privately owned one, the Parklawn. Each one tells its own stories.

Information for this article was supplied by The Sudbury District Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.

The group meets from September to June at the Older Adult Centre, 140 Durham St., on the third Monday of the month at 7 pm.
The branch’’s collection of books, papers, cemetery transcriptions, and periodicals are housed at the Sudbury Public Library main branch at 74 Mackenzie St.

This article appeared previously in Northern Life.

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