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Late 19th century Lakefield recalled in CCCM burial records

The burial ground at Christ Church located on Queen Street in Lakefield tells us a story of pioneer life. Jean Cole, former journalist, is an historian and writer with special interest in the history of Peterborough County. She has been a valued member of Christ Church Community Museum for several years. Jean writes:

Christ Church Burial Records

The Christ Church Burials Records covering a span of 30 years from 1855 to 1886, give us an interesting picture of life – and death – in the small village of Lakefield in the 19th century.

During those years there were 120 burial services conducted at the church and 108 were interred in the churchyard, many of them in unmarked graves. Twelve were buried elsewhere, in Warsaw, Smith Township, and in Little Lake Cemetery in Peterborough.

Cause of death is usually given in the record book (except in the three years when the then rector the Rev. John Farncomb decided to omit it) and at first glance one notices repetitions of some maladies seldom encountered in our time, though on further consideration they are infrequent and spread over three decades.

Most frequent cause of death (other than old age) – 22 were over 60 – is drowning; nine are recorded, almost always young men in their teens and twenties, not unexpected in a place surrounded by waterways. Four of these were between the ages of 17 and 20.

The first burial recorded in Christ Church yard was that of 17-year-old Alfred LeFevre who accidentally drowned in Deer Bay. He was buried Sept. 16, 1857 by the Rev. Percy S. Warren.

The toll of infants and toddlers was high – 22 under a year and another seven under two. Of these some were the inevitable ‘debility’, ‘brain disease’, inflammation of the lungs’, etc., but others were ailments that we would feel could be treated and cured nowadays: croup (four), diarrhea (dysentery, summer complaint) (three), teething (three). Five children age five and under died of scarlet fever between 1862 and 1874, and one three-year-old of measles in 1872.

In the middle years – ages 20 to 60 years – there are three drownings, and two gun accidents, and two falls, one from scaffolding. Consumption and lung disease claimed five victims and there were various fevers and other diseases. Three women died in childbirth between 1864 and 1880. After age 60 “decay of nature” and ‘old age’ and ‘dropsy’ are the causes most often given of the 22 listed.

Many of Lakefield’s most prominent citizens were buried in Christ Church Cemetery. The death of Thomas Traill, husband of Catharine Parr Traill, is recorded at age 66, buried on June 23, 1859. Samuel Strickland, brother of Catharine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie, known as the ‘builder’ of the church, died in January 1867, the burial service conducted by the Rev. Vincent Clementi. Margaret Charlotte Warren, wife of the first incumbent the Rev. Percy Warren died and was buried in the churchyard on April 11, 1863 and Mr. Warren returned to England with their young children. He was succeeded by the Rev. Vincent Clementi who was in charge for the next 10 years and was instrumental in the move to build St. John the Baptist Church across the road.

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CCCM has the records of all those buried in the Christ Church burial ground and also at Hillside cemetery and at St. Joseph’s.

CCCM opens July 1 and will be open daily from 1.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. A special exhibit is being prepared by Jean Cole and Lucille Strath who are researching the practice of medicine in Lakefield and Curve Lake covering the period of early settlement to the recent past.

For further information please call Gwen McMullen at 705-652-3024.

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