August 18, 2018, marked another amazing day and another great milestone for the SilverShoe Historical Society (SSHS) and for the history of Clearview Township. The inactive Old Zion Presbyterian Pioneer Cemetery, located on the outskirts of the town of Stayner, was re-dedicated and officially unveiled to the public, following an intense six-week overhauling. Dating from 1833, this Pre-Rebellion cemetery was the first to be established in Clearview Township (known then as Sunnidale Township) and contains 75 burials of some of the Township’s earliest pioneers and officials. The last recorded burial took place in 1901. Then, as time moved forward, like so many others across the province, the cemetery fell into serious disrepair. The municipality assumed legal ownership of the abandoned cemetery in 1974 and initiated restoration of the site. Fallen and deteriorating grave markers were collected and secured in a semi-circular cement base, flowerbeds were planted along the front, and sunken graves were backfilled, in keeping with accepted methods of the time. Regular grass cutting was maintained over the next 43 years; otherwise, little interest was paid to the ongoing preservation of the site. Over time, the people and a wealth of crucial history, once again, faded into obscurity, hidden beneath a dense overgrowth of weeds and barely recognizable from the busy highway, only a few feet away.
In late October 2017, SSHS Executive Director, Janie Cooper-Wilson presented a proposal to Clearview Township Council requesting financial assistance to return the cemetery to an aesthetically pleasing state and to preserve what remained of the site. Council, realizing their legal and moral obligations, looked upon the proposal with favour and voted to set up a $5,000 fund specifically earmarked for the preservation of local inactive cemeteries within the jurisdiction of Clearview Township. The organization was subsequently awarded $2,000 from this fund to accomplish the task. Serious difficulties were encountered immediately after the project was put in motion on June 20, 2018. Luckily, the possibility of grave invasion was not an issue; the difficulties were quickly resolved and work was completed just in time for the scheduled re-dedication on August 18th. Encouraged by the success of the preservation project, the SSHS intends to draft an application for historic designation of the Old Zion Site.
The Rt. Rev. Jeremy Sanderson of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, Nottawa, Ontario, officiated at the Old Zion re-dedication ceremony. Rt. Rev. Sanderson also officiated at the 21st Annual SSHS Memorial Candlelight Service at Bethel-Union Pioneer Cemetery in New Lowell. The lives and contributions of all of Old Sunnidale’s early pioneers were honoured in a cross-cultural, non-denominational ceremony, which included several respected speakers and talented musicians—many of whom travelled some distance to participate in this very special event before a capacity crowd. The evening also included a moving tribute to the late, Edlin Earle, SSHS Co-Founder and Charter Member, who passed away on November 9, 2017, following a long illness.