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Urban legend - or not

Web posted on October 31, 2005

Back on Hallowe'en day in 2000, when The Fountain Pen was just a little nib (you might say), we undertook to tell you an eerie story in keeping with the occasion. The story was about what we dubbed one of Guelph's lingering urban legends - the city's first burial ground.

We asked at the time what had happened to the bodies of those buried in Guelph's first cemetery, established by John Galt in 1827 in the area of, you guessed it, what is now the Baker Street parking lot.

Old map of the Baker Street burying ground obtained from the Woodlawn Cemetery,

We told you that "urban legend would have one believe that there may still be bones interred beneath the concrete in this, the city's first public burying ground". We asked: "Do we still walk over old bones as we go about our daily business downtown?". We assured you that "we can be pretty sure that we are not treading on our ancestors when we walk in that area today".

Well, little did we know that our urban legend had more fact than is usual in the genre. In the past month skeletal remains of several bodies have been unearthed under Baker Street at what must have been the back edge of the cemetery. Perhaps their remote location is what led to these bones being left behind when others were disinterred in the 1870s and moved out to the then-new Woodlawn Cemetery.

City staff began excavating the site on October 27 to disinter the skeletal remains.

Site where city workers were digging when bones were discovered. They are now disinterring the bones and re-interring them at Woodlawn Cemetrey.

A tent has been erected in compliance with a provincial request to protect the dignity of the human remains. An on-site investigation was carried out by D.R. Poulton & Associates for the provincial government Cemeteries Regulation Unit of the Ministry of Government Services. As a result of the investigation, the Registrar of the Cemeteries Regulation Unit has advised the city that there is no objection to the found remains being completely disinterred and re-interred in a registered cemetery.

The remains will be removed to the Woodlawn Cemetery in what will finally be, we hope, a peaceful resting place.

Ceska Brennan of Woodlawn Cemetery shows where the old burying ground was on a map from Guelph's 1906 atlas.
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