Old St. Catherine’s Cemetery
While Walter Shaw was Premier, The Guardian interviewed him about the Old St. Catherine’s Cemetery, also referred to as Shaw’s Cemetery. I found that clipping and it is rich with details. Here are some interesting excerpts from the article:
The cemetery opened in 1808-10, shortly after the first pioneers arrived from the Western Scottish Highlands and Isles. It was a non-sectarian burying ground where people came from miles around to bury their beloved dead.
The land was set aside by Walter’s grandfather Malcolm Shaw who emigrated from Mull in 1806. The old homestead was located about 300 yards above the cemetery overlooking the river. At the time of the interview, he said the depression in the ground was still visible.
The first burial from the new arrivals was a man named MacArthur, from the Riverdale and Churchill branches of the family, in 1810. There is an old story that three MacArthurs occupy the one grave – the original pioneer, his son and grandson. Walter says this could have easily happened as grave markers were usually a small sandstone which could have become displaced, or a small stick that would quickly decay. The graves of many early pioneers have no marks of any kind to locate their exact positions, although most have well-placed headstones.
Shaw said that people from Rocky Point to Bonshaw, Nine Mile Creek to Canoe Cove, Clyde River to Churchill and from the borders of Emyvale are buried here. There is even people from Wood Islands buried here including a relative of the Hon. Cyrus MacMillan.
Because of the lack of roads and the difficulty of travel through the thick forests, homesteads were located near the river to take advantage of river travel facilities, Walter said. The cemetery was located near the river bank for the same reasons. Funerals came by boat in summer and by ice in the winter. The old road that the funeral processions took could still be seen in Walter’s time, and a portion of the new road follows the old trail.
Previous to 1915, Walter said his father Alex would organize an annual cleanup of the cemetery and he knew the exact location of all the graves and plots and could even identify them in winter without a chart when an interment was necessary. After his death, the cemetery was neglected until there was organized effort made by his family and the community in the 1930s to maintain this community treasure.
His closing words describes this old cemetery as “a lasting and beautiful memorial to those who founded it and who sleep in its embrace.”
Editor’s note: The MacMillan was likely Margaret MacMillan who was married to Duncan Darrach. The MacMillan’s settled in Wood Islands. We featured a story on the MacMillan clan earlier here.
List of those buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery – link here.