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The Dyer Monument – A monument to a man’s love for his wife

November 2020

Near the abandoned pioneer hamlet of Williamsport, seven miles north-east of the Town of Huntsville, Ontario, is a 42-foot high granite monument, sitting in a small clearing, on top of a secluded hill at the end of a deteriorating dirt road that is slowly falling to the Big East River a considerable drop below.

This is the Dyer Memorial; the centrepiece of the Dyer Memorial Nature Reserve. Built starting in 1956 by Detroit lawyer Clifton Dyer, as final resting place for the cremated ashes of his wife Betsy (Brown) Dyer.

It’s been referred to as “Huntsville‚Äôs very own Taj Mahal.”

Clifton and Betsy Brown spent their honeymoon in Muskoka in 1916, returning twenty years later and then off and on throughout the summers and some winters, until Betsy’s death. The couple built a small cabin in 1940 on this secluded property, situated on the tall banks of the Big East River.

In winter, the couple would ski on the hills near where the monument now stands.

The monument took a year to build, with an additional two more years for clearing and landscaping the two acre area around the monument. The monument is surrounded by a 4000 square foot flagstone terrace

When Clifton died in 1959, his ashes were placed next to Betty’s ashes atop the monument. Clifton also left a trust fund for the continued maintenance of the property following his death.

The Dyer Memorial Nature Reserve was owned and maintained by the Dyer Estate Corporation and the Trustees for the Dyer Memorial Trust, although by the turn of the century, the property was overgrown and in disrepair. Some sources suspected the Trust had run out of money, while others stated that there was still money available, but maintenance of the property and the monument were cut back as the funds dwindled, and it would cost more money than remained in the Trust to return it to a suitable state.

In 2010, Dyer Memorial Trust agreed to turn the property over to the Muskoka Conservancy, who will continue to maintain the memorial in perpetuity.

In 2015, the Muskoka Conservancy, with support from the Huntsville Horticultural Society, has spent the summer revitalizing the grounds and gardens, including planting several memorial trees next to the monument, dedicated to conservancy volunteers or selected family members.

Visitors to the monument can park at the base of a flagstone stairway, whose seventy-three steps lead to the magnificently landscaped grounds, with flowerbeds, streams and ponds.

The Dyer’s cabin is long-gone, but their lives and their love of this small patch of Muskoka remain alive.

All that remains of the hamlet of Williamsport is the cemetery and the one-room stone schoolhouse across the road.

Sources: https://www.ontarioabandonedplaces.com/ontario/muskoka/dyer-memorial-hunstville, https://www.muskokaregion.com/news-story/5921171-families-plant-lasting-memories-at-dyer-memorial-on-saturday, https://www.muskokaregion.com/news-story/3621111-legacies-of-lost-hamlets-like-williamsport-live-on, https://www.inspirock.com/canada/huntsville/dyer-memorial-a6174663923, https://www.muskokaregion.com/news-story/3615782-huntsville-to-negotiate-purchase-of-dyer-memorial-for-park-property, http://campingjunkies.ca/index.php/tag/dyer-memorial-nature-reserve, https://arrowheadprovincialpark.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/nearby-attractions, https://www.mykawartha.com/news-story/3646798-heritage-trust-takes-dyer-memorial-under-its-wing, “50 Unusual things to see in Ontario” by Ron Brown.

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/the-dyer-monument-a-monument-to-a-mans-love-for-his-wife/

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