The Haunted Burial Grounds of Marlborough Forest


 The famous "Rideau Trail" that runs through Marlborough Forest at Dwyer Hill has left many a hiker mystified and afraid upon passing this part of the woods.  Unknown to most, the trail here passes directly through pioneer burial grounds. Locals tell tales of hikers meeting strangers in period clothing only to disappear before them. Campers along this part of the trail tell of hearing the sound of horses passing but they are never seen, glowing lanterns are seen floating through the trees on their own, and voices are heard in the trees but nobody is around.

This, the oldest known cemetery in Marlborough Township, served the community of Irish Catholics around Dwyer Hill and Richmond until circa 1867.  Due to the nature of the graves, it is unique in the township and rare in Ontario.  Shallow excavations covered with stones in a low cairn were marked by planks inscribed with paint. The spartan character of the cemetery reflects the hardships of life for early settlers.

The book "Who's Where, A Guide to the Cemeteries of Rideau Township" edited by Jim Kennedy in 1980 (published by the Rideau Heritage Board) contains an article by Dr. George Neville that originally appeared in the Ottawa Genealogical Society's periodical Branch News (Vol. 7, Num 3, Mar 1975) which describes the burial ground as being on parts of Lots 22 and 23, Con 9, Marlborough Township.

According to Dr. Neville, the use of this cemetery was probably abandoned about 1867, when a new Roman Catholic cemetery was begun at St. Clares R. C. Church on Dwyer Hill. It was believed that the GORMAN, WHELAN, O'NEIL (two families), HANRAHAN, MCKENNA, HAGGARTY and O'BRIEN families, all early Irish Catholics in the area, have members buried in this area.

There are no known records for the burials in this cemetery. Its location does not appear on historical maps of 1863 or 1879, but it apparently straddled lots owned by T. Haggarty and James Hanrahan in 1863.

It is believed the original markers were made of pine slabs 4 to 5 inches wide, 4 feet thick and 4 feet tall, with about one foot in the soil. The pertinent information was applied to these markers with heavy lead paint which was renewed from time to time. In time these markers took on a carved appearance because the surface where the lead paint was preserved while the rest eroded. No wooden markers stood after 1940, according to Dr. Neville, who also noted that the "old-timers" in the area recalled that the last standing marker had recorded the death of a Mrs. Gorman who had died in childbirth aged 41 years.


Directions to Burial Grounds from Ottawa

LOCATION: Dwyer Hill Pioneer Burial Ground (Abandoned) near Dwyer Hill Station. Con 9, parts of lots 22 and 23, Marlborough Township

·         Take Highway 417 West to Eagleson Road exit

·         Turn left (South) onto Eagleson Road

·         Drive south for 14km to the town of Richmond.

·         Turn Right (West) on Perth Street

·         Go about 12.5 km west on Perth Street until you come to a 4 way stop (This is Dwyer Hill Road)

·         At this 4 way stop, turn left (South) onto Dwyer Hill Road

·         Drive 6.4 km south on Dwyer Hill Road past St. Clare Roman Catholic Church & Cemetery until you see O'Neil Road on your left (East).

·        Turn left (east) onto O'Neil Road

·        About 0.7 km down the road, you will cross over train tracks.

·        Park to the left side of the road at an opening just before the Hydro Power lines (Less than 0.2) km further east.

·        The original old side road/trail that once led to the cemetery is just a hundred feet further down O’Neil road on the left.  (0.2km from the railway crossing).  It is now overgrown with weeds and trees and is inaccessible by car.

·        Follow this old trail north until you reach the train tracks.

·        At the other side of the tracks, there is a chain link fence that runs from the Train tracks, under the power lines and to the tree line on the far side (North) of the Power Lines.  Follow this chain link fence to the tree line on the far side (North) of the Power Lines.

·        You will see a sign with a cross,  nailed to a tree indicating the beginning of a trail that goes to the Pioneer Cemetery.  The Sign states “CEM. Pioneer. Follow trail”.

·        After about 5 or 10 Minutes into the trail, there is a fork in the trail.  Stay on the left trail.

·        Shortly after the fork, you will approach a plaque marking the location of the Pioneer cemetery on the right.





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