Have you ever driven along one of our city’s busy roads and spied a small cemetery hidden amidst a modern subdivision? Seemingly oddly out of place, have you ever wondered why a cemetery was located there? Such is the case of Switzer’s Cemetery (also known as Eden Cemetery). Amidst the modern subdivisions of Meadowvale West lies this small pioneer cemetery at the corner of Derry Road and Shelter Bay Road. It is the last visible reminder of a pioneer settlement called Lisgar and of the pioneers that once called this corner of Mississauga home.
Beginning around 1819, a number of families began to settle along the Meadowvale Sideroad on either side of the Town Line – today this is marked by the modern intersection of Derry Road and Winston Churchill Boulevard. In 1823, the burgeoning pioneer crossroads added a small log schoolhouse on what was Samuel Switzer’s farm. This schoolhouse also served as the local meeting place and church hall. Soon it became apparent that the small school could not hold the congregation, so meetings were held outdoors by torchlight.
In 1824, John Switzer sold a portion of his land to the new congregation for the establishment of a church and graveyard. The congregation proceeded to build a small frame church just to the rear of the surviving cemetery. This small church was replaced by a larger structure on the same site. Edgerton Ryerson officially opened this second frame church on December 13th, 1840. The church was unofficially dubbed “Switzer’s Church” because it was on John Switzer’s farm and five Switzer families attended the church. The growing community was also dubbed “Switzer’s Corners”.
The community soon added an inn on the southeast side of Derry Road and Winston Churchill Boulevard. This inn, operated by David Mason, was called “The Black Horse Tavern”. The Marshall family later purchased the building and they changed the name of the tavern to “The Dewdrop Inn”. Samuel Alexander operated a small store on the southwest corner of the modern intersection of Winston Churchill and Derry Road. When the store added a post office on August 1, 1871, the community became officially named “Lisgar” in honour of Sir John Young Lisgar, the Governor General of Canada in 1869. The post office later moved across the road to the Dewdrop Inn and was run by Mary Marshall. Also nearby was a blacksmith shop, and in 1878, a train station was located on the C.P.R. line, just to the north on the Town Line.
In 1868, Isaac Waite donated a parcel of land on the north side of Derry Road, directly opposite from the cemetery for the construction of a new church – the site is marked by a fenced yard on the Northeast corner of Derry and Copenhagen Roads. The congregation voted to officially name the new church “Eden”. This church was ravaged by fire in 1908 and the upper portions of the church were razed. The contents were saved, moved to the nearby blacksmith shop until the church could be repaired and reopened in 1910. The church was rebuilt until it was damaged again when a cyclone struck it in 1923. Eden United Church was again repaired and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1968.
The Lisgar community also added a new school, replacing the original log schoolhouse, in 1887. The new red brick school, S.S. #17, was constructed on the north side of Derry Road, near where Highway 401 crosses Derry Road today. The school served the community for 73 years, holding its last class in 1960.
But, as with many pioneer communities, the prominence of Lisgar soon began to decline, and one by one, signs of the village began to disappear. The post office closed on August 31, 1915. The C.P.R. station closed shortly afterwards, its exact location lost. The old Dewdrop Inn burned in 1961 and was not replaced. The dwindling congregation moved to a new home and the old church was demolished in 1980. For many years, the old Eden School sat vacant and neglected until time and vandalism caught up with it. It was demolished in 1992. The only reminders of the pioneer community are two cemeteries, a new church and a modern road named Lisgar. Switzer’s (Eden) Cemetery and the Kindree Family Cemetery (where the Sixteen Mile Creek crosses Derry Road) remain historic markers for the small village, while the new Eden United Church, at Winston Churchill Boulevard and Battleford Road was opened in 1987 and houses one of the oldest congregations in our area.
In an effort to stir a collective memory, we can look at the names from the historical maps that depict the Lisgar area to lend a human face to this vanished village – names like Cook, Corwin, Hamilton, Mason, McClure, Switzer, Waite and Weylie, amongst many others. They are the names of people that have stories to tell and that deserve to be remembered.
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