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Whatever happened to Mrs. Mitton’s body is a mystery

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Randy Evans and Gary Shrumm

Research into Sarnia’s early cemeteries raises some interesting questions about one of Sarnia’s earliest and most intriguing settlers.

Anna Maria Penrose Mitton arrived in Sarnia in 1834 and died four years later at the age of 84. Her interment at the Wesleyan Mission Cemetery is often referred to as the first European adult burial in Sarnia.

But the cemetery also held the remains of at least two other people. According to one report, one was the child of an early missionary and the other the infant son of a Mr. and Mrs. Porter. The same report indicates both children died and were buried prior to the passing of Mrs. Mitton.

What’s more, only one of the children was dug up and reinterred.

Sarnia historian Charlotte Vidal Nisbet wrote in 1935: “The little boy who died 100 years ago was called Thomas and when Lakeview Cemetery was opened he was moved to the new peaceful resting place.”

No mention was made of the other child buried at The Mission.

Nisbet also revealed her father, Senator Alexander Vidal, who was the grandson of Mrs. Mitton, had gone to the Mission Cemetery himself with the intention of digging her body up for re-interment at Lakeview.

She wrote: “To his surprise there were no remains, not a vestige of coffin or bones. All had returned to dust.”

Without passing judgment on the likelihood of Anna Mitton’s complete decomposition, or the Senator’s prowess with pick and shovel, it is reasonable to believe, based on the evidence, that her remains and those of one infant remain buried at the site of the former Mission Cemetery near the foot of Devine Street.


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