By Helen Solmes and Charles Killin
A cold winter’s day in March seemed like an odd time to drive the back roads of Meaford in search of graveyards. Still, all said and done, Pete Russell, who chairs the Meaford Chapter of the Tree Trust, committee member Charles Killin, and I approached it as an adventure into local history.
Our goal that day was to locate as many of the 30 cemeteries as possible and identify legacy trees on properties that might be candidates for professional arborist care. The Municipality of Meaford website lists eight active and 22 inactive cemeteries. Of the eight active cemeteries, three are municipally administered: Lakeview, Duxbury on the 25th Sideroad and St Matthew’s at the intersection of Gr 18 and Gr 29. The other five are administered by church or community governing bodies. community – Leith, Annan, St Michael’s on the 4th concession north, McLean south of Bognor on the Holland Sydenham town line and Storey on the GR 112 near Strathnairn.
The 22 inactive cemeteries range in size from a single headstone or a group of headstones. Six of the inactive cemeteries are within the boundaries of the Land Force Central Area Training Centre. The Canadian Armed Forces are responsible for their maintenance.
We have located most of the cemeteries we set out to find. Most of them were deep in the countryside of Meaford, and our silent reflection on the old headstones reminded us of the hard and often short lives our first residents must have had. We found a handful of trees on these beautiful properties that were suitable for Tree Trust work.
Tree Trust is a non-profit charitable project run by volunteers at six locations in Ontario: Meaford, Central Wellington, Stratford-Perth, Toronto Island Community, City of Blue Mountains and Region of Waterloo. Tree Trust’s overarching mission is to preserve legacy trees, those great carbon-capturing giants that beautify our landscapes; provide shelter and food for wildlife; provide shade, inspiration and reflection; and on a more pressing note lately, playing an important role in the fight against climate change.
The Tree Trust’s Meaford Chapter, officially launched last September, is committed to identifying and preserving giant old trees on public land. They find the funds to hire professional arborists who rejuvenate and extend the life of these amazing trees, one by one.
The community’s initial response to Tree Trust Meaford has been very encouraging, even despite the pandemic. It is evident that the residents of Meaford have a deep attachment to some of the great old trees in the municipality, especially those in the cemeteries. To date, five sugar maple trees in Lakeview Cemetery have received care and can now expect to live hundreds more years. Three of these five have been restored through private donations in memory of a family member buried at Lakeview. One of them received financial support from the Rotary Club of Meaford. Two more are planned for attention in the spring.
The connection humans have with trees is difficult to explain, although many have tried it in different ways: in poetry, in song, in art, in historical accounts and anecdotes, and in terms of physical health. , spiritual and mental. In 2016, an exceptional craftsman, artist and instructor, the late Stephen Hogbin, published The Extraordinary Tree Project, a celebration of the natural and cultural value of trees in Gray and Bruce. In his book, Hogbin compiled 56 tributes to extraordinary trees as submitted by landowners and county residents. The book includes notes from a series of lectures devoted to the theme of man’s relationship with trees. It is worth taking a look to answer the question: How important are trees?
Next: The Great Old English White Oak of Leith
For more information about Tree Trust, visit treetrust.ca