Self-Led Tours

Welcome to St. George’s Sibbald Point!

COVID-19 Mindfulness - We are delighted you are visiting. Let's keep everyone safe. Maintain distance - please give other visitors lots of room, at least 2 metres/6 feet. Avoid touching communal surfaces, such as memorials, fences and benches. If you do, avoid touching your face and wash your hands thoroughly at first opportunity. Visitor Group Size - Maximum 5 persons.

May 13, 2020 - Visitation inside the church will not take place until the pandemic loses its grip. In the meantime, we hope you'll enjoy this self-led guide. It describes some of the many interesting people resting in the cemetery and provides a few tips about the church building. Bathe in the singing birds, the lake view (no ice!), and the smell of the trees, grass and fresh air. We hope you feel the peace and leave feeling tranquil, perhaps touched by God in your visit.

Once gatherings are permitted, you are welcomed to join us for worship at 8 and 10:30 Sundays -- here from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving; at St. James, Sutton (31 River St.) the rest of the year. Please come back again when the church is open. Watch for posted led tours to learn more about the church, the cemetery and more stories about its people.

Here is the self-led tour!

As you entered…

You walked through what is called a lych gate, the traditional entry to an English-style church. Originally, such structures were designed to shelter the coffin while waiting for the minister.

The story is that the hedge was planted in 1857 by the children under the guidance of Capt. Thomas Sibbald. The children brought the seedlings from the woods, the girls carrying them in their pinafores. The heritage hedge is cut annually by experts, conditions permitted. (If the ground is too dry or will be too cold, severe damage can ensue.) The cost of the hedge trimming is more than the rest of the annual maintenance budget! Unless, of course, we have to work on the embankment. Lake erosion is a challenge.

The 1877 stone church replaced the 1839 wooden church. Stephen Leacock describes its building in his 1947 book The Boy I Left Behind Me. At the time of the building he was a child living on a farm six kilometers to the south of the church:

The whole point of our going to Church on the Lake Shore on summer mornings was that we were allowed, as a special dispensation from the awful Sunday rules we were brought up on, to go in for a swim and to stick around the Lake for an hour or so. The spot was one of great beauty. The earliest settlers had built a wooden church among the cedar trees and in the very years of which I speak it was being replaced by the Lake Shore Church of cut stone that is one of the notable landmarks of the scenery of the distinct. It was being built by the members of the Sibbald family, one of the chief families of the district, whose sons had gone abroad for service in the British Army and Navy and in India; and returning (in our day) as old men enriched in fortune and in experience built the stone church… as a memorial to their mother. A Latin motto (which outclassed me at nine years old) cut in a memorial stone on the face of the tower commemorates the fact. The church was built over two of our summers of church going and swimming. The masons were not there on Sundays, but we could follow its progress every Sunday, in the stones new drilled for blasting, in the fresh-cut completed stones and then in the rising layers of the walls, the upsweep of the tall roof (one Sunday to the next), the glass, the slates, and then, all of a sudden as it were, we were singing in it.

An 18-year effort starting in 1999 has restored the church. We invite you to visit in the warm dry weather when the doors are open (closed during epidemic).

Of interest: each individual stone was inspected by Capt. Sibbald. He missed one with iron. A rejected stone was unintentionally used in repairs. Can you find them? The ox-blood red paint on the doors and trim is the traditional paint. We confirmed its use when we scraped 125 years of paint from the trim.

Walking counter clockwise around the church:

1. The fenced area is the East Sibbald plot, set aside for the early family members who lived at Eildon Hall. (Eildon Hall is now a museum inside Sibbald Point Provincial Park, open in summer months with family furniture and heirlooms the sons sent to their mother from distant lands.) These are descendants of Col. and Mrs. Sibbald. Mrs. Susan Sibbald followed two sons to Canada in 1835, purchasing this land on that visit, then moving here as a settler from Scotland the following year. Her memorial stone is visible, already turned green after its cleaning last year.

Many of these stones (as are many of the older stones in the cemetery) are made with white Canadian marble. This stone is soft and wears easily. It also turns black from acid rain or green from moss. As these lie flat, they are particularly vulnerable. They must be cleaned every year or two. We have found other methods than grounding the faces clean, removing the lichen and mosses without damaging the stone, as prescribed by Tamara Anson-Cartwright. Forty-one memorial stones were gently cleaned in 2019.

At the west end of the cemetery William Sibbald and descendants, Susan's third son and the first of the family to arrive in Canada. Most in the west plot have a connection with The Briars. Other descendants are sprinkled through the cemetery.

2. Immediately to the north of the fenced area is the raised marker memorializing Susan’s daughter, Anne, and her husband, Canon William Ritchie. Canon Ritchie was the second Rector (priest) of the Parish.

