History of the Mausoleum to 1973

JUNE 30, 1973

My first experience with the interior of the McGregor Ross "vault" was as a pall-bearer at my Grandmother Ross's funeral in March of 1948. Her casket was placed upon a gurney and wheeled from the hearse to the hill south of the "vault". Most of the mourners stood on a rise on the far side, but I positioned myself in front of the Vault but to the north of the gurney while the minister proceeded with the eulogy. Very few persons, other than the minister and myself, noticed that the gurney began to move forward slowly. I walked three paces forward and placed my foot against the right front wheel of the gurney, and the minister continued his monologue with only a slight hesitation.

I was almost two months short of my 18th birthday, and I recalled that a hacksaw had been required to remove the lock to the "vault". In 1950, a group including their son Jack Ross and grandson J. Douglas Ross (myself) inspected the "vault", which contained three pine boxes on racks at the east side and two pine boxes at the south end. It was planned to encase the five boxes in cement. There was still no solution to replace the necessity of using a hacksaw on the lock to gain entry to the "vault".

The term "vault", to the best of my knowledge, had been mostly used to this point in time , and the term "crypt" was heard less frequently. Perhaps general definitions contained in most provincial acts and regulations will assist us.

"columbarium" means any structure used for the storage of the ashes of human remains;
"crypt" means an underground chamber located under the main floor of a church or other building;
"mausoleum" means a structure wholly or partially above ground used for the burial of human remains, but does not include a vault;
"vault" means a structure wholly or partially above ground used for the temporary storage of human remains pending burial or other lawful disposition.

I would observe that the term "vault" had been properly used until 1950. Thereafter, the most appropriate term would be "mausoleum".

I recall the summer day in 1953 that my father, John "Jack" C. A. Ross, took me to the Bank of Montreal in Oshawa and withdrew $200, the balance of the funds collected from family members. He placed the money in my hand and announced that I now had full responsibility for "the family vault in Waterdown". That fact was underlined by my Aunt Phoebe Jean McGregor Ross when I moved to Toronto and stayed with her for a number of years. Her envelopes of instructions always referred to "the family vault in Waterdown", since she had never observed its transformation. She even left a reminder to buy a new lock for the iron door to replace the old one which, by tradition, was cut with a hacksaw to open it. Phoebe's wish to be cremated was based upon her decision that no further large pine boxes with remains should be placed inside the "vault". She also made a written suggestion that the door could be bricked in at my discretion. Am I such a terrible person, as a conservationist, to have set this suggestion aside so that legitimate descendants of the original individuals within the mausoleum (including their spouses) might also be cremated and have their cremains placed therein.
On June 24, 1973, my aunt Phoebe J. M. Ross died, and I was entrusted with the private entombment of my aunt's ashes (enclosed within a wee casket-shaped urn measuring 6"X6"X14") in the vault on June 30, 1973. At that time, I noticed that a brass plaque stating "McGregor Ross", one name above the other in that order, was missing from above the entrance. I can say that the plaque was present when I served as one of the pall bearers at my grandmother's funeral after she died on March 19, 1948. My grandmother's casket as well as those of her parents and husband had been subsequently encased in cement inside the mausoleum, according to plan.

A complete cemetery record for my Aunt Phoebe would include the following:
Phoebe Jean McGregor Ross - late of Toronto, ON,
aged - 74 yr. 10 mo., born in Churchill, ON, on
August 21, 1898 - died in Toronto General Hospital
on June 24, 1973. All arrangements were made by
her nephew, J. Douglas Ross, who was named as
her sole executor, trustee and inheritor in her will.
The funeral was conducted at the Turner and Porter
Funeral Home at 2357 Bloor Street West in Toronto
with Doug Porter, Rev. T. R. Davies and Doug Ross
present. The ashes were transported to the McGregor
Ross Family Mausoleum on Saturday, June 30, 1973.

It was the custom to saw through the lock with a hacksaw whenever there was a funeral, so I was pleased that the Cemetery Custodian had replaced the lock on Saturday, June 30, 1973, when I arrived with my Aunt Phoebe's ashes to be placed inside the family mausoleum. I believe that his name was Mr. Ferguson, but please correct me if I am wrong. He had received information from Doug Porter of the Turner and Porter Funeral Home at 2357 Bloor Street West in Toronto that I would be arriving in Waterdown. [Doug Porter and I were fellow members of the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto at that time.] I expected to receive an invoice from the Cemetery Custodian for any expenses involved, but nothing was forthcoming.
Mr. Ferguson and I had an interesting discussion about his son, who was involved with the IMAX film production. He recorded the details about my aunt in a small record book before we walked over to the vault to place Phoebe's urn on the headboard shelf. I noted the disappearance of the McGregor Ross brass marker above the door. I believe that I also mentioned the possibility of constructing a compartmentalized container for the permanent storage of ashes in the mausoleum.
When I attended seminars held by the Ontario Genealogical Society at the University of Guelph in 1982, I met Mr. Robert Kelly who was the chairman of the Waterdown Cemetery Board. We discussed the fact that only my aunt was mentioned in relationship to the "crypt" at the Old Union Cemetery on page 33 of his book. Since I didn't have full names and dates of the others with me I couldn't correct the record in detail, but I trust that these pages and my recent contacts with Sylvia A. Wray, Archivist for the Flamborogh Archives in Waterdown, will set things straight.

For data about the descendants of Peter McGregor, please CLICK HERE. Since this is the family mausoleum of Peter McGregor and Reverend John A. Ross, the descendants of the latter's wife are already noted in this link to the significant section of the McGregor genealogy.

An outline of The Mill Street Walk (60 minutes) in Waterdown is to be found at It records the caretaker's use of two pioneer grave-stones from the Old Union Cemetery for the sidewalk to his cottage, as follows:

The East Flamborough Township Hall - As a sign of Waterdown's importance to the township, the Council of East Flamborough bought a site for a town hall in 1856. A year later this magnificent classical two storey building was opened. Built of local quarried limestone, it was designed by local builder Walter Grieves and carpenter John Graham. Today it serves as the village library and, mounted inside are the grave-stones of two early Waterdown settlers, Alexander Brown and his wife Merren Grierson. It is believed these stones were removed from the Union Cemetery when a family monument was erected and were used in a walkway at the cottage of the cemetery caretaker. Discovered quite by chance in the late 1970's when the cottage was demolished, they were placed in the library during Waterdown's Centennial celebrations.

CONCLUSIONS In retrospect, the theft of the brass marker above the door of the mausoleum was an act of vandalism, and all changes to the contents since June of 1973 must be placed in the same category. Permission was neither requested nor granted.

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