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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Monday, December 5, 2022
Letter: Some Black cemetery gravestones were taken by locals
Letter to the editor. File

Dear editor:

I have read some of the newspaper articles concerning James Russell’s quest to find out more about the people buried at the Negro Burial Ground on Mississagua Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Perhaps I can shed some light on the recent history of this landmark.

From roughly 1975-81, I assisted Robert Ure (1928-2014) during his Saturday hobby of restoring the houses he and his wife Dorothy owned in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

These included the historic Breakenridge House on Mississagua Street, near St. Andrew’s Church.

At times, we discussed a number of historical topics.

Curiosity may have led me to raise the question why the Negro Burial Ground was only marked by two headstones near the front of the property and some fragmentary stones near the back.

Mr. Ure told me this reflected one of the more discreditable episodes of recent local history.

After the burial ground ceased to be in regular use and most of the Black families had moved away, he said some Niagara-on-the-Lake citizens helped themselves to the gravestones and used them as flagstones for patios and walkways.

I got the impression that this was during Mr. Ure’s lifetime.

If this is the case, and I feel certain that it is, it seems very unlikely that digging in the grounds will uncover more than fragmentary remains of the gravestones, although that might still be worthwhile.

Kevin McCabe
St. Catharines