A lost Grave

The former grave site of Elijah Forsyth, who died in 1829, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
The former grave site of Elijah Forsyth, who died in 1829, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

On Thursday, I wrote that a grave is a statement about place and family.

Another example is the lost grave of Elijah Forsyth.

In 1801, James Forsyth purchased 400 acres from Robert Hamilton for his son named, Caleb.

Twelve years later, Caleb divided up his land between his sons: Calib Jr and Elijah. Elijah got the western portion which is where the campus is located today.

According to unsourced notes that are located in the campus archives, Elijah, who a Methodist, held very extremes views.

On the morning of Oct 13, 1829, his extreme personality got the better of him. According to the notes, “he kissed his children before leaving the house. He then went into the woods and ended his life with a shotgun.”

Since it was suicide, the family had to bury him in unhallowed ground. There is a legend that he was buried where he died, a solitary grave overlooking a creek valley.

Cemeteries anchor the historic imagination

Hamilton Cemetery is the Oldest Public Cemetery in Canada. Photo by @erskinec
Hamilton Cemetery is the Oldest Public Cemetery in Canada. Photo by @erskinec

“Cemeteries are key elements in the creation of memories, heritage, and attitudes towards the dead and the dying.” Deathscapes, Memory, Heritage and Place in Cemetery by Katherine Cook(2011), M.A. Thesis.

Death Just Keeps Coming in early 19th Century Hamilton

St. Luke's Anglican Cemetery, Burlington (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
St. Luke’s Anglican Cemetery, Burlington (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

Death Just Keeps Coming in early 19th Century Hamilton

In Reverend John Miller parish records, notes that on Feb 13th, 1831, he preached at funeral of Andrew Land (1820-1831), aged 11. Andrew was the son of Abel and Louisa Land. The Land family was one of the original pioneer settler families in Hamilton. Unfortunately, I cannot located the cause of death.

A few years later (1834), Robert Allan, only son of Allan MacNab died in a hunting accident, also at the age of 11.

So, even if you survived the first few years of life, death could still catch up to you. As Rev. Miller noted in his parish records:

Jan 15th, 1832 – Mary Anne, daughter of Robert and Helen Berrie died at the age of 8.

July 15th, 1832 – Caroline Hill died at the age of 9.

Oct 18th, 1832 – son of Joseph Blew died at the age 10.

Unfortunately, in most cases we don’t know the cause of death. Whether it was an accident or an illness.

MacNab’s Family Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont).

MacNab's Family Cemetery at Dundurn Castle
MacNab’s Family Cemetery at Dundurn Castle

Like many Hamilton farming families, Allan MacNab had to create his own family cemetery. In the years before his death in 1862, MacNab’s Inchbuie cemetery would have held his first wife Elizabeth, who died in 1825; his only son Robert, who 1834; his second wife Mary, who died in 1846; plus his brother David and two of children.

After 1862, MacNab’s daughter Minnie was also buried at this location.

In 1901, the City of Hamilton purchased the Dundurn Castle property, except for Inchbuie. The photo show Inchbuie in 1901 within today’s landscape. At the time of photo, MacNab and his family would still have been located in the tomb.

As a result of a dispute over the land, Allan MacNab and his wife Mary were re-buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery because they were Catholics. Other members of the family were re-burried in the Hamilton Cemetery.

MacNab Family Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
MacNab Family Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

The source of the 1901 image is the Flickr account of the Hamilton Public Library, Special Collections, while the details regarding dispute over grave locations is from book entitled the Hamiltonians by Margaret Houghton.

When I am dead and buried – Hamilton Pioneer Cemeteries

Binkley 1803 Pioneer Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
Binkley 1803 Pioneer Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

Marks Binkley died in 1805 and had the following inscription placed on his gravestone:

“When I am dead and buried,
And all my bones are rotten;
When this you see,
Oh think of me,
Lest I should be forgotten”

Hamilton’s Family Farm Cemeteries

Binkley 1803 Graveyard, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
Binkley 1803 Graveyard, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

In the early years, Hamilton consisted mostly of farms. As a result, graveyards were typically devoted to one family. Located on the edge of the property where farming was difficult. The graveyard was often on a hill or overlooking a valley. The land was either sandy or offered good drainage.

Signs and omens – The Case of Abraham Lincoln

Signs and omens – The Case of Abraham Lincoln

Ancaster (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
Ancaster (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween. Here is the third and last story regarding signs and omens. This one comes from a respected journalist and close friend to Abraham Lincoln, Noah Brooks. The President died on April 15, 1865 at 7:22 in the morning.

A few months after Lincoln’s death, Brooks recounted the following story to Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in July 1865. Brooks claims to have retold the story as closely as possible to Lincoln’s own words.

Reporter and friend of Abraham Lincoln, Noah Brooks, re-told the following story in Lincoln’s own words. The story was published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in July 1865.

It was just after my election in 1860. . . . I was well tired out, and went home to rest, throwing myself down on a lounge in my chamber. Opposite where I lay was a bureau, with a swinging-glass upon it [and here he got up and placed furniture to illustrate the position] and, looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected, nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other.

I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished. On lying down again I saw it a second time-plainer, if possible, than before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler, say five shades, than the other. I got up and the thing melted away, and I went off and, in the excitement of the hour, forgot all about it-nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while come up, and give me a little pang, as though something uncomfortable had happened.

When I went home I told my wife about it, and a few days after I tried the experiment again, when [with a laugh], sure enough, the thing came again; but I never succeeded in bringing the ghost back after that, though I once tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was worried about it somewhat. She thought it was “a sign” that I was to be elected to a second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an omen that I should not see life through the last term.

Signs and Omens – The Tale of Strange Lights

Binkley 1803 Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec
Binkley 1803 Cemetery, Hamilton (Ont). Photo by @erskinec

According to some folklore, strange lights can warn of approaching death.

There is a story that tells of a mother and son who were visiting relatives in the countryside. One evening, the mother and son were upstairs and glanced out the window to see two lights moving towards the farm house.

The lights were moving along a country lane and kept getting closer and closer.

Just as the lights appeared to be right outside the house, the light started to move away and then disappeared at a foot of a hill where the family cemetery was located.

The mother immediately went downstairs and the whole family searched house for a possible cause for the strange lights. Everything was moved, but no light or mirror could reproduce the effect.

A few days later, mother and son suddenly became ill.

And just as suddenly, they worsened and died.

Mother and son were buried in the family cemetery, just where the lights had disappeared.