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MCDONALD, War of 1812 Veteran Brothers

Up on the hillside to the west of Highway 17 along Sutherland Road, lies a tiny burying grounds that had been lost to the regrowth of trees and shrubs. This little cemetery has been brought back into the modern day by the efforts of one curious and determined man; Bernie Buechman. As a result of these efforts, the municipality has now designated the cemetery to be of Cultural Heritage value or interest within the Ontario Heritage Trust.  Designate the McDonald Burial Ground under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Cemetery discovery brings history to life  

A Pembroke man uncovered the graves of three brothers, all veterans of the War of 1812


OTTAWA — Bernie Buechman’s hobby is uncovering history, sometimes using documentary research and sometimes using a lawnmower.

Bernie Buechman cleared up a small family cemetery in the former Westmeath Township and found that three brothers buried there served during the War of 1812. This stone above marks the grave of William McDonald, who served at the age of 14. Photograph by: Chris Mikula, Ottawa Citizen.

Bernie Buechman cleared up a small family cemetery in the former Westmeath Township and found that three brothers buried there served during the War of 1812. This stone above marks the grave of William McDonald, who served at the age of 14.
Photograph by: Chris Mikula, Ottawa Citizen.

The 56-year-old Pembroke resident recently brought both skill sets to bear when he not only restored a mostly forgotten cemetery to a respectable condition, but brought it some recognition for its historical significance. Buechman, who works by day at the garage of the Pembroke Walmart, spends his spare time toiling in genealogy and local history, and he finds cemeteries fascinating for the stories they hold.

Through the years, he has volunteered, maintaining and researching several other graveyards. About two years ago, he decided to hunt up an old cemetery long neglected and overgrown since the days when he rode past it as a kid on his bike.

When he re-discovered the MacDonald burial ground, about 300 meters south of Hwy. 17 on Sutherland Road in Whitewater Township – about 16 kilometers east of Pembroke, it was beyond recognition.

“You couldn’t see the cemetery,” Buechman says. “It was two, three feet of poison ivy, trees all over. Couldn’t see the stones.” He brought a couple of saws and that lawn mower and got to work clearing decades of thick growth. That was the straightforward part. The tougher slogging was the detective work that started once the names on the stones became visible.

There were four tombstones, but records indicated at least seven people were likely buried there. Buechman (pronounced Beach-man) started tracking the names through census data, old newspapers and whatever other documents he could find. To his surprise, he found that among those buried there was a trio of brothers, all veterans of the War of 1812.

John, Walter and William McDonald all survived the war and lived to be old men, all settling in the former Westmeath Township, west of Muskrat Lake. Each claimed the 100 acres of land to which they were entitled as veterans of the war. All three served in the Glengarry Light Infantry.

Buechman still doesn’t know a huge amount about John (who was born sometime between 1780 and 1786 and died in 1872) or Walter (1795-1869), but he was able to track down a obituary in the Pembroke Observer for William (1798-1887).  William McDonald, it turns out, was only 14 when he joined the war effort. The obituary says that’s how old he was when he drove a horse and sleigh loaded with ammunition from Montreal to Kingston. He went on to learn carpentry.

“He came to Bytown (now Ottawa),” said the obituary, “at the time work on the Rideau Canal was begun and worked as lock carpenter until the canal was completed in 1831.” He went on to lumbering and then farming. He was a father of 12 and grandfather of 68. A strict Presbyterian, he was a man of few words, the obituary said. “He always enjoyed the best health, and never believed in doctoring,” it added.

Buechman was delighted with the find of the three war veterans, and when the federal government announced funding for projects to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the war, he applied to get some recognition for the brothers. He managed to win $10,000 for the project, which will include a commemorative stone and a ceremony/celebration in September. Applying for the government funding, however, made the vine clearing and even the newspaper searches seem easy, he said.

“The paperwork was incredible,” says Buechman. “I almost needed to hire a lawyer to understand it. Seriously, I’d never do it again.”  But he is very excited to have found the brothers and hopes to find their descendants, and those of the handful of other people whose remains are buried there, including Frank Costello, who died in 1924 at age 93, Caroline Preddy, who died in 1888, Peter Joe Pappin, 1878-1910, and possibly Roderick MacDonald, the brother of the three war veterans, and his wife, Isabella McRae.

In the meantime, Buechman says, he might try to find himself another old cemetery to rescue, since each is a new history lesson. “I’ll be looking.”

Commemorative Stone for three War of 1812 Colonial Soldiers.

Commemorative Stone for three War of 1812 Colonial Soldiers.

From Bernie Buechman:  McDonald Family burial grounds established between 1835 and 1869, the first burial being 1869. In 1835 Walter McDonald put into the government a land petition. As he was a vet of the War of 1812, he was entitled to 100 acres of land. 3 McDonald brothers are buried in the cemetery – Walter, John and William; who all served in the War of 1812. The family was Presbyterian and were not at the time connected to a local church as they were too early and there were no local churches in the area yet.

The Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group was the guiding force behind the effort to commemorate these McDonald brothers. Diane Burnett from that organization wrote in the local newspaper:

War of 1812 Veterans in the Upper Ottawa Valley

The Pembroke Daily Observer:  Monday, August 19, 2013.

By Diane Burnett

There were no battles or skirmishes in the upper Ottawa Valley 200 years ago during the War of 1812 but this area was touched by the war. Those brave soldiers from Upper & Lower Canada were offered land grants as a reward. Some of the earliest pioneers to this area were these veterans, traveling up the valley to settle on the land.

Walter, William and John McDonald, brothers and veterans were some of these pioneers. They settled and built their lives in Westmeath Township, now part of the Township of Whitewater Region. They were buried in the family plot now called the McDonald Burying Ground located on Sutherland Road about 1 kilometer south of Highway 17.

Others with family connections to the McDonalds were buried there to about 1924. Over the years since, many stones were broken and disappeared. The small cemetery became overgrown and neglected.

In 2011 Bernie Buechman a local historian and genealogy researcher decide to voluntarily clean up the cemetery. Curious about the early burials he began to do some research and discovered the McDonald brothers and their connections to the War of 1812. In 2012 when the government of Canada began to sponsor activities in recognition of this historic war, Mr. Buechman decided the McDonald brothers and their final resting place should be recognized. With the help of the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group of which Mr. Buechman is an active member, he applied for a grant from the 1812 Commemoration Fund, Department of Canadian Heritage. Happily a grant of $10,000.00 was received for a memorial stone and commemorative community event.

On Sunday September 15, 2013 this memorial stone will be unveiled at the McDonald Burying Ground. The ceremony will begin at 1:30 PM. The general public is invited to come and help honour these veterans and all those veterans of the War of 1812 who helped settle the area.

McDonald Burying Ground: stones and historic plaques.

These three  McDonald brothers hailed from Lancaster Township of Glengarry, County,  ON. The Graveside Project  supplies the following biographies for the McDonald Brothers:

HMEUC_LogoGraveside Project – War of 1812 Veteran – Bio of Walter McDonald (1794-1869)

Personal Information of 1812 Veteran. Vet ID: 65 McDonald, Walter

Place of Birth: Glengarry County. Ontario, Canada & Place of Death: Westmeath Township ON.

Location of Grave: McDonald Burial Ground, Con-1-Lot-18- Sutherland Road, Whitewater Township, ON.

Reason for Death: Old Age 75 Years of Age; Date of Death: 14 September 1869

Veteran History

Last Rank Attained: Private. Last Regiment, Unit or Faction: Glengarry Light Infantry

Report to Officer, Name and Rank: Late Captain Josiah Taylor

Veteran Biography:

Walter McDonald was to have been in the Westmeath township area before 1830 and he had applied to the crown for a land grant in 1835 actually it shows him in Perth Ontario the date nov-7-1834 as being a discharged private soldier from the late Canadian Fencibles which disbanded the Corps in the year of 1816; signed by Josiah Taylor late captain of the Regt. Walter was married to a Eliza Bradly and they are interred in the McDonald Cemetery. But their tombstone Lies on the ground in 4 pieces. The cemetery which he is buried in was once part of his farm and property a small 100 ‘ by 66’ family cemetery only 4 tombstones; but 3 brothers who were part of a war which changed Canadian History.

McDonald-Bradley stone, McDonald Cemetery.

McDonald-Bradley stone, McDonald Cemetery.

Walter McDonald (1797-1864) born in Glengarry County m. Elisa Bradley (1800 –1872) and their children are:

  1. Walter McDonald (1833 –1903) a lumberman, m.  Mary Hogarth (1849 – 1918), daughter of David Hogarth and Catherine Stubbs  in Pembroke Village, McDonald-Hogarth Marriage.  In the 1891 Census the family is living in Pembroke and Walter, a contractor,  has 4 people working for him.  1891 Census. Mary is listed as coming from England and her mother Catherine is listed as Irish.
  2. Thomas McDonald (1837–1927) m. Elizabeth Battle (1837-1906) and in the 1891 Census Thomas is listed as a farmer and Elizabeth was an Irish immigrant. Thomas lived in Pembroke in retirement and died at age 89 years.
  3. Alexander W McDonald (1838 –1916) m. Jennie Campbell (1859-1936). In the 1911 Census for Pembroke, Alex is listed as “lumberer” and the oldest son White McDonald is listed as a surveyor.
  4. John McDonald (1844 –) m. Sarah McLaughlin (1840- ) in 1867, daughter of Michael McLaughlin and Betsy Smith.
  5. Catherine Mary MacDonald (1846–1874) m. Francis “Frank” Costello (1831-1924), who was the son of the neighouring family. He was born in Antrim, Ireland and is buried at the McDonald Cemetery.  Catherine McDonald Costello died in 1874 and the 1881 Census lists a widowed Frank Costello 40 years; Walter Costello 16 years; William Costello 14 years; Jane Costello 12 years; Carline Costello 10; Catherine Costello 8 years.
  6. Isabella McDonald (1850-1923) m. John Douglas (1844- ) in 1874. He is listed as an Irish immigrant working as a woodsman. McDonald-Douglas Marriage.
  7. Caroline McDonald (1850–1888)  m.  Thomas Preddy in Montreal, Lower Canada. She would die in Montreal in 1888 at age 38 but is buried in the McDonald Cemetery, Westmeath Township.
  8. James McDonald (1850 – ) would m. Mary Kennedy from a neighboring family.

