Kettleby Cemetery Cenotaph marks 100th anniversary

November 4, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Kelly Mathews

One hundred years ago this Remembrance Day, on Thursday, Nov. 11, 1920, on what was then known as Armistice Day, a service was attended by persons from “all over King Township” for the unveiling of the Kettleby Cemetery Cenotaph. It was an overcast but dry day with a chilly daytime high of only 3.3C that afternoon.
The Newmarket Era newspaper carried a story of the unveiling the following week on Nov. 19, 1920. At the unveiling, addresses were given by Capt. (Rev.) J. E. Gibson of Toronto, a former teacher and pastor of Kettleby (of note, the bell in the Christ Church Kettleby bell-tower was engraved with his name); Brigadier-General Robert Rennie of Toronto, and, by “several prominent local men.”
The service took place at 2:30 p.m., with “special music” provided by “local talent.” Earlier that year, a Monument Committee had been established in Kettleby. The Monument Committee chairman was J.L. Doson and the secretary was W.H. Walls.
The cenotaph was made “in honor of the three boys from this village who fell, fighting in Flanders.” The article went on to say “the shaft of granite on which the names of Thomas (Ernest Townley) Watson (age 26), Sherman (Rogers) Brown (age 33) and Russell (Cornelius) Clift (age 20) are carved, has been placed in the centre of the picturesque Kettleby Cemetery, which lies on the top of a hill overlooking the quaint, old village.”
In the article, Russell’s last name is incorrectly spelled “Clifft” and Ernest’s first name is written as “Thomas” which is not inscribed on the cenotaph itself. A small, WWI, German 76mm Leichte Minenwerfer mortar, is also on display beside the Cenotaph – the genealogy of this specific mortar is unknown.
Two and half months prior to the unveiling, in the archived meeting minutes of the Kettleby Cemetery Board from Aug. 28, 1920 we learn that the board had received “a request from the Monument Committee for ground in the Cemetery to erect a Monument as a token of remembrance of the fallen Soldiers on the field of Flanders.” This was moved and carried. It was also noted that “the (Monument) Committee would be granted a plot 16×16 [feet],” and that the secretary and president would “issue a deed providing it is Endowed.” This was also carried. They also determined that three men on the Cemetery Board would form a “Committee to make arrangements with the Soldiers (Monument) Committee” – the three men from the Board included: A.E. Hollingshead, J.W. Elliott, and A.J. Hambleton.
In 1948, the names of the Kettleby boys who perished in WWII were added to the backside of the Cenotaph and are inscribed: William H. Bowler (age 29), Roy E. Benjamin (age 27) and Daniel A. Case (age not provided). Their names were inscribed through the work of the Kettleby Women’s Institute.
The front of the Cenotaph reads: “Erected that their glory may never fade by their fellow citizens of Kettleby and vicinity.”
One hundred years later, their memory ceases to fade and their service continues to be acknowledged by their fellow citizens, albeit differently this year, due to restrictions related to the current, COVID-19 global pandemic, that prevents us from gathering in large groups. Let us not forget.
NOTE: I would like to thank many members of the King community who helped to locate primary-source material on the genealogy of the Cenotaph: Gerry Alletson, Pat Johnston, Louise Di Iorio, Elsa-Ann Pickard, Liza Malloy and Elaine Robertson. There are still many parts to the history that remain unknown, such as, what monument company did the design, build and engraving work for the memorial, what did it cost, who contributes to the financing of the monument, and more. If anyone in the community knows more about the origins of the Kettleby Cemetery Cenotaph, please email

Kelly Mathews, vice-chair of the King Township Heritage Advisory Committee is currently working under commission for the King Township Historical Society to research and write a comprehensive history of King Township. Kelly will be contributing monthly to the King Weekly Sentinel “Heritage Facts” sharing some interesting findings from her research.



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