Restoration of West Wawanosh pioneer grave site
Doug Miller of Victoria, B.C. completed a mission, Oct. 3, 2013 when he restored the grave marker on the grave of his great-great-grandparents on the farm of Ted Cooper east of Lucknow.
James and Jennet Purves, who came to Canada from Berwickshire, Scotland, via New York, took up 200 acres from the crown on the 14th Concession of Wawanosh in October 1850.
Less than a year later, on Sept. 7, 1851, James died. There were no community cemeteries at the time so he was buried in a wooded area near the line fence between the two farms, one of which had been settled by their oldest daughter Jane and her husband John Sherriff.
Jennet died less than two years later on July 8, 1853 and was buried beside her husband.
The graves were originally marked by wooden crosses but later, when money allowed, they were replaced by a marble headstone.
As more of the land was cleared, a little grove of trees was left around the burial site. Successive generations of the Purves family farmed the land for more than a century but in 1963 Harold and Edith Cooper purchased the “Sherriff” farm, the north half of the originally Purves homestead. About the same time, a great-grandson of James and Jennet, who owned the north half of the farm (now owned by Wim deBoer), removed the headstone from the grave-site and put it in his barn, leaving the grave unmarked. The Coopers, however, continued to respect the grave-site for the next 50 years.
Miller first saw the grave-site in the 1950s while visiting with Fred and Margaret McQuillin, his uncle and aunt, who lived nearby. In more recent years he has become fascinated with genealogy and family history and felt the grave should be marked.
Not knowing what had happened to the original stone, he planned to purchase a small, engraved marble marker and, with permission from Ted Cooper, who had taken over the farm from his parents Harold and Edith, place it on the grave.
When he contacted Cooper he was told how the original stone had been found, broken in three pieces, in the barn on the former Purves part of the farm. He suggested the old marker be put back in its rightful place.
Miller did research and found an epoxy glue to mend the stone and it was slipped into a stainless steel channel to provide support. The stone is held upright by a concrete base.
Miller and Cooper completed the work on Oct. 2 and 3.
Purves family descendents have been part of the community for 160 years. Perhaps the most honoured was James and Jennet’s son, Robert, who was 17 when he arrived with his family. He soon took up land of his own across the boundary in Kinloss Township which included what was for many years called Purves’s Lake (now Paradise Lake). He was reeve of Kinloss from 1865-67 and 1869-83, and warden of Bruce County from 1880-1882. He lobbied to have Lucknow incorporated in Bruce County instead of Huron.