For over 180  years, St. Thomas Church has existed in Belleville with its congregation  forming on December 26, 1818. It has the honour of having the first  public cemetery of the area containing people of the Methodist, Roman  Catholic, Presbyterian, and Anglican faiths. But with this honor comes a  bit of a darker past.  Burials at the St. Thomas Church began  in 1821, and ended in 1874 when legislation passed that stopped burials  within the city of Belleville due to it being "unhealthful". After being  destroyed by fire in 1876 and once again in 1975, the church was  rebuilt - but had lost its burial records. In 1989, a decision was made  to build a parish hall. To do this, excavation was required of  approximately 80 graves. After receiving the correct permits, a group  from Northeastern Archaeological Associates was contacted to disinter  the remains. Much of the above evidence of previous burials was long  obliterated due to the passage of time - and to make matters worse there  were no burial records to refer to. Needless to say, citizens  of the area were surprised to find out that there were not 80 graves to  move... 579 grave shafts were discovered containing 607 individuals.  Most were buried separately, but some were stacked on top of each other.  Why would this be? Many theories abound including the towns people  suffering through epidemics, and not having the time to bury the dead in  individual graves. What ever the reason - this discovery has made St.  Thomas''s Church Cemetery one of the largest historical cemeteries of its  size in North America.  But along with this notoriety, the St.  Thomas Church Cemetery has several legends concerning the dead. The  first is concerning a military man named Captain James MacNabe. It is  said that Captain MacNabe was accidentally killed in the rebellion of  1837, and was buried at St. Thomas Church Cemetery. His tombstone is one  of several embedded in the exterior of the foundation walls of the  church. The other is concerning a man who died two months after working  on the construction of the original church in 1818. Legend has it that  Allan Taylor is buried in the middle of the church; and that the spirits  of both of these men walk the cemetery.  St. Thomas Church has  been part of the fabric of Belleville for almost two centuries, and  brings a colorful history to the area. The old Parish Hall (which is  located across from Bridge Street) is privately owned, but the church is  open to the public.

Category: General Articles