Mount Forest Cemetery walking tours benefit local foodbanks

WELLINGTON NORTH – Morgan McCannell was sitting in on a cultural roundtable meeting when she found northern county residents had a particular interest in walking tours.

Once a summer student and later administration department employee, McCannell was already digging into the lives of Mount Forest residents long since passed when she thought to combine walking tours and her own research.

“I was looking at death records just cross referencing really old ones and then you start to kind of look into who these people were,” she said, learning about the who’s who of early settlement records.

Speaking to the importance of record keeping and journaling, McCannell said records were “surprisingly good”—even in the 1870s.

Township records were supplemented by records kept at the Wellington County Museum and Archives.

“You could kind of connect it and see families and their faith and where they were living where they were moving from, so there’s just a lot of stories to unpack,” McCannell said.

The cemetery tours took place on Sept. 25 and on Oct. 2, 9 and 16, with two tours per day.

Admission was by monetary and food donations, benefiting Mount Forest and Arthur food banks.

“We had a really good turnout and we had really bad weather for most of the tours, and people still came, which was really nice,” McCannell said.

The tours began and ended at a chapel on the cemetery, built in 1947.

McCannell talked about the town, early settlement days, and stopped at five gravesites, like those of the Yeoman family.

“I did a little bit of digging and found out they owned a lot of the mills that were in Mount Forest,” McCannell said. “Everyone was so overlapping in their stories … which is unique to a settlement town in the late mid- to late-1800s.”

Nearly $1000 was raised with $497 donated to both the Arthur Food Bank and the Mount Forest Community Pantry.

Along with the cash came two large boxes of non-perishable goods split between the food banks.

“The food we put to use right away,” said Mount Forest Community Pantry representative Donna Leach.

The cash was used to purchase gift cards from local grocery stores that can be given to clients.

“We didn’t go out and search this out … they decided they wanted to give the proceeds to us, which is very nice,” Leach said.

The list of family’s turning the pantry each month is growing, according to Leach, especially during the past three months.

Although McCannell is moving on from her temporary position with the township, she will be returning next month for another set of walking tours yet to be announced on the township’s social media channels.

Focusing on Mount Forest’s historic downtown, the tours will take place in mid-December.