- Photographs and Article by Ian M. Ross

Dating from 1851, the Old Kildonan Church in Winnipeg was the first Presbyterian Church west of the Great Lakes. The church cemetery is the last resting-place of many of the original Scottish settlers of what became Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba. They were named Selkirk Settlers because these dispossessed Highlanders came to the Red River Colony under the sponsorship of Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk.

The headstones include that of Alexander Ross, who came to Red River in 1825 after a notable career in the Oregon Territory fur trade. He became a prominent citizen, Sheriff and historian of the colony. Beside him lies his wife Sarah, an Okanagan Indian, who traveled on horseback to join him in 1626 with several children. Of the family of eleven children, William became the first Postmaster in what was called "Red River, British North America". You can also see the headstones of another son, James, who graduated from the University of Toronto before starting Red River's first newspaper . . . a daughter Henrietta, who became the wife of the settlement's first Presbyterian minister, John Black, . . . and many more of Alexander's descendants.

Over the decades this large cemetery had become rundown with many headstones toppled and broken - its upkeep beyond the resources of the local congregation. In 1993, the Clan Ross Association of Canada, Incorporated, unsuccessfully applied for government grants after the restoration of the historic Ross headstones was made a National Project at the AGM. In 2001 the cemetery established a new board and started a broad-based fund-raising campaign to restore as much of the cemetery as possible. Headstone experts Jack and Marion Cooper completed almost 200 headstones before the funds ran out . . . and before the historic Ross section was reached.

At the AGM of June 2002, a motion was passed for $1,500 to renovate the Ross stones in keeping with the National Project approved in 1993. Primarily through the unflagging efforts of Vice-President Denis Fletcher, CRA-Canada was able to hire the Coopers at their same nominal fee. During the summer of 2002, Jack and Marion cleaned 15 stones, straightened 10 and rebuilt 2 badly broken ones.

At the 2004 AGM, 1st VP Denis Fletcher reported that the bulk of the restoration work at the Old Kildonan Cemetery was done, with the remaining three Alexander Ross pioneer family headstones to be completed in the summer of 2004.

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