Back when I was getting my Masters in History, I had to visit Black Creek Pioneer Village (BCPV) for one of my classes (the same class I wrote my cemetery paper for). After that first visit I completely fell in love with it and hoped that I would one day work there. Less than a year later, I was having a great time in the Tinsmith shop (my first building), and over the next few years I would work in many others. For those of you who don’t know about the village, it’s a living history museum that was set up after Hurricane Hazel (a 1954 hurricane that hit Toronto – Hurricane Florence may have a similar path). The village was set up like many others like it across North America and Europe – as a place to preserve historic buildings that faced destruction in the face of expanding urban needs. But it wasn’t completely set up from scratch, as it was placed around the existing Stong farm – set up by Daniel Stong and his wife Elizabeth Fisher. They built their first house (First House) in 1816, and the main farmhouse (Second House) by the early 1830s. Most of the original farm buildings built by the Stongs are still there, and form the backbone of the village. He did build a church, called the Townline Church, and a small cemetery was placed adjacent to it. That church is now gone (in its place is the Fisherville Church, built in the 1850s and moved the village over 100 years later), but the cemetery remains, where many members of the Stong family, including Jacob and Elizabeth, are buried.
Although the cemetery is quite small, it’s not actually possible to visit it, as the gates are locked. However, it’s fairly easy to see most of the graves (those that remain) and read the inscriptions, save for those on the far end.
I actually found that I could see more of the cemetery from inside the church, so it’s worth going in and peering through the windows from there. The Manse across the street (where I used to work – spent a lot of my time baking ginger cookies or making old recipes of things I had never heard of like Apple Charlotte and apple butter, or working on many a cross-stitch sampler) is not original to the site, but worth a visit too.
Monuments: There are 46 known markers within the cemetery, but it looks like a lot less than that from the outside. There are a few small obelisks.
Grounds: Very small and flat, but inaccessible, which is understandable, considering the number of school groups and other visitors than come here.
Visitors: The village itself gets quite a few visitors daily, and is usually inundated by schools groups on weekdays first thing in the morning and later again after lunch. However, they tend to stick to certain buildings, so are easy enough to avoid. Most other visitors travel in small groups. I was there on a weekday in September, which is a slow time – weekends and the summer season tend to be a lot busier.
Notes: No notes on the cemetery itself, but as a photographer and former employee of the village, I have to say I was disappointed by the disappearance of costumed interpreters who work here (it’s about half of what it used to be). Most of the tradesmen are gone, and this section of the village, which was never busy to begin with, is completely deserted as no interpreters work in any of the buildings in this section (the Mill, the Cooperage, the Manse). As I used to work in the Manse across from this cemetery, I find that more than depressing (although I understand it from a financial perspective). I really hope that they can keep it as a living history museum, and not a dead open-air museum (with no interpreters). It was really disheartening to see so many visitors forced to peer through windows of locked buildings – something I never thought I would see. I talked with a few of them who were (or used to be) regular visitors and they too were disappointed to see what the village has become. Now, I’m not saying this to discourage you from visiting (far from it! They need the visitors), but to suggest you do a little research if you do – going in the summer, or during special events, will make it more likely that more of the buildings will be open and that they will be staffed by interpreters (if that’s what you’re interested in).
Cemetery: Townline Church Cemetery
Established: circa 1857
Internments: Many Stong family members, and other pioneer families from that area. There are 46 markers within the cemetery, but it’s not known how many burials are there.
Location: Northwest corner of Black Creek Pioneer Village (as far from the entrance as you can get – about a 10-15 min walk, if you don’t stop anywhere along the way). Note: there is an entrance fee to access the village (currently $15 for adults). In the past the best way to come here was by car, but now it’s about a ten-minute walk from Pioneer Village subway station.
Hours: The museum is open daily from April 28th to December 23rd. It opens at 10 a.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on weekends. Closing times are either at 16:00, 16:30 or 17:00, depending on the season in which you visit.