Chapter 2 – The Gilbert Family

In Block 37 of the old section of Greenwood Cemetery, we find what appears to be the most simplistic memorial record of a family.  It is unclear at first look who these people were.  In a single row are 7 almost identical flat markers, about 8 x 14 inches.  On each marker is a single name only.  They are:  Father, Mother, Mary, Nora, Esther, William and Margaret.  Not much to go on unless you are familiar with the family.  After a little study of the plot, one is aware of a similar style but larger marker (14×24) opposite Nora, the middle of the row.  On it, in larger letters is the name Gilbert.

The Gilbert family came to Burlington in 1899.  William Richard Gilbert (Father) was the agent for the Grand Trunk Railway station here.  William had been born in Waterdown, grew up in New Hamburg, and after securing employment with the Grand Trunk Railway, was relocated a few times.  He served as station master with the company for 32 years.  William was an active member of the Masonic Lodge, joining first at Wiarton.  Like many other men of his time, he also had membership in the Orange Lodge, the Oddfellows, and the Independent Order of Foresters.  William died in 1923.



Note:  That’s William leaning against the corner of the building.




(Mother) Esther Ann (nee Smith) and William Richard Gilbert raised 6 children, 2 sons and 4 daughters.  The family residence was on Burlington Avenue.  Esther was an active member of St. Luke’s church and died in 1935, at age 78 years.


(Mary), a single daughter, Mary Hannington Gilbert died in 1931.





514 Burlington Avenue

The Gilberts purchased this home in 1909 from

Mr. George Allen and lived here until 1958.



(Nora) Fanny Leanora, also a daughter who remained single, lived a very active and full life.  She was educated in Burlington public and high schools.  For over 20 years she worked with the Bell Telephone Company, but was best known as a Newspaperwoman.  During over 30 years in that capacity she worked on the staffs of The Hamilton Herald, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and The Hamilton Spectator.  Nora regularly attended the council meetings of Burlington over a period of about 30 years, where her opinion was often sought and appreciated, according to former Mayor Ted Smith.  Her obituary notes that she was also considered a good friend of the local fire department being in attendance at almost every fire, even in the middle of the night.

Nora also found time to serve other organizations.  She was a member of the Board of Directors of the V.O.N., member of the Eastern Star, the Canadian Writers and Authors Club and the Arts and Letters Club and Women’s Institute in addition to the Women’s Guild and Institute of St. Luke’s Anglican Church.

In addition to regular “Burlington news” reported in the Spectator, Nora’s knowledge of the whole area of Burlington is left to us in the form of a series the Spectator undertook in 1951 and 1952 to profile the histories of the small communities in their coverage area.  These were full page stories including many photographs.  It was Nora who undertook the assignment for Burlington and Nelson Township.  She wrote the stories and took the photographs for places from Appleby to Zimmerman, some more than once, about 16 in all.  We have photocopies of this work in our Archives.


(Esther) Esther Amelia Gilbert, daughter, had married William T. Wodehouse but was a widow living on Princess Street when she died in January of 1959. Esther had married in 1945.  Her husband died in 1957.


(William) William Maurice Gilbert, son of Wm. R and Esther Gilbert died in February of 1964, at age 71, while on a World Tour with Mr. Paul Fisher, part of which was to have been spent addressing Rotary Clubs in Australia.  William became ill at Honolulu and was advised to rest when he arrived in Australia, but became ill again on the plane and died shortly after arrival in New South Wales, Australia.

Gilbert had been a charter member of the Burlington Rotary Club, which was formed in 1951.  He served as president of the club the following year.  He had previously been a member of the Rotary Club in Oshawa when both he and his brother, Victor, had lived and worked there.

William Gilbert was born in Hepworth, ON.  He was a long time employee for the A. S. Nicholson Company.  At the time of his death he was manager of the Nicholson Building Center on New Street.  William’s hobby was building cruisers and sailboats.

William was past president of the Burlington Library Board.  The old town bell, now at the north entrance of Central Library on New Street was preserved for the town through the efforts of William Gilbert.  Initially he arranged to have the bell installed at the entrance of the former library on Elizabeth Street.


(Margaret) Margaret E. Nicholson was the wife of William M. Gilbert.  They raised a son and daughter at their home on Caroline Street.  Margaret was a sister of Mr. Allen S. Nicholson, her husband’s employer.


©Peggy Armstrong

February 2016