Milne Cemetery (Edwards Gardens), Toronto

Back on December 31st I wrote about the Gibson family and Hogmanay. In that post I talked briefly about Eliza Gibson’s family, the Milnes. They owned land at what is now Edwards Gardens at Lawrence and Don Mills, leaving behind a small family cemetery that is now part of the park.

Winter days with no snow are one of the perfect times to explore sites that are often covered by foliage so yesterday I stopped by Edwards Gardens (aka Toronto Botanical Gardens). I knew approximately where the cemetery was and used GPS on Find A Grave to take me directly to the site, which is fenced off but completely unmarked.

I followed the winding trail down to Wilket Creek and there, high on a ridge in the dappled sunshine, was a single marker. I walked past it and looked up at the fenced ridge and a pair of cardinals flew to a tree between me and the cemetery. Cardinals are often seen as the messengers or spirits of the departed and I certainly felt that weight of history in that moment. Milnes – you are not forgotten! As they flew off, a rock tumbled out of the hill and landed on the pathway. I could not see where it had come from or where it should go, so I picked it up. I’m not sure of its message or meaning but I knew it was important.

I clambered up the hill, no longer on the marked path, probably breaking some of the park rules, but it allowed me to get as close to the stone as possible. As I carefully approached on the tricky terrain with broken rusty wires all around, I realized there were several smaller markers around the large stone and four or five really old gravestones that have been collected together in a single block and laid flat on the ground.

There was a little black squirrel who went under the fence and into the yard. I asked him to read me the names on the stones, but he was no help.

I went back on the path, viewed the cemetery from the top trail and then clung to the fence on the other side as I climbed down through mud to see if I could get a view from here. My first illegal view was definitely the clearest.

I really couldn’t believe that there were absolutely no signs indicating this was a cemetery. I imagine a lot of people come to Edwards Gardens and have no idea. I walked around some parts of the site looking at the old barn and greenhouses. There are references to the Milnes on both a historic plaque and a modern trail marker.

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I have been interested in history for almost as long as I can remember. My mother and grandfather took me to see the King Tut exhibit at the AGO in 1979 when I was six years old. An interest in “Dead Canadians” might seem a far distance from ancient Egypt, but not really when you consider that both relate to the study of funerary practices and remembering the deceased.

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