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Cober Church and Cemetery – A reminder of Vaughan’s pioneer days

November 2023

The City of Vaughan, in southern Ontario, a former rural township that grew up into a busy, vibrant city, has seen many changes since it was first surveyed in the early 19th Century. Back when horse and buggy travel was the primary mode of transportation for the average person, traveling great distances was not an easy proposition or practical, especially on the primitive roads found in most townships. Even going to school or church could take a considerable amount of time, so numerous small churches and schools were built close in or close to the towns and villages across the townships.

The Cober Church and Cemetery, also known as Baker-Cober Cemetery, found on Dufferin Street, south of Rutherford Road, is one of the few surviving one-room churches, with adjoining cemetery, left in Vaughan that is still standing in its original location and still active.

In 1839, a small cemetery was established on a small portion of land owned by Peter Cober and his brother-in-law Michael Baker, located at Lot 12, Concession 2 in Vaughan Township. Some of the earliest settlers in the area are buried in this cemetery, members of the Dunkard sect of Mennonites, originally from Pennsylvania. A church, however, wasn’t built on the property until 1888, when Peter Cober’s son George Cober, donated additional land for the church property. Prior to that, services for the area families were held in various homes.

Built atop a field stone foundation, Nicholas Cober, brother of George, constructed the building and benches of of hand planed, first growth white pine, both of which remain unpainted to this day, a common feature of Mennonite churches. The original box stove which heats the church is still in use 135 years later.

The first service was held in the new church on 21 October 1888, although records indicate that house meetings were still held for the next eight years.

A drive shed was also built, providing a place to shelter the animals used to transport the congregants while they attended the service.  The Cober church shed is the only surviving church shed in Vaughan Township, although horses and buggies are no longer parked inside. Instead, two small washrooms have been added inside the structure for those attending services.

In 1935, services were switched from every two weeks to just monthly. Today, the church can be used by appointment only. The cemetery doesn’t see a lot of burials, with the most recent being in 2010, but the property is well maintained.


Sources: The Cober Dunkard Church | Hiking the GTA, Church Drive Shed | Retrospective Vaughan.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/cober-church-and-cemetery-a-reminder-of-vaughans-pioneer-days/

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