Saving tall grass in Alnwick-Haldimand Township a priority

First published: August 24, 2004

A letter from a concerned citizen living in British Columbia worried about the Russ Creek property and the preservation of one of the last remaining natural tall prarie grass sites in Ontario.
Mayor Bill Finley and Council,
Alnwick/Haldimand Township
Grafton, Ontario K0K 2G0

Dear Mayor Finley and Council,

We, the descendants of John and Rachael Finley, pioneers of the Russ’ Creek settlement, have received news that the Municipality of Alnwick/Haldimand has violated the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan by pushing through a new access road to the Russ’ Creek Cemetery, and mowing the remnant Tallgrass Prairie just as it was about to set seed. In doing so, Council has also violated the Finley Proclamation ( see below) that was presented to you last autumn from the descendants of John and Rachael Finley.

We do not understand how or why you could willfully violate our consecrated grounds, or why you would defy the spirit and intent of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan.

We are discouraged that the Mayor and Council did not have the courtesy to acknowledge our proclamation. We trust that this is somehow an oversight, and not some vindictive reaction against the persistent efforts of Mr. Barry King to have this small piece of our Canadian heritage recognized and protected.

On behalf of Finleys from around the world, I’d be be most pleased to hear from you. We strongly encourage some sort of dialogue to take place amongst ourselves, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the three Ontario ministries that are responsible for the protection of this rare piece of Tallgrass Prairie.


James K. Finley
10232 Summerset Place
Sidney, B.C. V8L 4X2



TO THE MAYOR, COUNCIL AND CITIZENS of Haldimand & Alnwick township, Northumberland County, Ontario

WE, the descendants of John and Rachael Finley, pioneers of the Russ’ Creek settlement, Northumberland County, Ontario, honour our family and our Canadian heritage, and

whereas John and Rachael Finley homesteaded in 1846 on the Rice Lake Plains and their children attended the Russ’ Creek school, and

whereas Russ Creek cemetery, as it was originally deeded in 1886, is consecrated ground, sacred in their memory and that of many pioneers of the Russ’ Creek settlement, and

whereas Russ Creek cemetery has been desecrated, its boundaries changed, and its native vegetation damaged by modern maintenance techniques, and

whereas Russ’ Creek and Red Cloud cemetery are nationally recognized heritage sites, containing the last vestiges ( less than 1/1000th) of the Tallgrass Prairie in eastern Ontario, and

whereas, ” More than bricks and mortar, Northumberland’s and Canada’s heritage can also be found in its tall grass and flowers.” and

whereas, Professor John Macoun, Canada’s famous botanist and explorer of Palliser’s Triangle, began his career as a schoolteacher in Castleton, under the mentorship of the eclectic Doctor Gould, and

whereas, Doctor Gould’s Hill overlooks the historic village of Castleton and Purdy’s Milling Company where John Finley’s grain was milled,

Be it therefore resolved that,

1. That the township of Haldimand & Alnwick recognize Russ’ Creek Cemetery as hallowed ground for ancestors of the Russ’ Creek settlement, and accept full responsibility, under Provincial legislation and abiding by the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection regulations, for appropriate access and maintenance.

2. That the township restore the historic access to the cemetery and that all consecrated ground be fully restored as originally deeded.

3. That the township support Northumberland County, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, Ontario Parks and Wildlife Habitat Canada in their efforts to preserve the rare Tallgrass Prairie of the Rice Lake Plains

4.That the township support and encourage the efforts of Ed Heuvel and the Volunteer Fire Departments in maintaining and restoring the tall grass prairie in Red Cloud and Russ’ Creek cemetery.

5. That the Municipality of Cramahe, the County of Northumberland and the Government of Canada recognize the historic importance of Castleton, including Purdy’s Milling Company, Gould’s Hill, and the illustrious explorer of Palliser’s Triangle, Professor John Macoun.

6. That the township of Haldimand & Alnwick continue to promote “Rural Rambles” weekend whereby the diaspora of many generations from the Rice Lake Plains may come to seek their roots in the Tallgrass Prairie.

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