Over the weekend, my friends and I went on a cemetery road trip.
We had it planned and mapped out for a while now and were excited to spend the day together while exploring cemeteries. We started bright and early and fully caffeinated.
I just finished going through all the photos I took on our adventures, all 957 of them. The first thing I always do after a cemetery adventure is, upload my photos to my computer and file them accordingly and get the number of cemeteries visited.
If you have been following me for a little bit now, you may remember that our record for cemeteries visited in one day is 13. Well, Saturday was a full day of adventures, and we have a new record!
A personal best. I have the best friends and travel companions a taphophile could ask for! I love that they love exploring cemeteries as much as I do, and enjoy a good challenge too.
It will take me a while to sort through my photos and get them posted. But they should be popping up on my social media channels and website soon. I will most likely write a more in-depth post about our day of adventures in the future as well. There were some fun surprises!
I haven’t posted a road trip story in a little bit, so today I wanted to share my adventure of finding a cemetery via railroad tracks!
It was back in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Social bubbles were very much in place and almost everything was shut down. There was not a lot to do that summer. BUT visiting cemeteries is always a viable option! My fiancé and I, and our close friends whom we had been bubbling with (that’s an odd to say), decided to go on a little adventure to try and find two cemeteries in Spragge, Ontario.
The little town of Spragge found its beginnings in 1882 but was originally named Cook’s Mills. It was a self-sufficient town of about 350 residents all built around the sawmill. In 1895 the whole operation was sold, and the village was renamed Spragge, after the township. When the depression hit, the mill closed in 1932. That same year, there was a devastating fire that burned almost the entire village to the ground. This caused a lot of folks to leave town, although a few remained and tried to rebuild. The mill never did re-open, and now there only sit about a dozen homes within the small village limits of Spragge.1 Two cemeteries remain, the Spragge Catholic cemetery and the Spragge Protestant cemetery.
This adventure would take us a little over an hour and a half on the road to get to Spragge. Our little group made a day trip out of it. We stopped at a diner and safely had lunch outside on the patio. We asked some of the locals about the cemetery. The stories we heard were pretty interesting. We were told that the owners of the property where the cemetery sits, do not like visitors and consider them trespassers. They talked about how this causes some tension between the townsfolk who want to visit their relatives, but are barred from doing so. The community was trying to get free access to the cemeteries. We were also told that the property owner was known to brandish a shotgun! We were a little put-off by the stories, but we were determined to take a look for ourselves.
After our slightly uncomfortable lunch, we continued on our way with directions by Google Maps. We turned off the main road onto a side road and what looked like a parking area. My fiancé was completely put-off by the stories we were told, he was also not as enthusiastic about visiting the cemeteries as we were, so he waited in the car and played look-out.
The rest of us began tentatively walking down the dirt road. When it opened up and we could see it was a driveway leading directly to a house, we decided to turn around and try a different approach. We had crossed a set of train tracks, that ran parallel with the main highway. After consulting Google Maps, it looked like we might be able to access the cemetery at a clearing just off the train tracks. We decided to try that. We chose a hot day to walk along the train tracks, but it ended up only being a short walk. On our left, a little clearing opened up which lead into the cemetery.
We had found the Spragge Protestant cemetery! We took some time to wander the grounds and look at the beautiful stones. It was a smaller cemetery and looked to be well-maintained. Not at all what we had pictured in our minds. We had been under the impression that the cemetery was abandoned and in disrepair. Some of the stones were too worn to be read, but some others were still in great condition. Some of the common cemetery symbols we found were clasped hands, obelisks, and little lambs.
After we explored a little bit, we tried to find the Spragge Catholic cemetery. According to my friend’s research, it should have been very close to where we were. We branched out a little, exploring the oddly well-kept lawn that snaked in between clumps of trees. We were nervous about getting too close to the house or going in full view of it. After a little more wandering, with no luck, we decided to turn back and reunite with my fiancé, who was patiently waiting in the car.
We were very happy to have at least found one of the cemeteries, and we vowed to do a little more digging and return in the future to find the elusive cemetery. It was still a fun adventure, after all exploring is half the fun.
But that’s not the end of the story!
This past winter I was busy uploading photos to Find a Grave and uploaded some of my photos from Spragge. A woman reached out to me, looking for coordinates for the Spragge Catholic cemetery, as she has family there. I passed on all I knew, and let her know we were not able to find it. She had also heard about the access issues, but since she was a relative was hoping the property owner would be understanding. She later contacted me and gave me an update. She was able to locate both cemeteries and visit her family. It turns out the town of Spragge did not want the expense of maintaining the cemeteries, and a private owner requested to take it over and purchased the property. When he is not in town, he has entrusted maintenance and upkeep to another property owner in the immediate area—who also happens to have loved ones buried in the cemeteries.
