Welland Canal and St. Peter's Cemetery

Another great hike this weekend, but this time it was something of a working hike. It seems like I've been editing my current novel forever, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm well into planning out my next project. There's some fascinating history to the Niagara Region, and it was about this time last year that I first latched onto to some of the darker, lesser know aspects as inspiration for my next novel.

I fully intend to take some creative liberties with that history, of course, but that doesn't make the source material any less fascinating.

The creation of the Third and Fourth Welland Canal figure prominently in the story, particularly those aspects involving St Peter's Church, St Peter's Cemetery, and the Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel (more commonly known as the Blue Ghost Tunnel, but more on that next time around).

There's a long history and several great stories surrounding it, but the key is the demolition of the church and the flooding of the cemetery. It's said that less than 300 of the nearly 700 graves were relocated to nearby Lakeview Cemetery. It's not much to look at today, but below is a glimpse of the icy, flooded parcel of land that was once known as St. Peter's Cemetery.

"You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!" You thought Poltergeist was bad? Well, here they didn't even bother to move most of the bodies. Granted, it was an old Pioneer cemetery, and most of the graves were unmarked, but it's still unsettling to look out over the water and know there are hundreds of bodies down there, who knows how far beneath the surface (given a century of watery erosion) just waiting to be revealed.

There's not much to be found today, other than broken bases and pieces of eroded headstones. While I have previously spotted 2 or 3 recognizable tombstones lying in the water, conditions today did more to remind me why remnants are so hard to find. When you think of the damage 90 years of constant flooding has done, especially with tons of ice shifting with the rising and lowering water levels, and daily incoming and outgoing tides, it's remarkable there's anything left to see that hasn't been battered or wash away.

When it comes to history, the far side of the cemetery lands is the busiest and most visible. Artifacts and remnants of the Third Welland Canal are everywhere.

Then, of course, there's the canal itself, still recognizable at this time of year when the water levels are low, and the farthest reaches walkable.

One new discovery today - and something I've been looking for since I first read about it last year - is the shipwreck located just below the canal gates. Looking at it closely, you can clearly see where the bow scraped and dragged along the bottom, suggesting that the wreck happened further down the canal and was washed here, but it makes for an amazing sight regardless of how it got there.

As I wrapped up my hike, I stopped by Lakeview Cemetery where, overlooking the canal, can be found a few of the tombstones that were relocated. With oldest having died in 1823, long before the new cemetery was established, it seems a safe bet these all made their way up the hill, escaping the watery grave that swallowed so many of their neighbors.

Next time out I plan to revisit the Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel.


  1. Your hike was quite the adventure through time. That is creepy the bodies are still there. Cool you found the shipwreck, though.


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