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Friends of the Forgotten still raising funds for burial ground

Almost $20,000 raised as the campaign continues to fund a memorial to the members of NOTL's early Black community buried on the Mississagua Street site
George Webber after cutting the ribbon to reveal the new plaque at the Mississagua Street site in September, 2023.

The Friends of the Forgotten fundraising campaign to support a memorial at the Mississagua Street Baptist Church Burial Ground is nearing the $20,000 mark. 

As funds continue to be collected, committee chair George Webber tells The Local that the committee is still looking at possible options for the right way to recognize a significant era in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s early Black history.

The group paid for a Stage 1 archaeological assessment of the site last year and received approval to raise $60,000 for the follow-up Stages 2 and 3. 

But Webber says the committee has no plans to dig up any of the graves on this important site. 

“It’s too complicated,” says Webber. “We would have to involve the Bereavement Authority of Ontario and get permission from descendants of all the people buried there. So we asked ourselves what are other things that we can do that would be less disturbing to the property?”

The recent departures of both Town CAO Marnie Cluckie and Operations Manager Rome D’Angelo for Hamilton have thrown a bit of a wrench into the group’s decision-making process.  

“With the Town in the process of replacing both of them right now,” Webber laments, “the Negro Burial Ground (the site’s previous name)  is not a priority for them. We totally understand that. We are waiting for the appropriate time to talk to the town about some of our ideas.”

The erection of a memorial wall to recognize the names of the 15 members of the community who have been identified as likely buried on the site, with the help of the NOTL Museum, remains part of the plan. 

“It would be along the fenceline between the property itself and the plaza,” says Webber. “The fence itself is on the burial ground. Another idea is to also put a fence along the entire property. We envision using that additional fencing to put up pictures and graphics that shed light on early Black life here.”

Webber also suggests that some kind of signage on the berm between the sidewalk and the road would be a great idea to get people’s attention to the significance of the site as they head toward the Queen Street Heritage District. 

“Right now you have to be walking on the sidewalk to be able to read the sign,” he adds. 

And one more item that has been discussed is to hold a public ceremony to reconsecrate the ground on which those early Black settlers are buried. 

As they await a chance to discuss these options with town staff, the Friends of the Forgotten have not yet fully priced out their potential plans. 

As well, a visit to the committee’s website reveals a list of 10 other active burial grounds oin NOTL as well as one active site. Those include the Clement Cemetery in St. Davids, the Sterling Cemetery on Line 6 and the Homer Cemetery near the Welland Canal.

“It’s been our position all along that whatever progress we make with the Negro Burial Ground, we would be prepared to do the same kind of planning for the other sites in town,” Webber insists. “Some of them need clear identification about who’s buried there and when they lived in the community.”

With all the sites in question, including the Baptist Church Burial Ground, Webber adds that public input will indeed be a part of the process. 

“It’s important that whatever goes there is appropriate to our residents,” he says. “We want everyone to be able to take pride in what is there.”

In the meantime, the Friends of the Forgotten continue to raise funds with the support of the Town. Donations to the cause can be made at

Mike Balsom

About the Author: Mike Balsom

With a background in radio and television, Mike Balsom has been covering news and events across the Niagara Region for more than 35 years
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