Welcome to part 2 of our Grave episode. If you haven’t listened to part one, I recommend you do that first. Last week we discussed the art of reading headstones, and there was one crucial piece I left out: the epitaph.
The epitaph is where we obviously get the most of our information about the deceased, but it doesn’t always tell you the story you think it will…..
new song plays.....
In Esquesing Township in Halton Hills, Ontario there is an unassuming cemetery by the name of Hillcrest, which the locals often refer to it as the Norval graveyard. Originally a Presbyterian burial place established in 1839 , there used to be a small wooden meeting house located in the northern part of the grounds. Eventually, as the area became more developed, a larger church was built down the street, and the graveyard morphed into a non-denominational cemetery.
To be honest, if I was driving past this cemetery I wouldn’t be that tempted to stop and take a look. I still would, because I’m still me, but the location is a bit plain and flat. There are no obvious hills from the road or groves of trees beckoning you in. However this place holds a scandalous secret. Hidden among the uniform rows of simple granite headstones, is one that marks the grave of a Murderess. It is a modest rectangle with a serpentine top in polished grey. It reads:
carrie epitaph plays....
Carrie Davies was born in Woolwich, London during the year Queen Victoria received her diamond jubilee, which signified 60 years on the thrown. The British Empire was at its peak, but life was still tough for working-class families like the Davies. Carries mother Caroline ran a store in the army town they lived, and took up mending garments on the side. Because she did the sewing during the evening and night, it was done by candlelight and eventually she began losing her eyesight and the family began to spiral into poverty.
When Carrie was 12, her parents could no longer afford her school fee and she was sent to live with an aunt and train as a domestic servant. She would learn to cook, clean, and care for children, but she also needed to know how to live in the shadows of a home, tending to her wealthy employers and anticipating their needs without being “seen”.
At 13 she was old enough for her first job and employed in a home of an army officer who had known William Davies, her father. There are no records of her time there, but it would seem she got on without incident, but that’s not to say it was easy. Being a domestic was a hard life. You rarely had time for yourself, but because of the nature of the job, you were in a way always alone too. The money was barely enough to survive on, even though you had your room and board covered. For young women their one hope of getting out would be to get married to someone with a decent or respectable job.
While she was employed in this home in the town of Aldershot, one of Carries sisters named Maud moved to the ever expanding city of Toronto with her husband who was a bricklayer. Though Canada was granted it’s governing independence a few years earlier, it was still a British colony and therefore a booming and prosperous place for the wealthy looking to lay down roots, or for men employed in trade-skills.
As more British citizens moved to Toronto, which at this point they made up 85% of the city’s population, they longed from the creature comforts of home, most importantly on this list: domestic girls. Maud reasoned that Carrie, now 16, would quickly find employment here and sent her $45 for her boat ticket over.
It wasn’t long until the quiet English teenager was snapped up by Charles Albert Massey and his wife Rhoda and became their live-in servant. Charles, who actually went by Bert, was one of THE Massey’s. Now, if you’re from Toronto you know exactly the family I’m talking about, but I will give a bit of background for the International listeners.
Bert’s grandfather Hart Almerrin Massey was a prominent business man and philanthropist who built the biggest agricultural machine company in the British empire in the 19th century. The family obviously became quite wealthy and financed the construction of many buildings around the city that still stand today such as Massey Music Hall. In 1953 Massey merged with the American company Ferguson and the family faded into history. But at the time Carrie was working for the family, they were still part of the highest social class in Toronto. Even though Bert had been more or less removed financially from the family by his grandfather, his name still held a certain cache out in the world, but his reputation for being inappropriate with women was also no secret.
On February 8th 1915 Bert walked up the steps of his home at 169 Walmer Rd when, the now 18 year old Carrie, emerged from the house and came out on to the porch. She fired two shots into his chest and he stumbled backwards down the stairs and fell to the ground. His young employee quickly returned to the house and locked the door.
The paperboy Bert had just passed on the street heard the shots and was the first to arrive on the scene. As he attended to the man, more neighbours arrived and someone alerted the police of what happened and another contacted the closest doctor.
