More on Bellevue Cemetery
Thank you for the article on Bellevue Cemetery and congratulations to the citizens who are committed to preserving Aylmer's heritage. I can add some details to the history of the Bellevue Cemetery, in particular, and to the history of the City of Gatineau, in general.
First, this area has many burial grounds of First Nations people that by far predate the settler cemeteries. In the City limits, there are two indigenous cemeteries that I know of and in the general area, at least half a dozen more. They are unmarked and should remain undisturbed, if we are to acknowledge our common spirituality and respect for our ancestors.
In the City of Gatineau, the three oldest settlers’ burial grounds that became cemeteries are, the Leamy family burial ground (1st known burial in 1809), the Olmstead burial Ground (1st known burial in 1812), St. James Cemetery (1st known burial in 1821). However, the problem with settler burial grounds is that the first burials may not have had a permanent marker. So, given the way in which the early permanent settlements grew from Wright’s Town, founded in 1800, and then along the Britannia Rd. (Aylmer Rd.) from 1802, reaching where Aylmer would develop in 1804, it is very likely that the oldest cemetery in the settlement would be found in Wright’s Town. Of the two cemeteries there, the oldest known marker carries the date of 1809 and it is in the Leamy burial ground, likeliest to be the oldest known settler burial ground in the City of Gatineau. The Leamy burial ground is located on what was Philemon Wright’s Gateno Farm, his family’s 1st farm, cleared by his son Philemon Junior in 1800. We know that Philemon Sr.’s brother Thomas died in the first year of the settlement but we do not know where he was buried. His marker is in Chelsea but that is most unlikely. The lots next to the Leamy burial ground later on are sold, and that expansion creates the Notre-Dame Cemetery in Hull.
St. James cemetery likely received burials, probably from the beginning of the settlement’s history in 1800. The earliest date on a stone is that of Mary “Polly” Wright, Philemon and Abigail’s oldest daughter but the lot was slated by the Wrights to become the location of the first Church, if the Montreal Diocese allowed, which it didn’t. Few historians believe that St. James cemetery’s use began only with Polly’s burial.
From 1802 until 1821, Bellevue Cemetery’s land belonged to my 3x great-grandfather, Philemon Wright Jr. and his wife Sarah “Sally” Olmstead. It is said that the first burial there was 3 yr.-old Ann Taylor, who died on May 25, 1812. If that’s the case, then the first owner of the burial ground was Philemon Jr. and it would be he that first designated it as a burial ground. Philemon Jr. was also the owner of the Britannia Farm for which the road was named and he was the founder of the embryonic village known as Turnpike End, which later becomes Aylmer. It is notable that with this contribution to our town, his name adorns none of these places.
From 1822 until 1837, Sally’s father, Gideon Olmstead owned the land, so Sally Wright likely gave it to her father after her husband, Philemon Junior, died. Gideon and his wife Esther Andrus are both buried there, plus many children and descendants. Curiously, Sally’s sister Nancy Olmstead married Polly Wright’s widower (mentioned above), James Finlayson Taylor, so I think it is likely that Ann Taylor has some family tie to Polly’s husband. Are you still following?
At Gideon’s death, the cemetery was sold to Mary McConnell’s father, William. Mary McConnell marries Robert Conroy and she eventually buys the cemetery sometime around 1870.
Given all of the above, historically the cemetery should be referred to as the Wright-Olmstead-McConnell-Conroy Cemetery. Today, however, it is simply called the Bellevue Cemetery.