GPR Locates Gravesites of Fallen Pioneers

The Town of Midland and the Heritage Committee are committed to uncover the past. A release from the town, as reported by the Midland Free Press, says ” The Cemetery is a source of great local heritage and lore, dating back to 1855 and the passing of William Wilson’s wife and her burial on the family property. Wilson, employed by the Naval establishment at Penetanguishene, is also buried on the property as are several other family members and travelers of the Penetanguishene Road who perished in the area.”

To begin putting the pieces together, Global GPR Services was hired by the Town of Midland, to conduct a GPR cemetery mapping survey of the one acre site. The goal was to try and identify any subsurface anomalies (bodies, caskets or tombstones) that may be buried in this pioneer cemetery.

cemetery mapping

Don Johnston, left, and Steve Watson of Global GPR Services of Toronto work a grid format with the ground penetrating radar machine over the abandoned William Wilson Pioneer Cemetery in Midland while, from left, Sue McKenzie, chair of the Midland Heritage, Andrea Betty, Midland town planner, Sher Scott, Midland heritage summer student, and Bailey Loverock, Midland planning summer student look on. GISELE WINTON SARVIS Midland Free Press

A crowd started to gather at the William Wilson Pioneer Cemetery in Midland Ontario while Global GPR Services collected subsurface data using ground penetrating radar. The onlookers included the Town of Midland Mayor, the Town Planner, representatives from the Midland Heritage Committee and some summer students. The media was represented by the Midland Free Press newspaper, 104.1 The Dock radio station and even the local cable TV station.

locating buried body

Courtesy of 104.1 The Dock

Although it is suspected that William Wilson, who died in 1870, and his wife, Henrietta, who died in 1855 are buried on the property no one is quite sure how many other people may be buried on this site because there were no detailed records kept. A neighbor to the property remembers six or eight tombstones standing at one time but now there was only one fallen over head stone. It belonged to Esther Wood who died in 1866 at the age of 33. Some suspect that as many as 23 bodies may be buried there.



map gravesites

Courtesy of 104.1 The Dock

Rumor has it that William Wilson is said to be buried in the middle of 4 oak trees. The closest match, the GPR technicians could find, was an area with 4 large maple trees in a perfect square. Thinking the myth may have gotten the type of tree wrong they scanned that area and were not able to confirm on site anything buried there. The data will be analyzed in more detail in the lab, to make sure that nothing is missed, using more advanced software than what is available in the field equipment.


Further analysis of the data collected is currently being interpolated in the lab at Global GPR. The final report of the analysis will be sent to the Town of Midland shortly. With the location of the final resting places of the fallen pioneers identified they will be properly looked after now that it is an official historical site.

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