I also had another person reach out about these cemeteries. They have turned out to be pretty popular locations. This time, the person who reached out was searching for the location of the Spragge Protestant cemetery. He had visited the Spragge Catholic cemetery but did not find the other. We exchanged information. I shared everything I knew about the one I had visited. In return, he shared the exact coordinates of the Spragge Catholic cemetery and the contact information of the property owners. If we had searched closer to the water’s edge when we were there, we would have found it. So close!
I’m still a little confused about the stories that the folks at the diner told us, about the owners brandishing shotguns. From what I heard from both people who reached out, the owners seem very kind and willing to allow visitors into the cemetery. Although one had also heard about the access issues. Were there issues at one time? A misunderstanding maybe? Or maybe it was just some locals trying to scare away visitors? That mystery still remains…
Armed with all this new information, I will have to make another trip out to Spragge to visit the elusive Catholic cemetery. I love how this little adventure turned out because it showcases how interesting cemeteries can be. Cemetery mysteries are very much a part of the fun, and the fact that the cemetery community is so willing to share information and come together to solve these little mysteries is heartwarming.
Have you ever visited the cemeteries in Spragge? Do you have a cemetery mystery you would like to share? I would love to read about it in the comments.
In August of 2020, a friend and I set out to find an abandoned cemetery. She had been to it before, having stumbled upon it while out and about on four-wheelers. She was excited to share it with me. She and I have been on many cemetery adventures, but this one was a bit different for us. Normally we would jump in the car and head for a destination while stopping at all the cemeteries we found along the way. This one was a bit closer to home and would need to be reached on foot. So with the camera in hand, we started walking. Have you ever seen the movie Stand by me? It sort of had that feeling, except we weren’t going to see a dead body, we were off to see a cemetery.
Happy Valley is considered a ghost town. According to Ontario Abandoned Places, it never really was considered a town at all.
“…more of a settlement which belonged to Falconbridge. Happy Valley consisted of residents who wanted to be separate and independent from the residents of Falconbridge…The residents were mainly farmers and mill-workers who worked at the sawmills by the lake. The children would have to endure a three-mile walk every morning to the nearest school (established in 1907) located in Garson…Other than the mills and homes, there were no stores or a post office to be found. Residents had to travel to Falconbridge Township for amenities…By 1970, the town was abandoned…almost. The last resident, “Gizzy”, left the town in the late ’80s.” – Ontario Abandoned Places
Our trip began by taking us into a more industrial part of the town. There were dunes everywhere and an old abandoned railway track. Small trees and bushes were growing from in between the railway ties. Those tracks had not seen much use in a while. We walked the train tracks for a little bit, but then found a dirt trail that took us more into the surrounding wilderness. We passed old culverts and a few small lakes. It was a beautiful day for a walk!
The way to this cemetery wasn’t a straight shot, or well marked. We had a general direction and were using landmarks to help find our way. We referenced old photos from the first time my friend had been there. We seemed to have made our way into some backcountry, where there were sandy trails and lots of sandy hills, that would be great for four-wheeling. After climbing up into a rocky area we reached a plateau where it levelled off and there was a two-lane sandy road. It was nice to not have to watch our footing anymore for fear of catching a toe on a rock.
My friend felt we were getting close. We walked on, enjoying each other’s company and chatting about life. Now and then we would stop to assess how far we had gone. We were alone in the woods, having not seen anyone else out on the trails. After a while, we started to question if we had gone too far. We checked a side trail, but no, it was going off in the wrong direction. We took a small break to rest and re-evaluate. Luckily, we still were getting cell service in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. She was able to look at satellite photos on Google and find what looked to be our cemetery. We had gone too far! We had to backtrack a little way and take a dirt road that forked to the right. Our goal should be right around that corner.
We found it! It’s a small cemetery, having been recently surrounded by a chain-link fence. We theorized that the fence was put up to protect the cemetery from people unintentionally running through it on quads and snowmobiles. There are about a handful of headstones, some up-right and a few flat to the earth. There seem to be more pioneers buried there than there are headstones.
Having found the cemetery and being able to visit it was well worth the hike. It was super satisfying! Almost more rewarding than if we would have driven straight there. After spending some time among the tombstones, we made our way back the way we came. Through the woods, along the dirt paths, and along the train tracks, ending by having to climb back up a massive dune that we had first scaled down at the beginning of our journey. It was a great adventure! I am grateful that I have good friends who want to share these kinds of experiences with me!
