The Alexander Brown Tombstones

Originally Published in Heritage Happenings, September 1987
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The previous Heritage Paper recorded some of the strange stories that are associated with the Waterdown Library ghost. To complete this series on the former East Flamborough Township Hall/Waterdown Library, the story of the two tombstones mounted on the Library wall, which many people believe are connected with the actions of the ghost.

The two white marble tombstones commemorate Alexander Brown1 and his wife Merren Grierson2. The actual wording on the monument to Merren Grierson reveals an error that may explain why these stones are not in the Union Cemetery of Waterdown. The spelling of her Christian name is given as Marion rather than Merren.

When these two stones are compared with the large single polished granite stone in Union Cemetery that commemorates the Browns, the spelling of Merren Grierson’s name has been corrected, and further information about the family has been included:

In Memoriam Alexander Brown
Born in parish of Glencairn,
Dumfriesshire, Scotland 24 December 1776
Emigrated to Canada 1802
Married Merren Grierson at Wellington Square, Canada
28th July 1806
Died on the homestead East Flamboro 9th August 1852.
Merren Grierson wife of Alexander Brown
Born in the parish of Glencairn
Dumfriesshire, Scotland 22 February 1779
Emigrated to Canada 1806
Died 29th December 1863

On the reverse side of the monument, two children from the marriage are commemorated: John Brown and his wife, Sardinia Claflin; and Mary Clarke Brown and her husband, William King, son of the Reverend William King.

The two library monuments, almost certainly the first stones to be engraved, were “discovered” on Sunday, 21 May 1978 by Mr. and Mrs. William R. Donkin while out for an evening stroll. The couple noticed the headstones on a Nelson Street property that was being prepared for the construction of four new homes. Originally this property had been the home of John Burkholder, caretaker of the Waterdown Union Cemetery. The lettering on the inscriptions was still legible, probably because the stones had been laid face down to form a sidewalk to the outhouse on the Burkholder property. How the stones arrived on the Nelson Street property may never be known, possibly Mr. Burkholder rescued them when they were replaced with the present monument to the Brown family.

On the following day, the Donkins happened to meet Mrs. Eileen Kennedy on Main Street, Waterdown, and told her about their amazing discovery. Fascinated by this news, Mrs. Kennedy went into the Flamborough Review Office and asked John Bosveld, the Editor and Publisher, if his two sons could collect the two old tombstones in their van and take them to the Municipal offices for safekeeping.

The tombstones stayed at the Municipal Offices for several months. During this time, arrangements were made by the Waterdown Centennial Committee and the Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society with the Wentworth Library Board and architect Carl Rieder to have them placed on an interior wall of the former East Flamborough Township Hall that was in process of undergoing renovations to become the Waterdown Library. In 1979, as the interior work was completed, the Brown headstones were mounted on the wall beside the elevator so their preservation was assured.

Editor’s Note (1987)

On Saturday, August 22, 1987, the Editor visited the Waterdown Library to check the wording on the Brown tombstones in preparation for this article. On telling Mrs. Finnamore, the Librarian on duty, the reason for the visit–the elevator descended, the doors opened and closed and, as usual, there was no one inside.

Was the Waterdown Library Ghost checking that the Editor was indeed copying the tombstones?

  1. Alexander Brown (1776-1852) supposedly came to Canada as an agent for the Northwest Fur Company in York (Toronto). When the company was dissolved, both Brown and his brother-in-law, James Grierson, settled in East Flamborough Township. Brown purchased property from Lt. Alexander McDonell, 800 acres that stretched from the Waterdown area to the shore of present-day Burlington Bay. Reputedly called the “White man of the mountain” by the Indians, Alexander Brown was probably the first settler in the area, constructing sawmills on the Grindstone Creek.
  2. Merren Grierson (1779-1863), sister of James Grierson, probably came to Canada when her brother settled in East Flamborough. James Grierson (d. 31 January 1848 aged 88 years) and his wife Helen Reay (d. 26 January 1833 aged 77 years) are both buried in St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Nelson Township.

    According to George D. Griffin, son of Ebenezer Griffin, James Grierson settled just west of Alexander Brown’s property. In 1827, a new school house was built on the corner of his farm. Also used for church purposes until 1843, it was shared by the Methodists on Sunday morning and the Presbyterians in the afternoons.
  • Conversation and notes from Mrs. E.B. Kennedy.
  • File on Alexander Brown Family–Archives of the Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society.
  • Griffin, George D.–Historical Recollections of Waterdown 1806-1860.
  • “Transactions of the Wentworth Historical Society” Volume II. Griffin and Kidner, Printers. Hamilton 1899.
  • “Union Cemetery, Waterdown”–Hamilton Branch O.G.S. Hamilton 1977.

© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1987, 2021.

Editor’s Note (2021)

The Waterdown branch of the Hamilton Public Library officially closed November of 2015 in preparation for the opening of the new community complex opened in Waterdown. The 15,000 square foot facility includes the Waterdown branch of the Hamilton Public Library, a Senior Centre, the City’s Municipal Service Centre, Flamborough Archives, and Flamborough Information & Community Services, on the former site of the Municipal Office.

When plans were being drawn up for the new Waterdown Library on Dundas Street, there was never any hesitation—the Brown tombstones had to move with the Library. As the Flamborough Archives was being included as a partner in the building, it was felt that the best place for them to be housed was within the Archives.

The community of Waterdown has a connection to the tombstones and it was felt that the tombstones had to be preserved. Thanks to the determination of Councillor Judi Partridge, Hamilton Public Library Director Karen Anderson, and Facilities Supervisor Mike Sands, money and experts were found to move, restore and remount the tombstones. They look better than ever.

Brown tombstones in the Archives

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