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Susan Martin - Heritage Interpretation

Miss McKenzie’s Watery Grave

Susan Martin - Heritage Interpretation

In the early days of the village of Sydenham, now known as Owen Sound, 12 acres of land was required to create a public burying ground. A piece of crown land was given for the purpose. It was located on the north side of Union Street ( now 8th Street) and Garafraxa Street (15th Street East, it is the diagonal street running from just a little north of the top of 10th St. at 9th Ave. East ). Much of the village was low-lying, swampy ground but this particular spot was on high-ground and was deemed to be a suitable option. Unfortunately, this was not the case, the land turn out to be clay soil and was inclined to be springy under foot during the rainy season. During these times, interment of the dead was extremely distressing owing to the excessive seepage of water into the dug graves. The unfortunate events surrounding the burial of a Miss Marion McKenzie well illustrated the problems. The funeral was held toward the end of March, just after the spring thaw. There had been extreme difficulty digging the grave to begin with. Water ran into the hole so fast that one man had to be assigned to bail it out, while a second continued to dig. By the time of the interment, the grave was half full of water. Attempts were made to bail it dry once again but this seemed to be an impossible task. Once as much water was removed as possible, the coffin was lowered and weighted down with stones. A number of men were also required to press it down in order to keep it in place while the earth was piled in on top of it. As this work was taking place, gurgling sounds were heard as water entered the coffin making it an extremely harrowing experience for all concerned. Finally the task was done but there was concern expressed by some that poor Miss McKenzie might not stay put. Such were the perils of dying in the early days of Owen Sound.

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