First published: August 26, 2004
Last August, I was very fortunate to meet Mr. Barry King, one of
Northumberland’s pre-eminent historians, during the “Rural Rambles”
weekend. He graciously agreed to guide my family in attempting to find our
Great Great Grandparents. We undertook one of the most memorable
pilgrimages of our lives to discover our roots on the Rice Lake Plains.
Words cannot convey the feeling when we found their homestead of 1846
beside Russ’ Creek, nor the great sense of peace that we felt amidst the
broken monuments and Tall-Grass prairie of the Russ’ Creek Cemetery. Though
we could not find our Grandpa’s headstone, we feel that he lies there,
along with his many friends of the Russ’ Creek settlement.
We were amazed to learn that this cemetery, along with nearby Red Cloud
Cemetery, contained the last rare remnants of Tall-Grass Prairie that once
dominated the Rice Lake Plains, so well described by Catherine Parr Traill.
We were encouraged when, as part of “Rural Rambles”, we met biologist Ed
Heuvel and his band of volunteers who are undertaking a prairie restoration
project at Red Cloud.
When I returned home, I informed the descendants of John and Rachael
Finley, from around the world, of our discovery. Concerned about the
ongoing descecration of the cemetery, and inspired by the efforts of Mr.
King and Mr. Heuvel, I felt compelled to convey my thoughts to the mayor
and citizens of Northumberland County. This took shape in the form of a
proclamation which was signed and delivered to Council last autumn from
many descendants of John and Rachael Finley, from around the world.
Our proclamation was also addressed to the citizens of Northumberland. We
have never received any response from the Mayor and Council, and just today
I was advised that our proclamation was locked up in a legal file, and that
it is not to be discussed publicly. I cannot understand why.
I am very pleased to see that “Consider This” (onlinedemocracy.ca) has
seen fit to publish my recent letter of concern to Mayor Finley, along with
our proclamation. Hopefully, democracy is still alive and well in
I am not related directly to Mayor Finley and don’t know just when he
branched off from our family. Therefore my comments are without prejudice
related to any family squabble that we may have once had.
James K. Finley