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An urban legend for halloween

Web posted on October 29, 2000

As Halloween is the season for eerie stories and supernatural events, The Fountain Pen takes this opportunity to tell you one of Guelph's lingering urban legends about the city's first burial ground. As the story goes, the first cemetery in Guelph was established by John Galt in 1827 in the area of what is now the Baker Street parking lot. What happened to that cemetery and, more importantly, what happened to the bodies which rested there?

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. What many citizens of Guelph do not realize is that there was a second cemetery downtown - in fact right in the heart of the city, at what is now St. George's Square. This was attached to the Anglican church. What happened to the bodies which were buried there? Do we still walk over old bones as we go about our daily business downtown?

Well, these two burial grounds were used until 1853 when a new one was established on the site of the present day cemetery. The literature says that the intention was to "move the bodies to the new cemetery and to erect thereon the monuments". The old burial ground was to become a public park.

The official end to the old cemetery came in 1879 when a bill was passed in the Ontario legislature declaring the burying ground legally closed. It is likely that all bodies were moved as prescribed, so we can be pretty sure that we are not treading on our ancestors when we walk in that area today.

However, the Baker Street area never became a public park. It saw industry such as the Raymond Sewing Machine factory and the Petric Cream Separator company. Bowling and curling clubs also occupied the space before it became a parking lot. Let's hope, indeed, that all bodies had been moved lest they be awakened by stentorian yells to "sweep" the curling rocks. It has often been said that the roar of curlers is enough to wake the dead.
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