Due to the Talbot Road, proximity to lake shipping and talk of the coming railroad, Morpeth prospered. By the late eighties (1880s), it was clear that more land was needed for the burial ground. In 1894 the trustees purchased two fifths of an acre from Walter H. Boughner and his wife Sarah for one hundred and fifty dollars. William Coll, Francis Guyett and Collins Handy were the signing trustees to this original document.
The first minutes in existence of a cemetery meeting is dated May 27, 1903. Called by the trustees for the purpose of electing a new board, this meeting took place in the Workman’s Hall at 8:30 pm with forty in attendance. Mr. E. Bury was chairman and Mr. A. Leibner secretary. The minutes of the previous meeting were read and note the date, May 13, 1893, ten years prior indicative of a slower pace of life and less need for recorded proceedings. A large attendance at meetings usually indicates that some contentious issue has arisen. Sure enough the board resigned and elected were Ben Smith, George Handy and Mat Wade. Why, we will never know but this lost story is an example of the silence of the hill.
Mr. Augustus Leibner served as the secretary treasurer of the board for many years. There is no record of when he accepted the position but we know that he faithfully kept these accounts in his very neat and precise hand until his death in 1912. An immigrant from Germany, he was by profession an undertaker and furniture maker. His combined home and business was located just west of what now is the Plaza restaurant. His granddaughter, Mary (Leibner) Phillips, related some of her informative and humorous childhood memories to me. She recalls staying overnight with her grandparents and if a death occurred how he would take the boards and equipment from the closet off the front hall and would go to the deceased’s home to prepare the body. Funerals were held from the home or church in those days. She remembers well the black team of horses, scotch collars and the covered black hearse. As a child she and her young friends played with their dolls in this vehicle. Her grandfather buried many poor residents of the area at no fee. Mr. Leibner was Morpeth’s only undertaker.
Back now to the story woven into the records these being excerpts. In 1904 a motion authorized the erection of a railing to tie horses to at the funerals. On now to 1907. There must have been an old rotting work shed on the Smith Grave Yard as a motion was made to remove it. Later that year there was some controversy over damage to the grounds while erecting a stone. Mr. E. Thatcher, Chatham monument dealer, and Mr. W. Coll were sent letters assessing each two dollars damage. Mr. Thatcher’s reply stated that he and the caretaker, Mr. D. Clark, had previously disagreed on the upkeep of the Thatcher plot and contended that Mr. Coll did the damage when he brought the gravel by team into the cemetery. At the same meeting trustees Smith and Handy decided that the roadway was too close to the ravine and very unsafe in the winter and moved that it be widened two rods and a fence erected. Mr. Wade declined to have any part of it. This made a very colourful year.
The records of 1912 report the death of Mr. Leibner and the election of Mr. Wm. E. Galbraith as a trustee. The trustees, Wade, Smith and Galbraith felt the need for more property but were unsuccessful in making a land purchase from Mr. Henry Trudgen. He, Trudgen, had offered land to the board for two hundred and fifty dollars which they rejected as being excessive. Here is a quotation in part from the annals: “After a great deal of desultory talk that amounted to nothing—-.” Very neat Mr. Secretary! He is unknown and didn’t sign the minutes.
No meetings were recorded from 1912 until 1916. In February of that year a meeting was called t fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Wade. Mr. Wm. Smith was elected but by May he had moved to Thamesville necessitating another election. As the result Mr. E. K. Bury became a trustee. It was felt that there should be some regularity to the meetings and it was resolved that an annual meeting should be held in January henceforth.
The minutes of 1916 speak of a John Barker. Glen Smith tells that a small building owned by this man was moved from the lake, opposite the Hill farm now Wes Thompson’s, to the cemetery. It was located on the right side of the drive in the Mason plot right up by the ravine and served as a tool shed for many years. Mr. Barker became caretaker.
In 1919, as usual, funds were short for maintenance and it was decided that each plot holder be assured one dollar per year upkeep. The need for land was still unresolved. Mr. Trudgen presented a proposition to the board. He would plan out two rows of plots on the west side of the Boughner purchase. Each lot was to be 14 by 16 feet with three foot walkways every second lot and a four foot walk on the west side. These plots were to sell for twenty dollars each. With each sale the trustees were to pass the money on to Mr. Trudgen, agree to fence the area and keep it free of weeds. Not having the money for an outright purchase, the board accepted his offer.
There were thirty six plots in this plan (eight graves each) and at twenty dollars a plot it would bring Mr. Trudgen seven hundred and twenty dollars for the same area offered in 1912 for two hundred and fifty dollars. Not bad.