While the now dead man lay on the doctors table, two officers entered the Massey home where they found Carrie in her room. She was somber and put up no fight at all. She quietly said what she had done and was taken into custody where she made a statement.
carrie statement plays.....
To understand Carrie’s motivation for killing Bert, you need to understand Toronto of the early 1900s. Known as Toronto the good, and Toronto the pure, there was a moral panic that surrounded the city. Fears about poverty driving young girls to prostitution or theft, was perpetuated by the Anglican and Methodist population. According to them, those sorts of things befell the poor Catholics or the new Jewish immigrants to the area.
Domestic Girls like Carrie, only had their “purity”, to keep them safe and allow them some standing in society. If you’re a Patreon supporter, you know how I feel about that concept, but I digress.
Stories of domestics being taken advantage of by their employer were constantly being told across all of the social classes. Cautionary tales often played in the new picture films that were growing in popularity. It didn’t matter if Bert Massey had been the one to be inappropriate with Carrie, she would be blamed for the indiscretions, and thrown out of the home with no reference for future work. She would end up poverty stricken and a “ruined” woman nobody would want to marry.
She wasn’t just defending her own honour against being sexually harassed, but all the girls who came before her and would come after who were hurt by mens actions.
I want to just jump in here and mention that I am using the term girl because even though she was technically an adult, in so many ways she was still a child, especially when compared to Bert Massey who was 35 when he died.
The murder took place in an interesting time in the city. The suffrage movement and women’s leagues had recently petitioned for women only courts, and they won in 1913. They argued that since women didn’t get to have a say in the laws they’d be charged and tried for, they at least deserved a space away from the prying eyes of men, and the court agreed. Going forward, crimes that involved a female defendant, only female spectators and news reporters would be allowed in the court.
As you may have already realized from the date this all took place, the British empire was dealing with WW1 and it dominated the headlines and All those news stories were being written by men. When Carrie was arrested and the trial began just a few short weeks later, this gave female reporters the chance to be on the front page. Of course, the girl on trial couldn’t have known just how many ripples her decision would make for the women’s movement.
From the first day of the trial the courtroom was packed. People couldn’t get enough of the story, and this worked to her lawyers advantage. Mr. Hartley Dewart was a fantastic lawyer and his performance in the court room had people talking for weeks afterwards.
Everybody was surprised when he didn’t try to defend Carrie with insanity, but instead he took a self defence route. He argued that the two kisses Bert had forced upon Carrie were just the beginning. That he had stated to her how much he liked “kissing little girls”, and she had every reason to be afraid. She had acted the way so many other girls had wanted to before, and that Carrie was the epitome of brave and chaste.
During his closing argument, Hartley had everybody spellbound, it’s even believed that he brought a few people to tears.
Hartley's closing argument plays......
It took the jury of 8 men only half an hour to find Carrie Davies not guilty.
I can’t imagine how she must’ve felt in the moment. Sad for what she had done I am sure, but elated that she would be spared the noose?
Unbelievably, Carrie was able to fade into the background and after a few years she was more or less forgotten. She is never mentioned in the news again, that is until after her death when a journalist became fascinated in the trial that shook the city.
He managed to track down her children and they had no idea about the murder she had committed, but they told him it made sense. That their mother had always been kind and thoughtful, but quiet and carried a sadness with her. That she eventually had helped run a home for girls and was fiercely protective of them, and that she was always the first person in church on Sundays.
Carrie may have been found not guilty, but she spent her life doing penance to make up for what she had done.
As we will learn from this next story that you can be an actual war-hero and not only be dismissed, but men will try and discredit you for decades after you die…… just because you also happen to be a woman.
laura's epitaph plays.....
The grave of Laura Ingersoll Secord stands in the Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls, Ontario. On top of her stone monument is a lifelike bronze bust in her image. Old trees and manicured shrubs cascade the area surrounding her, reminiscent of the areas landscape in the 19th century.
Not only is this place beautiful, it is also full of so much incredible history. It is also down the street from the Lundy’s Lane Cemetery, which itself houses many important graves. This entire area had been witness to death before the first intentional grave was dug though. There was a great battle here during the war of 1812 where the Canadian soldiers successfully defended the area from the attacking US army. It’s this war that Laura herself would become a part of.