More recently, I was doing some pre-emptive cemetery road trip research, getting ready for this spring. I was going through all the cemeteries listed in my hometown, there are 25 in total. I have been to all but 3 of them, or so I thought. Based on my archived photos I had not visited Ruff Pioneer Cemetery, Chelmsford Protestant Cemetery, and St. Joseph Cemetery. As I did a bit more research into where these cemeteries are located, I got stuck on Ruff Pioneer Cemetery. It’s listed as being off of Goodwill Road, in Garson. As I searched Google Maps, it just was not making sense. I was able to zero in on its location using satellite photos. Low and behold—Ruff Pioneer Cemetery is our Abandoned Happy Valley cemetery!
Looking back at my photos, though, it all makes sense!
Goodwill road was most likely named after those pioneers buried in this cemetery.
Looking back at this cemetery adventure has me pining for summer and the opportunity to visit new cemeteries. I have a few road trips already planned and mapped out, but I may take a look for more abandoned cemeteries that are harder to find. Do you have a story about an abandoned cemetery? Share it in the comments!
In October 2021, I took some time off to enjoy the autumn weather and some Halloween activities. I also took it as an opportunity to go on some cemetery road trips. I had the idea to visit Elliot Lake during the summer, but my nephew suggested we wait till the fall, to take advantage of the fall colors. My mother and I both thought that was a great idea. I will admit, we may have gone a bit later than we should have, as we missed peak leaf-peeping colors, but it was still a beautiful drive.
I have wanted to visit Elliot Lake and its cemetery for a while now. It seemed a perfect fit for a cemetery road trip. It’s only about 3 hours away, and I have family that is buried there. I remember visiting when I was very young for my uncle’s funeral, but that was many years ago. We made sure to visit him and his wife in the cemetery, while we were there. Since my mother accompanied me on this trip, we tried to pack as much as we could into this one day trip, visiting some cemeteries and getting in some hiking.
We stopped at couple of cemeteries along the way, spending 10 to 20 minutes at each one. Roadside cemeteries I explored myself, while my mother waited in the car eating breakfast and enjoying her coffee. She was more interested in visiting Woodlands Cemetery.
There were two must-see locations on this trip for me, Woodlands Cemetery and the site of the former Algo Centre Mall. You may have heard of it. On June 23rd in 2012, a section of the roof collapsed, injuring 22 people and killing two, Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo.
For more information on what happened at the Algo Centre Mall, there is a short documentary on Youtube by Fascinating Horror that tells the whole story: The Algo Centre Mall Collapse.
I familiarized myself with the location using Google Maps before we visited. You can still see online, what the mall used to look like before the collapse. From the street, the parking lot looked the same but the mall has been completely demolished. All that is left is a parking lot and empty space filled with sandy mounds. The area seems small to have held a multi-level shopping center. My mother stayed in the car, while I stepped out to survey the area. Behind where the mall had stood, stands some sandy cliffs that look like they meld into the sandy mounds of the demolished building. As I looked around, taking in the sandy scenery, I thought about how this spot used to be a space full of life. I also thought about Lucie and Doloris, and how terrifying it must have been for them. Even though it was a bright sunny day, I felt a chill run through me.
Before visiting the mall collapse site, we had stopped at Woodlands Cemetery. Woodlands is a very large non-denominational cemetery. The first thing I noticed as I walked among the tombstones, is that there are no upright stones. All the grave markers are flat to the ground. There are also a few small columbariums for cremated remains, or cremains. One section was particularly beautiful. Surrounded by tall trees and a layer of fallen leaves lies a large crescent-shaped columbarium. It’s away from the rest of the graves, in an almost wooded area, giving it peaceful seclusion.
I found my uncle almost immediately, buried beside his girlfriend. I remember going to his funeral when I was very young but had no recollection of the cemetery. My mother did remember, and talked about how there were not as many internments at the time. It made finding my aunt, my uncle’s first wife, a bit of a challenge. We didn’t end up finding her at all. We hope to go back this summer and try again. There were two more graves I was looking for while we were there; Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo. I found Doloris, in the upper portion of the cemetery, which looked to be a new addition. She is buried next to her husband Giuseppe, who passed in 2011. Their marker is large, with ceramic photos. In her photo, she is holding a small dog and has a bright smile. I read their names out loud. It’s something I always do when visiting a cemetery. My little way of remembering them. Unfortunately, I was not able to locate Lucie Aylwin’s grave to pay my respects.
Next, we stopped at the Miners Memorial at Horne Lake. It’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs. It has multiple life-size statues and monuments, honoring the mining history of the town. We read each one and admired the artistry of the statues. The last monument we looked at, consisted of 3 large marble pillars that listed all the names of miners who had lost their lives on the job. As we stood taking in the lake view and the monuments, my eyes landed on a name. It jumped out at me. Giuseppe Perizzolo – Doloris’s husband. He had been a miner. It felt like a very serendipitous moment. I recognized his name from having just visited the cemetery. It was nice to see that he was memorialized.
