Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery
Update on the Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery and Cenotaph
The GVHS wishes to advise its members that the Society’s board has taken the decision to transfer the ownership of the Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery and Cenotaph to the Municipality of Chelsea. The transfer request was approved by Chelsea Council in October 2017, conditional on the completion of some capital and maintenance projects by the GVHS, as described below. The official transfer is expected to take place later in 2018.
The GVHS first acquired the cemetery in 1966 from its former private landowner. It is located at 587 Highway 105, measures some 100 by 150 feet, and is part of Lot 11, Range 9. Early records refer to the site as "Churchs' Cemetery," as it was the burying ground of the Church family.
Private Richard Rowland Thompson, Boer War hero and the only Canadian recipient of the Queen's Scarf, is buried here beside his wife, Bertha Alexander. In 2001, a cenotaph was installed to commemorate Chelsea's war dead from World Wars I and II. The Cemetery was added to the Quebec government's register of historic sites in 2012.
Since assuming ownership, the GVHS has promoted recognition of the cemetery and maintained its grounds for safe public access. As well, the GVHS organizes an annual Remembrance Day service at this site.
In 2016, the GVHS received a generous $25,000 legacy from the late Past President Carol Martin for improvements to the cemetery. A plan is now in place for the disbursement of these funds, including the installation of a classical-design fence, the removal of several unsafe and diseased trees, and the completion of some overdue maintenance to improve drainage, level the ground, and repair the two stone pillars at the entrance. This work will exhaust the legacy and meet the condition required by the municipality before it accepts ownership.
From the time of the official transfer going forward, the municipality will take over the insurance and maintenance of the Pioneer Cemetery and Cenotaph. These elements had been of concern to the board, and significant considerations in the decision to propose the transfer of ownership. By approving this transfer, the Society has ensured the perpetual care of the cemetery.
We will continue to work with the municipality to organize the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph, as well as acting in an advisory capacity on matters related to the cemetery, similar to the role the Society carries out with the other municipal cemetery, the Protestant Burial Ground in Old Chelsea.
The Chelsea Cenotaph at the Pioneer Cemetery honours the lives of those who were lost during active service of World War I and II. The annual November 11th Remembrance Day ceremony in Chelsea is held at the Pioneer Cemetery at the grave of Private Richard Rowland Thomson.
History of the Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery
Gardner and Jared Church, Americans from New England, obtained lots to the east and west of this site in the 1820s, and subsequently members of the Church family obtained this property from John Maxwell. Members of the Chamberlin family located on its north and south boundaries and John Chamberlin's marker not only bears the earliest date, 1837, but shows that the families became linked by marriage.
The 14 monuments commemorating 31 persons represent about half of those actually laid to rest here. By the 1880s, neighbours as well as kin of the Church family were using this cemetery, but it fell into disuse in the 1920s. The Gatineau Valley Historical Society obtained the property in 1966 and it was named the Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery in 1989 when it was designated a historic site.
Richard Rowland Thompson, Boer War hero and the only Canadian recipient of the Queen's Scarf, is buried here beside his wife, Bertha Alexander. A cenotaph commemorates Chelsea's war dead from World Wars I and II, and an annual Remembrance Day service organized by the Gatineau Valley Historical Society is held here each November 11.
The following have monuments in this cemetery:
Wm. H. H.Jared
Bertha Alexander (wife of R. R. Thompson and R. Kramer)