When Laura was 20 years old her father moved to Upper Canada to Queenston, which is in the Niagara Falls area from MS, because he was promised land. As she wasn’t married yet, she went with him.
It was here she presumably met her husband James Secord. He came from a wealthy French family, but he had never actually inherited anything, and grew up in a refugee camp because his family was affected by the American War of Independence. I am sure this experience is what caused James to become a loyalist to the British Empire, and why he had moved to the Niagara region himself.
James joined the British Army of Upper Canada and when the Americans declared war and invaded, he was on the frontline of important battles.
At one point, James was wounded in battle and Laura actually helped to drag his injured body off the field. While he was recovering at home, the American soldiers advanced and had taken control of the area the Secord house is located.
They made no qualms about demanding food and shelter from Laura, and she reluctantly agreed, not that she had any choice. I wonder how it must’ve felt for James to have the same men he had fought against, now squatting in his house where he was laying completely vulnerable.
It was this first night that solidified Laura’s place in our history.
While staying in her home, Laura overheard the American troops plan a sneak attack on another Canadian territory 30 km away. Without hesitation she knew she needed to warn the British soldiers, and that next morning she took off on foot. If she had been caught by the enemy who was occupying the area, she would’ve been killed on sight.
The bravery and selflessness Laura displayed was incredible. She knew what she needed to do for the greater good, and I am sure leaving her 5 children at home with her injured husband, and not knowing if she’d see them again, wasn’t easy.
Partway through her journey, she came upon a group of Mohawk warriors who were allies with the British. They escorted her the rest of the way, through the dense forest away from the old dirt roads and trails to the British base, where she was then able to warn Lieutenant FitzGibbon of the plan.
If it wasn’t for Laura and the Mohawk regiment, the American invasion would’ve otherwise been successful. The landscape of Canada, and possibly all of North America would’ve looked very different.
Unfortunately, Laura was not recognized for her efforts as a war-hero. She tried multiple times to apply for a soldiers pension after her husband died, but she was unsuccessful. Finally, after years and years in poverty, the only recognition she would receive while still alive came. She was 85 when the Prince of Wales heard her story and gave her 100 pounds, which for the time was a considerable amount of money, but not enough to pull her out of her situation.
Laura died a few years later, still poor, and still fighting to be known. It wasn’t that she wanted to boast about she had done, her motivation wasn’t ego driven, but rather it was knowing the money would’ve helped her family make a better life.
Thankfully, a few years later the suffragettes of the Dominion of Canada, began looking for heroines to talk about to help their cause, and they came across the story of Laura Secord.
Her name was then thrust into the spotlight, which…. angered a lot of men….and you know, this isn’t unusual. Notable women and their contributions to the world are still under attack.
Throughout the early 20th century, a number of different men wrote books and “essays” discrediting Laura, but thankfully documents written by Lieutenant FitzGibbon himself surfaced that proved it was in fact her who had warned the British of the attack.
If these men ever made formal apologies to the public for their part in trying to taint her name, I haven’t seen them….
Laura’s grave is now one of the most visited in all of Ontario, and I hope wherever her spirit is, she can finally rest easy.
Old cemeteries have so many stories to tell, and you never know which of the many headstones are going to call out to you.
A couple days ago my friend Tim was taking a walk around the magnificent and historic Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, and sent me a few pictures, you know as friends do. I was instantly attracted to a large pentagon shaped one in the distance. I circled it in the photo before sending it back and asked for him to go investigate for me.
The next photo I received showed one face of the large and foreboding pentagonal prism headstone. If you’re struggling to picture what I mean, imagine a cylinder with two pentagon faces, and sharp edges running along the sides. On this face were two circles, side by side. One contains latin writing, and the other a telescope. Then the other face bears the name of who resides beneath it
Henry's epitaph plays.....
If you had picked up the Daily Globe newspaper on the morning of November 21st, 1882 in St. Paul, Minnesota you would’ve seen the words: “New York, Nov 20th - Prof. Henry Draper, one of the most prominent scientific men in the city, is dead.”
