Sunday, 28 December 2014

Buckingham Church & Cemetery

My pen & ink study of the Buckingham Church

Long before the days of social media, strip malls and Sunday shopping, churches were the hub of social and spiritual activity for many communities.  Churches come in many shapes and sizes.  In towns and cities they could be grand and majestic, and in the country they were small and quaint, but by far no less regal in stature.  

Many residents of Grey Highlands will no doubt recognize this beautiful little brick church which sits proudly on County Road #31 not far from the hamlet of Rob Roy.  It is known to the locals as the "Buckingham Church" in honour of the family who donated the land for it, and whose ancestors now lay quietly at rest in the cemetery grounds.  The parcel of land on which the church and cemetery sits was donated by pioneer farmer John Buckingham in the 1850's.  The first church on the property was actually constructed of logs and sat just west of the present brick church.  It was one of the first churches to be built in northern Osprey Township.  

Life in pioneer times in the country meant that there were few luxuries and churches were no exception.  The congregation sat on backless wooden benches, and as there was no organ available they began their hymnal singing with the assistance of a tuning fork.  In the summer of 1891 the construction of a new church was begun with great sacrifice of time and money.  Bricks were brought up the mountain from Collingwood by horse and wagon, and by the spring of 1892 the red brick church was finally completed.  One of the residents who had dedicated so much to the construction of the new church was Thomas Hawton. Unfortunately he passed away in 1892 and his was to be the last service to be held in the original log church on the property.  Three weeks later, the new red brick church opened for services.

The first minister was the Reverend Hugh Brown, and there was a rotation of ministers as the Buckingham Church was part of a group of five churches on the "Maxwell circuit."  There was a profusion of organists too, and Mrs. Robert Buckingham and Susan Hawton were among these.  As life in the early 20th century didn't have the luxury of central heating, young Norman Buckingham would stop by the church on his way home from school to light a fire so that it would be warm for prayer meetings.  For this he was paid the sum of five cents which was actually quite generous for the time period. 

Over time in the early 1900's, many of those who worshipped at the church began moving west in search of new land and new beginnings.  At the same time new churches were springing up in adjacent townships, and both of these factors served to draw membership away from Buckingham church.  By the early 1950's only a handful of parishioners remained, and the last regular service was held at the church in 1952.  Many of the intrepid pioneer families who were instrumental in the creation of this beautiful church and who once worshipped here now lie peacefully at rest in the cemetery in both marked and unmarked graves.  

This wonderful little church sits a concession over from our cottage and I have visited it many times over the years.  Twenty years ago the original pump organ still proudly graced the altar area, but it has since disappeared. It is a serene place to visit, to walk through the cemetery and ponder the lives lived and now resting in solitude amongst the cedars. We visited the church on Christmas Day, and I was pleased to see that not only had the ceiling been repaired, but that the overall condition of the church seems to have improved since my last visit a couple of summers ago.  As a tribute, Howard and I did an impromptu selfie sing-a-long of "Silent Night" as a tribute to the little church.  It has been the target of needless vandalism over the years, but hopefully folks will learn to respect this humble but magnificent structure.

Buckingham Church, front entrance.

An interior panorama.

Early 20th century central heating.

Windows to God showcasing Mother Nature and her glory.


  1. This is the church and cemetery at which my immigrant HAWTON ancestors, along with three of their sons, worshipped and are buried. Thomas Hawton, one of those instrumental in the construction of the present church, was my great-great-grandfather. As you stated, his funeral was the final service to be held in the old log church in 1892.
    In 2012, we held a Hawton Reunion worship service at the Buckingham Church, with about 100 Hawton relatives from across Canada attending.
    The Buckingham Cemetery Committee, of which I'm a member, has worked diligently to upgrade the interior of the church. The new ceiling was installed, and the floors have been cleaned. We'll continue to work at keeping it as neat and clean as possible.

    1. The Buckingham family occupied the farm across from us on Osler Bluff Road when I was a kid, and I used to help them with their farm chores such as haying, milking cows, collecting eggs and believe it or not - churning butter! They were wonderful folks, and I still think of them often. Their ancestors are buried at the cemetery, and I've always been fond of the church. I visit it often to take advantage of the solace, serenity and great acoustics. I have been watching the improvements they've made, and think it is wonderful that it's being properly preserved. It's too bad that someone stole the beautiful organ that used to be there. It was quite similar to one my grandma had and we used to play on together.

      Thanks for your comment! :)