Archeological Research Continues on Cathedral’s Pioneer Cemetery

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Investigators looking for historic human remains buried under a downtown St. Catharines church parking lot have located three more bodies.

The lot, which is behind Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria, contain what is believed to be a long-forgotten pioneer cemetery. The remains were discovered accidently by construction workers in April 2015.

John O’Brien, the episcopal delegate for cemeteries and insurance for the Diocese of Hamilton, is assisting the Diocese of St. Catharines.

He said six bodies were initially discovered. Three more were found last week, bringing the total to nine.

“The Diocese of St. Catharines retained an archeological firm to conduct a preliminary investigation of that area of the property and the remains that might be there,” O’Brien said. “That’s what they were working at last week.

“We were always planning to continue along the fence line and see what might be in that area — and last week we were able to get the various pieces of equipment, and people lined up. It took a fair bit of co-ordination.”

The process involved digging up part of the parking lot, situated between Lyman and James streets behind Church Street.

In April 2015, a construction crew was digging for Penn Terra’s student residence on James Street adjacent to the church parking lot, when a worker removed soil on the edge of the property and believed he saw bones fall from the church side. Construction was halted temporarily and Penn Terra had to hire an archeological team to investigate.

Records indicate a cemetery was located behind the church from 1827 until graves were moved when Victoria Lawn Cemetery opened in 1857. The cemetery behind the church was later paved over.

The remains have been removed and are being stored in a safe location, O’Brien said. The discovery site was covered.

“They haven’t conducted any analysis of any of the remains to date,” O’Brien said. “The archeologists have guidelines and professional protocols they have to follow.

“We have some consultations set up with the Registrar of Burial Sites before we proceed any further.

“Once we have that meeting, we will be in a position to have a clearer direction about the next steps.

“We are hoping to reach an agreement and do what is best for all the parties involved.”

Source: More bodies found in forgotten cemetery