Henry was one of the last true renaissance men. He was a physician, chemist, botanist, professor and a pioneer in Astrophotography. He was the first person to successfully photograph the transit of Venus.
Now if you know me well, you know exactly why Henry’s grave called out to me. My boyfriend is also an astrophotographer, and quite a good one at that. Like Henry, it’s a skill he inherited from his father. When it comes to the Memento Mori Oracle Deck, nothing is a coincidence.
In 1867 Henry married a young socialite by the name of Mary Anna Palmer, and it would seem to be one of the happier marriages of the era. She took on an active role in helping Henry with his scientific experiments, and soon developed her own passion for Astrophotography. The first photographs of the spectrum of a star were actually taken by her.
After Henry’s untimely death in in 1882, she donated their equipment and a large amount of money to Harvard College Observatory. While she didn’t ever practice there herself, she did drop in frequently to watch the young men in their studies and to keep up to date with the new technologies.
Mary Anna went on to create an award in her husbands name to give to people who made significant advancements in the realm of Astronomical Research.
Remember those two circles on Henry’s grave I mentioned at the start of this story? Well they are actually inspired by a Congressional award he had received while still alive that he was extremely proud of. His loving and devoted widow wanted him to carry that with him into heaven.
Some headstones unfortunately get lost to time. You wouldn’t think that they get misplaced, but they do, and frequently at that. Other times they break and get thrown away, but no relatives are around to replace them. Or, they become so weather worn, the words are no longer legible. But because humans have a strong desire to keep records and write things down, we sometimes still have an idea of what those lost stones possibly said.
One of these scenarios is what happened to the subject of our final story.
Hannah's epitaph plays......
Hannah Stogdill is another spirit who called out to me from beyond the grave. I first came across her while doing ghost story research in Ontario. She showed up in two short stories that are nearly identical and they take place in Llloydtown Pioneer Cemetery, which is located in King Township.
Coincidentally this is where my grandparents house is, so I spent a lot of time there growing up. I didn’t think I would include Hannah just because there wasn’t enough information, but of course, like with Henry, the stories I tell aren’t really up to me.
If you listened to part one of this episode, you know I told the story of my first grave encounter at my grandparents place. When I was texting my mom for details, she told me that she mentioned to my grandmother what I was talking about, and she had a bit of information for me about a cemetery…..
In the 1970s my grandfather Bill became the president of the King Township Historical Society. One of his first acts, was to restore parts of the Lloydtown Pioneer Cemetery. This beautiful section of farmland was also the start of a 5km trail that was used by Hannah’s father Jesse Lloyd and the other Mckenzie rebels during Upper Canada Rebellion - which in itself is something I hope to talk about in depth later on.
Hannah Lloyd married fellow Quaker Seymour Stogdill a year or two before her death at age 17. Like so many young girls before and after her, she had a difficult birth and she passed away while delivering a baby girl her husband named Phoebe Stogdill. As far as I can tell, Phoebe survived and was raised by her father and step-mother Caroline, but I don’t know what happened to her after that. Her grave isn’t located in Lloydtown, and my records searches have proved unsuccessful.
Another grave image that I have failed to locate online, is that of Hannah, but the quote you heard at the beginning of this story, is associated with her in multiple records, so I believe it was the inscription her devastated husband had engraved on her headstone at some point.
Her grave was the second burial in the Lloydtown Cemetery, which explains why people are having trouble locating her, it’s been a really long time….and one of these people searching may be the ghost of Hannah herself. Two written accounts talk about seeing a spectral figure of a young woman, walking between the headstones, stopping to read the names upon them before vanishing.
The people who had these encounters believe who they saw was Hannah, searching for the child she never got to know, but I have a different theory, I think she is looking for her lost headstone, so that she may finally return to it…..
This has been the Memento Mori Oracle Podcast. For a list of voice actors featured in this episode, check out the show notes on blackandthemoon.com
Carrie Davies was performed by Emily Linard
Laura Secord was performed by Katie Burke
Hartley Dewart & Henry Draper was performed by Ben Hauck
Hannah Stogdill was played by M. Paquin