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Here lie many of Perth's most famous residents

By Chris Must, Perth EMC
Staff Writer

EMC Lifestyle Elmwood Cemetery is normally an unassuming place. The cemetery's name is not even visible from the road when the gates are open, which they are all but one day of the year - Halloween.

For the first time, the historic cemetery will be a featured attraction during Doors Open Perth, scheduled this year for Saturday, June 18. About 10,000 have been interred over the past 140 years in the 46-acre cemetery, including many who have featured prominently in the community's history.

"Everybody in here's important," stressed Wayne Harris, secretary treasurer for the cemetery board. It's just that some have achieved a great measure of fame or notoriety than most.

The cemetery was established under the auspices of the Perth Cemetery Company, registered March 27, 1872 with the County of Lanark under the 1850 Cemeteries Act of Upper Canada, said Harris. It is located off Dufferin Road, just north of Highway 7. Some of the individuals interred at Elmwood actually died prior to 1872 - they were disinterred from the Last Duel cemetery, and reburied.

The cemetery is home to a large, impressive monument to Lieutenant Alexander W. Kippen of the Canadian Intelligence Corps. Born in Perth on Aug. 16, 1857, Kippen was the first native of the community to die in combat. He was killed in action on May 12, 1885 at the Battle of Batoche, Saskatchewan (then part of the Northwest Territories), which put an end to the Louis Riel-led North-West Rebellion. Only eight soldiers on the government side were killed (and 22 wounded) in the fighting, but Kippen was unlucky enough to be one of them. Historical accounts indicate that he was on the front line of a charge by the Royal Grenadiers, 100 yards from the Metis rifle pits, when a bullet struck him in the head. An inscription on his monument at Elmwood states that it was "Erected to his memory by his fellow citizens, Masonic brethren, and comrades in arms." Thanks to a private donation, the monument has been professionally cleaned and restored to pristine condition.

Wartime Art

The grave of Lieutenant Alexander W. Kippen, Elmwood Cemetery.

Another large monument, topped with a Celtic cross, marks the final resting place of Rev. William Bell (May 20, 1780-Aug. 16, 1857.) Bell, a Presbyterian, was the first minister of any denomination to come to the newly founded Perth Military Settlement. He arrived in Perth from Edinburgh, Scotland in 1817, the year after the settlement was founded. Bell was born near Glasgow. He had little formal education before apprenticing as a carpenter, but his life took a dramatically different course when he enrolled in university and became a minister. When the Scottish settlers in Perth requested a minister, Bell was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh and assigned "the pastoral charge of the Settlement on the Rideau in the Province of Upper Canada." Bell's diaries over the next 40 years chronicle the rough life of a pioneer in the new settlement including frequent journeys to church meetings in Prescott and Brockville in blizzards or scorching summer heat. Bell also played a prominent role in ending the career of Perth's military superintendent, Daniel Daverne, who eventually fled to the United States amid accusations of fraud and corruption.

Also found at Elmwood is the grave marker of the famed "Marks Brothers," prominent local actors Thomas Marks (1832-1904) and R.W. Marks (1855-1931).

One more interesting memorial is the monument to Dr. J.F. Kennedy, who died in 1917, and his wife, Sarah D. Henderson. She was a relative of the Rev. Thomas Philip Henderson (1817-1887), who played a key role in the invention of the telephone. According to a plaque fixed to the top of the Kennedys' gravestone in memory of Rev. Henderson: "Native of Scotland, friend and advisor of Professor Alexander Melville Bell, he persuaded that family to come to Canada in 1870 to restore the health of their son, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.

"Mr. Henderson retired from the Baptist ministry in 1877 to pioneer the telephone business throughout Canada as Melville Bell's first general agent. In 1880 he entered the newly-formed Bell Telephone Company of Canada where he served faithfully until his death."

Launched in 2002 by the Ontario Heritage Trust, the aim of Doors Open Ontario is to help communities rediscover their own heritage. Across Ontario this year communities will once again open the doors to hundreds of fascinating heritage sites including commercial buildings, courthouses, theatres, museums, places of worship, and natural heritage sites. Admission is free. Many of the participating sites are normally closed to the public, so Doors Open provides a rare opportunity to explore some hidden gems