This plaque commemorating the North Russell Union Cemetery was added to the Historical Plaque Program in 2022, in partnership with the Russell and District Historical Society. The North Russell Union Cemetery is known as the oldest burial ground in the Township. This plaque is located at 552 North Russell Road, Russell.

Expanding the Cemetery

On October 19, 1854, John and Elizabeth Mattice sold 99 1/2 acres out of 100 acres to John Scott. This was the north half of Lot 18 Concession 2.

The Mattice’s remaining ½ acre was deeded for a protestant burial ground, now part of the North Russell Union Cemetery.

Land was added to the cemetery over the years, at increasing costs:

  • In 1897, a half acre was purchased from Archie Scott for $50;
  • In 1922, an acre was purchased from the Ross family for $300;
  • In 1958, an acre was purchased from Howard Ross for $1000;
  • In 1984, an acre was purchased from Vivian Ross for $4500.

When cemetery trustees were first elected, they were intended to represent the three main Protestant religions in the area, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. For many years, well-known families served as trustees: the Hamiltons from the Methodist Church, the Mehareys from the Presbyterian Church, and the Stanleys from the Anglican Church.

Elizabeth Hitsman’s Infamous Death

The first recorded burial is 12-year-old Elizabeth Hitsman, in 1844. She was the daughter of Henry Hitsman and Letitia Gillaspy. Elizabeth infamously died of burns when her clothes caught fire after hanging a cooking pot over an open fireplace.

This cemetery was a personal burial ground for the Hitsman family and became a public cemetery in 1854.

Elizabeth’s younger sister, Sarah, also suffered a tragic death. She passed in 1839 at the age of 3 after drinking lye. However, we cannot confirm if she was buried in this cemetery.

Other Burials and Deaths

The earliest birth dates indicated on the tombstones are Henry Hitsman, born in 1800, and his wife Letitia Gillaspy, born in 1801. Both came from Ireland.

The earliest death recorded on a stone is that of Ida Jane Shelp who died April 30, 1825. It is not known if she was buried in this cemetery.

The oldest person buried in the cemetery was Annie (McDermid) Stanley. She died in 1973 at the age of 100.

The Vault

In 1929, the cemetery’s first vault was built of cinder blocks by Arthur Fraser for $880. The vault was destroyed by an out-of-control car crash in 1990.

In 1991, a new brick vault was built by Paul Kind for $15,400.


Collins, Evalyn; Ken Collins, Fern Small. 1981. North Russell Cemetery, Russell County, Russell Township. Publication 82-5, Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, 24 p.

Stanley, W.M. 1987. From Swamp and Shanty – the history of Russell Village and the western part of Russell Township 1827-1987. Runge Press Ltd, Ottawa, Ontario.