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Sideroad Surprises

Sideroad Surprises

KIMbits & KATtales

KAT has taken a step back in time, cataloging some of the oldest European cemeteries in Ontario. As a new rider, exploring things close to home is easily the best way to improve your skills while having a bit of fun.

Editors Note: If you're looking for routes to quickly escape from your city or town, check out www.Escapethe400s.com. As always, KAT (aka KimberleeAnna) will be contributing to this site on a bi-weekly basis, and is looking forward to sharing her adventures with you. To reach KAT by email, send your questions and/or comments to kattales@rogers.com

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

-Henry David Thoreau

It was just a little dirt road.

Kind of out in the middle of nowhere.

Well, maybe kind of next to the middle of nowhere.

I happened upon it mostly by accident, and somewhat by design.

It isn’t the actual road that makes this story interesting; it’s what I found at the end of the road, just before the bend that took you to the point of ‘No Exit’ and ‘Private Property’.

It was a tiny country cemetery, the kind you tend to find completely by accident and not pay much attention to unless something out of the ordinary catches your eye.

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It was a sign that caught my attention.

United Empire Loyalists Burial Ground, it read.

History was my absolute favourite subject all through grade and high school, and there was no way I could pass by that little country graveyard without stopping to investigate.

Pulling Ruby around and up by the wrought-iron fence that bordered the burial ground, I parked her on the grass, grabbed my camera from the saddlebag, and made my way to the gate to see if it was unlocked.

Iron gates squeak at the best of times; add isolation and a setting sun to the equation, and you have the makings of an ordinary roadside stop becoming something a little more extraordinary.

I must have wandered that little cemetery for a good half an hour.

Making my way gingerly between the rows, carefully navigating around headstones, and pausing to read dates and names and details of those resting in the ground beneath my feet, I felt I had stepped back in time.

Most of the dates carved into the weathered markers were of the late 1700’s and into the mid 1800’s.

There were a few modern headstones scattered amongst the mostly modest and much older markers, and I found myself growing more and more curious about the souls laid to rest there.

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When I got home, I googled ‘Boston Cemetery’ and ‘United Empire Loyalists’ and came across some pretty interesting material.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are many United Empire Loyalists Burial Ground projects throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada.

For the Grand River Branch of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, the following are cemeteries with Grand River Branch Loyalist Burial Ground Plaques:

For riders who make the trek to Port Dover for Friday the Thirteenth celebrations, all of the above are within a reasonable distance from the town. If you are interested in history, like exploring the countryside and back roads, and are looking for just a little bit more than your average time in the wind, pull out a map and make a point to try and visit some of the above-listed cemeteries.

I have always been particularly interested in the history of the Underground Railroad in Canada, so the cemetery in Otterville is next on my list. In doing my research about the burial ground, I discovered that, encouraged by local Quakers, freed blacks and escaped slaves who fled persecution in the United States found homes in the Otterville area beginning in 1829. For those of you not familiar with that part of the province, Otterville is located on the Otter Creek, in Norwich Township, and the Otterville African Methodist Episcopal Church and Cemetery served the local black community until the late 1880s. The cemetery is one of the few preserved black pioneer burial grounds in the province and dates from 1856.

As a novice rider (currently enjoying my second full summer in the wind), I prefer to have a ‘Point B’ when it comes to heading out on my bike. I don’t need to know exactly how to get to where I want to go; that’s the part about hitting the open road that appeals to a girl who has every other part of her life pretty much scheduled, planned, and routed.

Exploring the back roads of a region and finding out-of-the-way and interesting places to stop and take in the sights are my favourite pastimes these days. From wandering the quiet of a historic cemetery to sitting under the shade of the oldest sugar maple tree in Canada (a future column) to taking a tour of the only ostrich farm in Ontario (another future column), I am creating memories and learning more about both my bike and myself as a rider.

I like to think of myself as a treasure hunter; an explorer with singular destinations in mind, if you will. You may have explored a particular region – Niagara, for example – but you might not know about the history of a certain odd landmark or are looking for something different to do or see the next time you ride out that way. As I expand my horizons and step out of my (riding area) comfort zone, it is my most sincere wish and goal to bring you tales of the interesting and unique, ordinary places that make extraordinary backdrops for photos of you and your motorcycle, and the kinds of things that make you go hmmmmm

The United Empire Loyalists’ special Burial Ground Plaque project is information that is very much worthy of tucking in your back pocket and pulling out when you have the time and opportunity to do some serious exploring.

See you out there on those great little country side roads, my friends!


Additional links you may find helpful or of interest:

United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada:  http://www.uelac.org/

The Cemetery Project (Ontario listings):  http://cemetery.canadagenweb.org/ON/



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