Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wilson Hill Pioneer Cemetery, Bradford West Gwilliambury

Wilson’s Hill Cemetery, aka First Essa Presbyterian Church Cemetery is located on the south east corner of Hwy 27 and 12th Line in Bradford West Gwilliambury. In 1858 James and Mary Wilson who were members of the First Essa Presbyterian Church, granted one acre of the land, which was part of the Wilson Farm to the Trustees of the First Essa Congregation for the use of a cemetery.  Although the area had been used for a cemetery for some time as the Wilson Family Farm burial ground, there were some 38 burials that predate the deed.  The first burial being that of a child, named Elen Sutherland in 1839.

The cemetery is located at the top of a steep hill which overlooks an area that was called the Big Swamp.  Since the cemetery was located at the top of a hill, it was said that when the casket of a deceased person was carried up, it would usually take two stops before the funeral party reached the actual cemetery.  The entrance located on the level land, on 12th Line was deeded to the Trustees by the Dept of Highways, later known as the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.

The First Essa Congregation merged with the Cookstown Congregation in 1957, this was also the year when the last burial took place in this cemetery. Fittingly, it was for William McClain Dinwoody, the grandson of the founder of The First Essa Presbyterian Church and one of the first settlers in Essa County.

The cemetery was neglected for many years and in the 1970’s Neil McBride, a fourth generation descendant of the founding Dinwoody family, undertook the restoration of the grounds.  There is a plaque that was placed by his wife and daughter in 1985 near the entrance commemorating his work. 

Unfortunately, time has once again taken its toll on this area.  Many of the tombstones are damaged or weathered to where their descriptions are no longer legible, and once again over growth is a problem.   Basic maintenance is maintained but that is all.  

In the summer the cemetery is hidden from view from the road side. Only during the winter months can some of the monuments on the hill be seen. It is regarded as the most visited pioneer cemetery in West Gwilliambury


  1. I remember going up to cut the grass with my grandfather (JR Dinwoody) It has been many years since I have visited Wilson's Hill as I have left the area. it is sad to hear it has fallen into disrepair again. He worked with Neil to help maintain and fought hard to get the township to take up the torch to provide basic maintenance sadly it sounds like this this site needs another to pick up the torch and run with it.

  2. I believe a relative of mine is buried in this cemetery. Do you have a listing of all of the people buried here?