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Georgina worked ‘diligently’ to purchase historical burial grounds

Georgina purchases Johnston Cemetery in Pefferlaw
June 28, 2022
Amanda Persico

The town’s rich history just got a little deeper.

Recently, Georgina acquired the historic Johnston Cemetery in Pefferlaw for $17,000.

The town has been working “diligently” to designate the historic site and to purchase the plot of land, said Mayor Margaret Quirk. “I am pleased we were able to do this for the Johnston family -- and for Pefferlaw, given its historical significance to the community,” she said.

In early 2021, the property owner applied to the province’s burial registrar to have the Johnston family graves dug up and moved to the nearby Cooke’s Cemetery.

The Johnston Cemetery is a 1,000 square-foot plot of land nestled on Pefferlaw Road beside the Pefferlaw Fire Hall and is the final resting place for Robert Johnston, one of two Johnston brothers to first settle in the little town in the 1820s.

Capt. William Johnston, a British naval officer, erected the dam and built mills along the river, while his brother, Robert, owned a farm and opened the town’ first general store. William and his family are buried on a private plot of land in the historically designated Auld Castle Cemetery in Sutton.

The Johnston burial ground, located on a small portion of what was once Robert’s farm, is enclosed by a historically significant wrought-iron fence believed to be the work of famous local blacksmith, William R. Griffith.

Last year, the town’s heritage committee started the historical designation process for the Johnston Cemetery in Pefferlaw. And recently, the town was able to purchase the historical plot of land, which was owned, along with the adjacent mechanic’s garage, by an investment firm.

There was an outpouring of support in keeping the historical cemetery where it lies.

“Once you get rid of history, you never get it back,” said Georgina Historical Society member and Pefferlaw resident Karen Wolfe at the time. Any heritage structure in situ has far more value where it is than if it’s picked up and moved.”

The Ontario Historical Society also opposed the closure of the cemetery siting “the original choice of the Johnston family to select this particular location for burial should be respected and the historical integrity of the site maintained,” in its letter to the burial registrar.