HMEUC_LogoGraveside Project – War of 1812 Veteran – Bio of William McDonald (1798 – 1887)

Place of Birth: Glengarry County, Lancaster Township   Ontario, Canada

Place of Death: Westmeath Township   Ontario, Canada

Location of Grave: McDonald Burying Ground, Con-1-lot-18 Sutherland Road, Whitewater Township   Ontario, Canada.  Reason for Death: Old Age; Date of Death: 26 July 1887

Veteran History

Last Rank Attained: Unknown served under age at 14 years old. Last Regiment, Unit or Faction: Unknown at this time

Veteran Biography:

William McDonald was Born approx, April-15-1798 in Glengarry Ontario. He was to have been the age of only 14 years old when he was to have hauled ammunition horses and sleigh between Montreal and Kingston. When he was a young man he went to Montreal to learn the carpentry trade.

He later came to Bytown now Ottawa at the time to work on the Rideau Canal. He worked as a canal lock carpenter until the canal was done in 1831. He Later came to the Banks of the Muskrat Lake and was in the lumber business with his brother Walter McDonald. He soon gave up Lumbering and Began Farming until death called him home. Mr. William McDonald was a father of 12 children, and 68 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. He always enjoyed the Best of Health and never believed in Doctors. He was a man of very few words and was a strict Presbyterian. William served in 2 great Historical Events in This Country Of Canada he served with building the Rideau Canal and also in the war of 1812.

William McDonald (1798-1887) born in Glengarry County m. Mary Livingston (1800–1865) and their children are:

  1. Jessie McDonald (1834 –
  2. Ellen McDonald (1835 –
  3. William McDonald (1838 –
  4. Mary Helen McDonald (1840–) m. in 1856 to James Devine. She was aged 16 years.
  5. Alex McDonald (1841 –) at age 56 m. to Margaret McDonald (1853- ) in Ralph, Buchanan and Wylie Township, Renfrew County, ON.
  6. George McDonald (1843–) m. Mary Davis (1845- ) in 1868, a daughter of William Davis and Mary Young, in Stafford Township.
  7. Christina McDonald (1845–1895) m. Richard Watson (1881-)
  8. Catherine McDonald (1847 –
  9. Jane McDonald (1848 –

William McDonald had purchased his land  in 1841 from William Morris.  Part of the Westmeath Papers  found on the Main section of this website: Lot-17-and-18-Con-1-WML

HMEUC_LogoGraveside Project – War of 1812 Veteran – Bio of   John McDonald (1786 -1872)

Personal Information of 1812 Veteran – Vet ID: 63 McDonald, John

Place of Birth: Glengarry County, ON. Place of Death: Westmeath, Township, ON.

Location of Grave: McDonald Burying Ground, Con-1-Lot-18 Sutherland Road, Whitewater Township, ON., Canada

Reason for Death: Old Age, Date of Death: 25 December 1872

Veteran History:

Last Rank Attained: Unknown, Last Regiment, Unit or Faction: Glengarry Light Infantry

Veteran Biography:

John McDonald was living we believe in Westmeath township before 1830.John was to have been a brother to Walter and William he lived on con-1-lot-24 which was in the vicinity of little Mud Lake,  an area which was between the Muskrat River and Hwy-17. We have many pages from the township papers for Westmeath township showing the terrible ordeal John went through to have received his land grant. John it states was born in Glengarry County he was to have been applying for his land grant in 1838 it says he was a yeoman and was in the district of Bathhurst as a Discharged Soldier of the Glengarry light Infantry Fencibles. He was applying for part of lot 24 con-1,aug-30-1838. Also there was information found in the township papers which mentions John as giving up his paper work to prove he was a war vet of 1812 to recieve his grant, but it stated his paper work was lost.

John McDonald m. Nancy ____,  an “immigrant ancestor” from Scotland.  John McDonald had settled on Lot 24 Concession 1, West Muskrat Lake, as sworn in an avadavat before Allen Moffet, Justice of the Peace,  by Hugh Fraser; part of the Westmeath Papers  found on the Main section of this website: Lot-24-Con-1-WML.

In the 1851 Census for Westmeath Township, three generations were together in the John McDonald Household:

1851 Census Westmeath Township

1851 Census Westmeath Township

A Roderick “Rory”  McDonald’s parcel of  land was transferred in 1854 to Donald McDonald. Lot-16-Con-2-WML.