Mystery of the Petrolia East End Pioneer Cemetery One Step Closer to Being Solved

Posted: August 19, 2019

Mystery of the Petrolia East End Pioneer Cemetery One Step Closer to Being Solved!
Petrolia is proud of our heritage and of the people that, so many years ago, had the foresight to come to the area and build a life by working in the oil fields, opening businesses, building homes and raising their families in the area. Today is a day that has that pride bubbling back to the surface as summer student; and Historic Research Associate, Alanna Frew has discovered long-lost and assumed destroyed by the Victoria Hall fire, records of the East End Pioneer Cemetery. Ms. Frew has spent the summer doing valuable historical research through generous funding provided by Young Canada Works and Heritage.
The original maps of the Cemetery are integral to Petrolia’s story as they provide information regarding our community founders, ones that were here before we were incorporated as a town in 1874. The maps feature many recognizable and significant names of pioneers who established our community. Names like McGarvey, Lancey and Bishop – some of the thinkers, the dreamers and the entrepreneurs.
This incredibly exciting starting point will aide historians now and in the future with telling the story of Petrolia, a story that starts at the very beginning. The map establishes ownership of all lots on the site and will allow research to connect transfer of pioneer lot purchases to the current Hillsdale Cemetery site. Hillsdale Cemetery was acquired as the town grew, and a larger resting place was needed to ensure adequate resting place for the future. Mandi Pearson, Clerk/Operations Clerk & Cemetery Manager said, “We have a great privilege at Hillsdale Cemetery to be the stewards of history. While Hillsdale is an active cemetery serving today’s needs, this discovery will assist us in connecting this early information with the many genealogical inquiries we receive, and it will surely answer some long-standing questions about our heritage in the process.”
The original maps are made of linen and are very delicate so great care will be taken to ensure they are preserved through careful handling and by having copies made for use and research purposes. The maps were in some long-filed archives in Victoria Hall, and their condition is excellent, considering the age.
Along with the maps, most of the original lot purchase deeds were located. One deed remains unaccounted for, and that deed is the one that would show the original purchase of the land parcel in 1870.
Without the discovery of these maps and deeds, and with the passage of time, it was becoming increasingly difficult to identify interments by name. This discovery provides us a physical connection to this information that will irrefutably change the future of our story and will help future generations continue to share this important data.
Liz Welsh, Petrolia Heritage Chair said, “It’s hard to put into words, the impact that discovering these maps will have on our future; not from a simply historical perspective, but also in telling the story of Petrolia’s Pioneers from the very beginning.”
A sign for the Cemetery, located on North Street in Petrolia, is part of the reason that this research was undertaken. The Petrolia Heritage Advisory Committee has identified that this is an important part of Petrolia’s story, but until now, there has not been enough information available to provide information for the sign. This new discovery opens a world of possibility for the sign
and for additional information to be made available at the site.
Petrolia Heritage Discovery August 2019
Photo: From Left to Right: Petrolia Heritage Advisory Committee Member, Leanne Menzies; Clerk/Operations Clerk & Cemetery Manager, Mandi Pearson; Young Canada Works and Heritage Summer Student and Historic Research Associate, Alanna Frew; and Petrolia Heritage Advisory Committee Chairperson, Liz Welsh