Rosetta is a name that comes with a long history in the world. It was the appearance of a simple structure resembling the Pyramids of Egypt built by Robert Dick to shelter his livestock that inspired the naming of the Lanark Township community, Rosetta. This name was formalized when the Post Office was later established. Over the years, Rosetta, nestled in the heart of Lanark County has seen two stores, two blacksmith shops, a hotel, a post office, four successive schools and four successive Churches. Probably the most distinctive feature of this community is a natural outcropping of a giant rock.
A group of early settlers worshipped in the open air with a preacher, possibly one of the four Dick brothers who later became ministers, speaking from atop a giant rock. This rock stood on the north part of the east half of Lot 12, Concession 9 of Lanark Township. This sacred site has long been known to generations as The Preaching Rock. In winter, sleighs pulled by oxen carried area worshippers to the stone church on the 8th line of Ramsay Township, Auld Kirk. Once a log church was built on Lot 13, Concession 9 on an acre purchased from John Dick for 5 shillings, the congregation was able to worship year round in their own community. Generations later, in 1982, a group led by Alex Bowes organized a service at The Preaching Rock that was attended by about 100 people from the surrounding churches. An annual outdoor service was held at the rock. Once again, this rock welcomed worshippers to gather at its base for the next five years.
The deed for the piece of land the Rosetta Church and Cemetery stand on gives the following information: May 30, 1853 Deed from John Dick to Robert Robertson, William Ramsbottom, William Aitken and Alexander Young, Trustees appointed by the Congregational Church of Lanark in the County of Lanark and Province of Canada.
This first log structure was erected slightly further west on the lot than the present church building. In the summer of 1852, a new frame building was built on the present church site and had a congregation of about thirty. It was about this time in the summer of 1853 that something known as the great revival happened in this church community. A Reverend Climie held meetings every evening in the Rosetta Church and his preaching was said to be so powerful that over the course of the summer and fall a number of about 400 people that came to hear him were converted to believing after hearing his message. At the 50th anniversary jubilee of the congregation in 1902, Reverend R.K. Black reminisced about his time in the early days of the church when he walked 30 miles from Oliver’s Ferry now known as Rideau Ferry to Middleville to take up his ministry of 50 to 60 families. This frame church served the community until it was torn down to make way for a smaller, more practical building in 1898.
The new church was erected using whatever materials and furnishings that could be salvaged and repurposed for the new church. This third church was in use until it burned in 1919 and the present day church was erected. Around this time, 5100 square feet of land was purchased for $1 to allow the building of horse sheds nearby.
Sometime around 1901, records indicate the first formal organization of a Rosetta choir. This is significant because it is a great example of the resiliency of this community’s commitment to tradition. The early days of the choir were documented and in one case the choir director would use the phone lines to hold a choir practice. That’s innovative practicality. Many will recall the Rosetta Men’s Choir renowned for its steadfast service to the Church and community. This choir often had requests to sing at many events and locations. The members of this choir worshipped at other area churches after the closure of Rosetta Church, but continued to sing under the name of Rosetta and of course, were on hand for the annual cemetery service.
When the rebuilding of the Church was proposed in 1919, community members were tasked with contributing money, labour and materials such as lumber.
The church building that stands on the curve of the Rosetta Road at the edge of a picturesque cemetery serving as the final resting place for the early settlers and community members through the generations opened its doors for the first time on December 28, 1919. It ceased holding weekly services on June 30, 1965. The resiliency of this community is evidenced by the annual memorial cemetery service that sees the church doors flung open and the pews filled with worshippers gathered there to remember the people laid to rest in the cemetery. The decoration of graves in Rosetta Cemetery in late June each year is part of a long standing tradition in several local communities. Year after year, descendants of families who lived in the area communities return to decorate the graves of their ancestors, some long departed and only known through old photos and historical records and others more recently laid to rest. The long tradition of decorating graves is still practiced in many local communities in Lanark County. The communities of Middleville, Hopetown and Clayton continue to hold local outdoor cemetery services each summer. People often travel from a distance to attend these annual commemorations of loved ones. It is also a chance to reconnect with friends and extended family that attend. The early days of these services were organized to raise funds for the maintenance of the cemeteries. The ongoing caretaking of these sacred grounds requires great commitment and funding. Rosetta is a great example of this commitment. The grounds are carefully tended and maintained for those who wish to visit. Check local newspapers to find out which community Memorial Cemetery Services will resume in 2022 after a brief pause the last few years.
From the remarkable well known story of the young Dick family who persevered on after they lost their father in a drowning accident in the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City and their mother shortly after settling in Lanark Township, to the majestic Preaching Rock that rises in the landscape of a field to the ongoing caretaking of the beloved Church and Cemetery, Rosetta is a true testament to the resiliency of a community through generations. The impressive, black, horse drawn hearse that is on display in the Middleville and District Museum is part of the Young family of Rosetta’s legacy. The Middleville and District Museum has information and pictures of the history of Rosetta and the families who settled in that area. Drop by the Museum to learn more about this and other local communities.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.