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- by Aly Boltman

So the most amazing thing happened last night at the cemetery tour, so amazing that I could hardly sleep but I still feel completely high from the experience. And no, we didn't raise the dead, although maybe, just maybe, in a way we did!

I ended my tour at the Potter's Field, or the "Indigent Lot" and talked about the origins of the flat grass, unnoticeable section under which 1242 people are buried, all gone to eternity with no marker to remember them, stacked 6 deep in some spots (or so I'm told) including so many people from Owen Sound's black community - those who escaped on the Underground Railroad and their descendants.

I had the printed list of the 1200+ people buried there with me, so many children, groups of siblings, hugely important figures in Owen Sound history like John Daddy Hall, the Town Crier, who died at 117 years old, the mothers who died in childbirth, the stillborn, the unnamed drowned children found in the river, etc. I handed the list to the people on the tour, and told them to pick a random person on the list and read out their death date, their age and their name.

And I talked about my love of local history and how it's up to each of us to determine how we're remembered by what we do with our time on the earth. I asked everyone to consider what they could do to make their community a better place. And we ended it there, with the sun setting among the trees, and a lot of very moved, pensive people huddling in the wind in Potter's Field.

As I walked back to the Mausoleum to put away my stuff and prepare for my two hour drive to Bayfield in the pitch black, Anne Finlay-Stewart came up to me to tell me that a lovely man I know who came to the tour had said he wanted to pledge $25,000 towards a monument to honour all of those in Potter's Field. He said to me "Those people were underdogs. I was an underdog too."

Needless to say I'm overwhelmed by his generosity, and so excited by the possibilities - an artist completion, or kinetic sculpture, and how we capture the stories of those who can't speak for themselves. And then of course, we'll have to get permission from the City which I hope will be an easy hurdle. But this is going to happen and I'm elated.

Philly Markowitz, thank you for encouraging me to create this tour. Terri Baird-Jackson, you were a huge part of making this magic moment happen - thank you! And to all of you who came to the original Six at Six tour or last night's special Doors Open kick off tour or helped with research, thank you, keep learning local, and watch for this amazing project unfolding in our community!

Editor's note: The same cemetery tour (minus Aly who has commitments elsewhere) will be offered June 2 at 11 a.m. and June 3 at 1 p.m. Meet at the Mausoleum

 

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