3. As you come around the lakeside side of the church, notice two things: First, the flat open area is where the 1839 wooden church was rolled to so worship could continue during construction. Second, the stone church covers several occupied plots that were beside the smaller wooden church. These graves' markers are embedded in the north wall. One is Capt. William Bourchier (pronounced Bow-cher). Bourchier was the Crown Grantee of the property that includes Sutton, Jackson’s Point, The Briars and Briars Park subdivision. He and his daughter, Agnes Mary, died of scarlet fever within two weeks of each other in 1844.

4. Moving closer to the lake near the far corner you will find the repaired Robert Anderson monument, and the stone lying flat adjacent of Eliza Charlott. They were the parents James Anderson. James Anderson was a Hudson Bay Company chief factor and explorer. At great personal loss, he located the first real proof of the loss of Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition. He is buried at our sister church, St. James, in Sutton. Memorabilia and artifacts related to James Anderson can be found at the Georgina Pioneer Village.

5. Walking toward the tall spruce tree at the church's end, you are crossing the cemetery area used in the Murdoch Mysteries’ “Shipwreck” – Season 8, Episode 14. Both of our church building and the adjoining Lodge were featured.

6. Walk up the centre of the cemetery to the right of the spruce. You’ll find the Leacock family plot ahead. Where, you ask, is this famous humourist Stephen Leacock, now 150 years old? He’s laughing at you, as he does to anyone trying to find his stone! His name is on the other (west) side of the primary stone. Please see his Ontario Heritage plaque outside the lych gate.

7. Heading toward the lake, you will see a break in the hedge and the beautiful view of Lake Simcoe. Rest a minute on the benches, then continue with the lake on your right. The tallest monument in the cemetery, a Celtic cross, memorializes another early Canadian writer, Mazo de la Roche. She is known for her Jalna series which has been enjoyed for generations, several times converted to television mini-series.

8. Continue along the lake’s edge. Past the view point you’ll find the heritage garden, created by artist Jinnie Shanks. To your left is the gravestone for the Rev. John Gibson, the first minister of the Parish of Georgina. Mr. Gibson came to Canada as a missionary priest. This was his first and only assignment. Prior to his arrival, the Township of Georgina had only had three brief visits from clergy. He found the people struggling with limited access to moral guidance. The young people had never seen a church and had limited exposure to the outside world. He was a gentle man and the local people were greatly attracted to him. The little church was often bursting with eighty or more attending its services. Why there are two monuments to his name?

9. Walking back toward the Church, you walk past the Comer plot. John Comer was a Crown grantee for this property and gave five acres for the cemetery.

10, Continuing, locate the main aisle. As you enter what feels as the beginning of the aisle, you’ll find a rectangular monument on your left with inscriptions on its back. It is one of many memorials belonging to the Chapman family, a line of Canadian artists. Alfred, Arthur and Howard were architects, primarily known for The Princes’ Gate and the original ROM building. Doris was a concert pianist. Oscar-winning Christopher Chapman developed the method for multiple video pictures on the screen, as created for the 1967 Centennial video A Place to Stand, the style familiar to many as the Brady Bunch effect.

11. Continuing up the main aisle, half-way along and two rows in on your left, you will find the Whitney stone. Marjorie (nee Heeley) reformed the public health system. There was a lack of permanent public health nurses in Canadian communities and general ignorance in the feeding and rearing of children. In 1921, as a thirty-year-old nurse, she established a “Mother’s Club” at Bowmanville, Ontario. The Mother’s Club was so successful that it was adopted as a model throughout Canada. It led to the establishment of permanent government funded Public Health Units.

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We hope this brief guide enhanced your visit. This heritage Church and Cemetery’s only support is through private giving. We appreciate your helping us by making a charitable donation. When the church is open, there is a box in the porch. You may always use our online portal on Canada Helps, send an Interac e-transfer to parish@parishofgeorgina.org (so we can send you a tax receipt, include your contact information in message area) or mail a cheque to the Parish of Georgina church office at Box 88, Sutton West, ON L0E 1R0. Please state if the donation is for cemetery, heritage or our ongoing community mission.

There are many interesting people resting in this cemetery not included in this brief tour! The Cemetery Board is gathering obituaries and records related to the people who rest in the cemetery. Please contact us if you have material that would be helpful in our research. Also contact us you have a family plot in the cemetery and (a) you are the rights holder but we don’t know how to reach you, or (b) if the rights holder is deceased and there is interest of using it for future interments or you wish to keep in contact. There is availability of Scattering rights and limited Cremation Interment rights; please call the church office, 905-722-3726.

Again, we welcome you to come back for a relaxing stroll, join us for worship here in the summer or at St. James Sutton in the colder months, or join us for a led walk when posted on our web site or Facebook page. In July and August, you’ll often find a chaplain here in the daytime for discussion and more stories.


Priest-in-Charge: Canon David Neelands

Churchwardens: Kim Gollinger, Lenora Brown

Trustees: Andrew Sibbald, Daryl Urquhart, Bob Sedore; Past Chair, Diana Rowney

Keeper: Peter Sibbald Brown

Keeper-of-the-Fabric: Ian McGillivray


Updated: March 31, 2020

Church of St. George's Sibbald Point in early spring, from road