In years before Hamilton became a city, fire was a constant danger and resulted in the loss of many early buildings. This lead to bylaws being pass around 1846 that encouraged stone or brick construction.
Prior to the late 1840s and early 1850s, almost all buildings were constructed of wood. Allan MacNab’s Dundurn Castle (1833-35) and maybe James Durand’s Belle Vue (1805) were the rare examples of stone or brick buildings in the Hamilton.
When we look at today’s historic churches, we are often looking at a later building that is much larger than the original church. Not only are these buildings later, but they are made out of different building materials.
Another example of a possible family cemetery is that of Dr. William Case 1776-1848). Dr. Case was Hamilton’s first Doctor and practiced medicine from 1809 to his death on March 29, 1848.
The death of Dr. Case posed a bit of problem for his family and friends because he never attended Church and as a result, he could not be buried in any of the local Church cemeteries.
George Hamilton (1788-1836) and he had been a close friend to Dr. Case. As a result, it was decided that Dr. Case could be buried in a private cemetery, located where the then Cherry Street came to an end at the foot of the Mountain. The Cherry Street was later renamed Ferguson Avenue and Dr. Case remains were removed to the Hamilton Cemetery in December 1950 as the result of the Claremont Access being reconstructed.
To date, I have seen no reference to family cemetery on the former George Hamilton estate, but there must have been something since George Hamilton died in 1836. I have also seen no references of George Hamilton’s remains being relocated to the then York Cemetery, now Hamilton Cemetery, which opened in 1847.
A grave is a statement about place and family. A grave say that we have roots in this landscape and these are the people who care about me, both in life and in death.
For Hamilton pioneers, the farm cemetery was a physical expression of those values.
In the Binkley 1805 Cemetery, there is statement about a young girl named Jane Ann, who briefly lived and then died on Feb 23, 1848. On the tombstone her family wrote:
“This lovely child, so young and fair,
Called home early by death,
She came to sleep like a flower,
In Paradise the last hour.”
“Cemeteries are key elements in the creation of memories, heritage, and attitudes towards the dead and the dying.” Deathscapes, Memory, Heritage and Place in Cemetery by Katherine Cook(2011), M.A. Thesis.
The Binkley Hollow Cemetery is another beautiful graveyard located across the valley from the Binkley Pioneer cemetery.
In the campus archives, there is an interesting note by an unknown author that was written in the 1940s.
According to the story, Hiram Binkley had a quarrel with his family, likely the father, and he decided to start his own cemetery in 1854.
The Binkley Hollow Cemetery holds 34 monuments and overlooks the same valley and former marsh as the 1803 Binkley Cemetery.
As mentioned in an earlier posting, cold winters can pose a challenge to burying the dead, and this was also the Hiriam’s own burial.
Hiriam instructed his family to bury him facing east so he could welcome the day of resurrection and that he be sealed in cement.
Maybe he feared grave robbers or maybe he feared that his estranged relatives might want to re-bury him in the main family cemetery. Whatever the reasons, his wishes could not be followed because the winter was very cold and the cement would not set.
As far as can be determined, Hiriam still rests at peace, waiting judgement day with his side of the family.
Marks Binkley died in 1805 and had the following inscription placed on his gravestone:
“When I am dead and buried,
And all my bones are rotten;
When this you see,
Oh think of me,
Lest I should be forgotten”
In the early years, Hamilton consisted mostly of farms. As a result, graveyards were typically devoted to one family. Located on the edge of the property where farming was difficult. The graveyard was often on a hill or overlooking a valley. The land was either sandy or offered good drainage.