Thursday, September 14, 2017

Years of Neglect: Carl Misener Bald Cemetery

Remaining gravestones at Carl Misener Bald Cemetery
Like many pioneer cemeteries in Ontario, the Carl Misener Bald Cemetery has suffered from years of neglect. The cemetery sits on the west bank of the Welland Canal south of Port Robinson and is accessible via the Welland Canals Parkway Trail.

In 1798, John Carl (1755-1836) set aside one acre of Lot 213 in Thorold Township for a cemetery. John was a Loyalist who served with Butler’s Rangers during the American Revolution. His wife was Elizabeth Misener (1770-1826), daughter of Leonard Misener (1744-1806) and Barbara Bender (1742-1821. It is interesting to note that while Elizabeth’s parents were buried here, John Carl and Elizabeth Misener were buried in the graveyard beside the Pelham Evangelical Friends Church in neighbouring Pelham Township.

Cemetery sign erected in 1997
The first burial on the site was for George Misener (1801-1802), a grandson of Leonard Misener. His remains were later moved to the Fonthill Cemetery (formerly Brown’s Burying Ground) in Pelham Township.

It is estimated that there are about 75 unmarked graves at Carl Misener Bald. Some of the burials here may have been for canal workers who died during the cholera epidemic of 1832-34. The last burial occurred in 1862. Soon afterwards the cemetery fell into neglect. When the Fourth Welland Canal was built between 1913 and 1932, about 50 graves were moved to the Fonthill Cemetery.

When amateur historian W. G. Reive visited the site in 1930, he noted:

A stone to Leonard Misener... still stands on the bank of the Welland Canal near Port Robinson, one of the few stones still standing following the destruction of a large cemetery during the building of the canal.... [The Cemetery] lies on government land on a knoll — and as all but one of the stones lie flat on the ground, it is practically never seen by passers by. The depressed surfaces of the ground would indicate many unmarked graves.
Reive recorded five gravestones of which only three remain. The Ontario Genealogical Society transcription of 1990 only records the gravestone of Barbara Misener. When the cemetery was restored in 1997 by descendants of John Carl, two more fragmentary gravestones were discovered.

Barbara Misener 1742-1821
While Leonard Misener’s gravestone has been lost, his wife’s gravestone provides a wealth of information:
is sacred to the memory of
the Widow and Relict of Leonard Misener
who after having with material lender
raised nine children to the years of marriage
having to see them comfortable settled around
the land having without reproach lived
til 23 April 1821 Aged 79 Years 6 months and 21 days
According to the information on her gravestone, Barbara Bender, the daughter of Philip Bender, was born on 14 Oct 1742. She married Leonard Misener (1744-1806) about 1767. All nine of their children were born in New Jersey. According to his Upper Canada Land Petition, Leonard brought his family to the Niagara region in 1786. During the American Revolution he support the British, however, was prevented from enrolling in a Loyalist unit due to “he having a family consisting of six or Seven young Children.”

Leonard and Barbara’s youngest son, Mathias (1781-1862), married twice. The gravestone of his second wife, Hannah Hilton, lies in several pieces, however, the essential information can still be read. Hannah was born on 7 May 1784 and died on 4 Nov 1834.

The final gravestone at Carl Misener Bald commemorates Thomas, the eleven year old son of Thomas Bald and his wife, Catharine. Thomas father settled in the area in about 1794.

The cemetery was designated a cultural heritage landscape feature under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2007.


“Important Piece of Port Robinson’s Past Protected,” Niagara This Week, June 15 2007

Paterson, Catherine, The Heritage of Life and Death in Historical Family Cemeteries of Niagara, Ontario, 2013

Reive, W. G., Cemeteries and Graves in the Niagara District, Ontario, 1991

Stapley, Noreen, “Descendants Restore Historic Cemetery,” The Loyalist Gazette, September 2007

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