Who owned the Peter Street South cemetery? Your first thoughts might be that this was the St. James’ Church Cemetery, but that cemetery was about two blocks further north on the southeast corner of Peter Street and Coldwater Road.
On June 19, 1873, the following article appeared in the Orillia Packet and Times: “I would like to call the attention of those who have the management of the Village to the slovenly appearance of the graveyard on Peter Street between Colborne and Elgin Streets. This graveyard is in the heart of the Village, it occupies a very beautiful position and is so situated that every stranger visiting the place must inevitably pass by and notice it … Is it possible that the brush and log-heaps which still encumber that small piece of ground are the remnants of the original ‘clearing-off,’ and is there no one whose business it is to look after the dilapidated fence, unsightly weeds, and dank grass that give the whole place such a neglected and truly disgraceful appearance?”
Some early settlers were buried on their farms. Were people buried on private land in Orillia? Where were early settlers buried before St. James’ Anglican Church Cemetery opened in 1841? The first burial there was a Presbyterian!
About 1872, when village council banned further burials within the limits of Orillia and in 1873, St. Andrew’s-St. James’ Cemetery was created by those two churches on Coldwater Road across from Zehrs.
The August 19, 1886, Orillia Times reported that about 1871 there were “two burial grounds in the town.” One belonged to the Church of England (St. James’ Anglican Church Cemetery) and one belonged to the Presbyterian Church.
The March 5, 1880, Orillia Packet reported that a few bodies were removed from the old Presbyterian cemetery in 1879 and that about 50 burials remained. The interments at St. James’ Church were also later moved to other cemeteries.
In 1947, when excavations for the Bell building on the southwest corner of Peter and Colborne were begun, forgotten burial sites were unearthed and the police took possession of the remains.
“The First Hundred Years of the Orillia Presbyterian Church, 1851-1951,” recorded that a Presbyterian cemetery had been “obtained on Peter Street” about 1855. These reports confirmed that the Presbyterian cemetery on Peter Street South was in use from about 1855 to about 1873. The mystery was solved!