After that discovery, we took a walk on the Horne Lake trail, which circles the lake. It looked to be a long trail, so we only walked half of it. We made a mental note to visit the Miner Memorial again and walk the whole trail when we return. We had one more stop on our list—visiting the fire tower. It was not at all what I had expected. I expected a tower with many stairs to reach the top. Thankfully, that was not the case. Only a few stairs lead to the top for a magnificent view of the land. We noticed more trails while we were there. Elliot Lake has an extensive trail system that gives access to all the beautiful views it has to offer.
On our way home, we stopped at a couple more cemeteries. We ended up visiting five cemeteries that day. It did make for a long day, but it was a day full of adventure. During a pandemic, visiting places close to us has been a great way to get out of the house, and have a change of scenery. Even a few hours can make a big difference. I enjoyed my visit to Elliot lake and look forward to going back this summer.
There is a bit of a thrill in discovering a new cemetery.
While doing some photo editing of some photos I took on my vacation, I discovered a cemetery in Sturgeon Falls that I did not know existed. I noticed in my photo files that I had the name of the Sturgeon Falls cemetery entered incorrectly. While looking into the appropriate cemetery name, I discovered there is another hidden cemetery in Sturgeon Falls—Union Cemetery.
This is super exciting to me because I had thought that I had photographed all of the cemeteries close to me. And this gives me an excuse to go on yet another mini road trip!
By using Google Maps and street view, I was able to locate the entrance and get a glimpse of what the cemetery actually looks like. The cemetery grounds look quite large! The entrance also looks like it’s a little bit tucked away, so it will be very interesting to find this location in person and photograph it.
Images from Google Maps
Discovering a new cemetery can be just as exciting as actually visiting it. I can’t wait till the next time I am in Sturgeon Falls!
I wrote a post last week reminiscing about cemetery road trips. It may have been a bad idea as it made me want to plan one even more!
This year, just like last, I have been spending a lot of time with my Mom. We have been visiting different local walking trails as something to see and do while we are in lockdown due to COVID-19. This year we have started visiting provincial parks that are close by to visit their hiking trails. This gave me an idea!
Why not stop at local cemeteries that are along the way or close to our destination? And so the mini road trip was born!
My Mother is fairly used to me making pit stops on the way to our hiking trails, but this past weekend, I deliberately drove out of my way to visit 2 cemeteries. I did a bit of research and found the locations of two cemeteries I have been wanting to visit for a long while now. One in Britt, and one in Byng Inlet. An old co-worker of mine told me about a very old and interesting cemetery in Byng Inlet that I should visit. This was several years ago. It just happens to be across the river from Britt, and another cemetery I have wanted to visit for a while.
We drove to Byng Inlet first with the plan of visiting Britt and Grundy Lake Provincial Park as we made our way back towards home. We enjoyed the drive and I was pleasantly surprised by what we found.
In Byng Inlet, we found Magnetawan Cemetery which looked to be a small family cemetery, as well as two very old cemeteries. Sitting right on the side of the highway sits the cemetery of Saint John the Divine (1911-1931) and beside it, the cemetery of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (1911-1924). Both of these cemeteries are partially hidden by the wild forest that has sprouted up around them. I was only able to find one stone at the cemetery of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It was an obelisk-style stone, that had sadly fallen to the ground. The cemetery of Saint John the Divine had about 10 stones that I was able to find, including one military grave. I was very excited by this find.
In Britt, we stopped at a small cemetery across from a small white church – the Britt Holy Family Church Cemetery. This small little cemetery, on the bank of a river, holds a mix of old and modern stones. The oldest stone we found was a family grave. Capt. Peter Archabel McIntosh, who drowned at the Bustard Island in 1906, and his wife Lillie Clovetier who passed away in 1905.
After realizing that that was not the cemetery I was looking for, we traveled a bit farther and found not one, but two more cemeteries; the Britt and area community cemetery and the Holy Family Roman Catholic New Cemetery. That made a total of six cemeteries we visited that day.
We walked among the stones for a little while, while I snapped away with my camera. Interestingly enough, there is a campground adjacent to the Holy Family Roman Catholic New Cemetery, filled with RV’s and trailers – with some of them backed up right against the cemetery.
After our cemetery visits, we headed to Grundy lake to stop for a picnic lunch and then go for a hike through their Swan Lake trail. It’s a beautiful trail and was a great way to end our adventures that day.
I think this trip may have started a new tradition of cemetery visits, picnic lunches, and hiking trails. I mean it’s not a bad way to spend time outside during a pandemic.