Elmbank Cemetery banner



Archaeological site with an excavated stone church foundation with grave stones in the backgroundPhoto courtesy of Archaeological Services Inc.


In order to sample, inventory, identify and describe any archaeological resources associated with the rectory and the church on the Elmbank mission site, comprehensive salvage excavations were initiated.  All artifacts that were recovered during these processes were retained, washed, labelled and catalogued according to their specific provenience.

No features were encountered that could be definitively associated with the first frame church established on the site in 1830.  It is possible that a broad area in the eastern portion of the cemetery that was devoid of graves represents the location of the first church, since many of the earliest burials surround this grave-free zone. See site map in PDF.

The Rectory​

The remains of the rectory were located in the extreme western corner of the property.  The basic outline of the rectory building was represented by a roughly rectangular stain of dark soil measuring ten metres in length and seven metres in width.  It was built without substantial foundations. Symmetrical concentrations of mortar at the northwest and southeast ends may be evidence of where the chimneys were located.  This area yielded large quantities of mid- to late nineteenth-century domestic debris (ceramic and glass tableware, utilitarian kitchen ware, animal bones) and architectural remains as well as personal and clothing items such as smoking pipes and buttons.

A rich and varied assemblage of close to 4,000 artifacts were recovered from the Rectory excavation.   The variety of artifacts included ceramics, nails, window glass, items of clothing, smoking pipes, coins, hair combs, crucifix pendants, sewing thimbles and horseshoes.  Of the household furnishings, the most interesting item would be the almost complete "Risen Christ" wall plaque (photo to the right) made of molded Parian ceramic.  The discovery of the wall plaque, along with other personal religious items, reveal the devout nature of the occupants of the Elmbank mission.

The 1885 Brick Church

​The precise location of the brick church was established based on subtle variations in surface topography and vegetation. Located on the east side of the cemetery and (presumably) fronting Fifth Line Road, the brick church was built in 1885 and, according to 1888 insurance records, stood as a 52' by 26' (15.9 m by 7.9 m) structure. The remains uncovered through excavation measure 12.5 metres in length and 7.5 metres in width and are oriented northeast-southwest. It is clear that the design of the church included decorative brick buttresses. The easterly portion of the building had been destroyed by grading which took place in this portion of the site during the widening of Fifth Line Road, but it is clear that the building exceeded the length reported in the insurance records. This fact, together with the fact that no drawings, photographs or detailed descriptions of the building were uncovered during the historic and genealogical research, hindered interpretation of the remains.

A stone well was discovered a short distance to the northwest of the church, and a segment of a drain was found to its immediate southeast; no other features associated with the church had survived, however. A mix of architectural and domestic artifacts were recovered from the topsoil units in the area of the church, including fragments of stained glass and lead.  It is likely that much of the domestic material was redeposited from the rectory middens during landscape and cleanup activities that took place in the churchyard in the 1960s. See a diagram of the foundation in PDF. 

Gallery of Artifacts