Forgotten Burials Under and Around Kingston

While our previous post about St. Paul’s delved into a clearly marked cemetery, not all Kingston cemeteries are so visible. If you’re visiting in or around Kingston, we caution you to tread carefully, lest you trod upon an unmarked grave.

For those who want to take a darker tour of the region, here are three unmarked gravesites in the greater Kingston area to which we will be paying our respects.

John James McCormick: St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery

J.J. McCormick

J.J. McCormick

You don’t have to leave Kingston to visit the gravesite of Officer John James McCormick. Deceased in 1936, McCormick’s gravestone is an integral part of St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. However, this was not always the case.

McCormick had been an officer at the Kingston Penitentiary for eight years before he was killed in the line of duty. While positioned at the entrance to the Kingston Penitentiary hospital, he was stabbed four times by inmate Chester Crosley, who had acquired a stolen knife. McCormick died from his injuries two days later. Chester Crosley, was subsequently given a death sentence with the execution to take place on December 6, 1937, at the Frontenac County Gaol. However, on November 2, 1937, he was found dead of unknown causes in his cell.

Although McCormick put his life on the line, he was initially placed in an unmarked grave. The inmate, on the other hand, was given a small commemorative gravestone at the Cataraqui Cemetery. To compensate for this oversight, a gravestone for McCormick was ceremoniously unveiled at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery on July 13, 2012, marking the 76th anniversary of McCormick’s death. Long overdue, the unveiling of McCormick’s gravestone finally gave him the recognition he deserved.

Perth’s Working Poor: Perth’s Elmwood Cemetery

Perth House of Industry

Perth House of Industry

Take an hour long journey north of Kingston and you will find yourself in the small town of Perth, Ontario. Nestled within the town is Elmwood Cemetery, where large, stately-looking gravestones honour most of the deceased. Until recently, over 400 of Perth’s working poor had been buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery. These people, when living, had resided in the Perth House of Industry (otherwise known as the poor house) where they would work in the house in exchange for residency. For many years, those who died in the Perth House were buried without ceremony and placed in unmarked graves. In 2016, the town of Perth constructed a monument to honour these hundreds of individuals who went unrecognized for many years.

Rideau Canal Workers: Jones Falls in Elgin, Ontario

Dubbed as one of Ontario’s most beautiful lockstations, Jones Falls is located a mere forty-five minute drive north of Kingston. While an outwardly beautiful sight, Jones Falls has a lesser-known secret.

Cemetery at Jones Falls

Cemetery at Jones Falls

This secret was stumbled upon by several construction workers in the 1950s during the construction of a new gravel pit. As the workers’ loader went into reverse, it excavated far more than they expected. Along with the gravel, a human skeleton, fully clad in a blue uniform, tumbled out from an unmarked grave.

Jones Falls is a resting place for several Rideau Canal workers as well as immigrants who fell victim to malaria, typhus, or cholera. While the gravesite was not intended to go unmarked, in the mid-1800s, the creation of headstones came at an inordinate time and expense. As such, those buried at Jones Falls were given wooden markers to distinguish their gravesites. The passage of time withered these markers into the ground and, with the opening of formal church and civil cemeteries, the cemetery at Jones Falls was soon forgotten and overgrown. The Jones Falls gravesite has been described as the perfect example of a cemetery lost to time.

For those who wish to avoid the deadlier side of Kingston history, we caution you: Kingston and the surrounding area are home to far more forgotten gravesites than are listed here. With the dozens of unmarked graves scattered about the city, it is quite possible that your favourite local landmark may double as a cemetery.

Written by: Abbey Lee Hallett
Tour Guide
Haunted Walk of Kingston