Seasonal resident trying to solve mystery of deceased man

A seasonal resident of Manitoulin Island is researching the identity of the man who passed away in 1900 at this gravesite close to Walkhouse Bay Road in Robinson Township.

WESTERN MANITOULIN—A seasonal resident of Western Manitoulin is hoping that someone can provide information on who is the person that lies at the bottom of a made-up grave site in Robinson Township. The grave site is dated “1900” with lettering “Unknown” on it.

Jim Howlett of Hamilton, Ontario told The Recorder of the story “of a body that I think washed up on shore in the 1900 time period.” He explained, “about 20 years ago my wife and I were looking for shipwrecks, timber squares, looking all over the West End of the Island. When we got back to the shore just off Walkhouse Bay we came across a fair sized wooden cross. We were not far from the shore on the east side of Walkhouse Bay and we had came upon a little clearing where we found we found the gravesite with the marker “1900-Unknown.”

“It was very obvious at the time that someone had cleared the site and kept it from getting totally overgrown. It was a well-known thing 50 years ago to put a cross up at a unknown gravesite,” said Mr. Howlett.

After asking around, “the late Whit Blackburn had told me that his dad had found the body. That he was cutting lumber on the south shore in the late winter and early spring of 1900, along with another man. They came upon the body of a Native, and his father told him they had contacted the RCMP and it took three to four days for (the RCMP) to arrive from Little Current. He had authorized the burial of the man’s remains near the scene of his being found.”

“Anyway, the man was buried, and a cross was put up there,” said Mr. Howlett. “Someone had buried the man and built the cross and grave site in 1900.” He also pointed out a few ships went missing in the same time period, late fall of 1899 and early 1900. Mr. Howlett noted that through research he has found out that one shipwreck, “The Typo,” had gone down in the area on October 31, 1889 with several people on board not having been found. “Where the ship was found, prevailing winds would direct the body toward the shore where the remains were found.”

“I’m hoping that maybe someone on the Island knows about who it was that was buried at the gravesite,” said Mr. Howlett. He said he has been in conversation with a few area residents that are going to bring this forward to let others know about the mystery and ask them to come forward with information, if they have any to share.

“Obviously, the body has been missing for as many as 118 years, and it is possible the man was a seaman on a Lake Huron vessel that went down,” said Mr. Howlett. “And it obviously didn’t make the newspapers because no one so far knew exactly who this person was or what happened.”

Mr. Howlett visited the area last week and again found the gravesite. “It’s on a public road allowance and a trail on Walkhouse Road.

Editors note: See next week’s Recorder for further coverage of this story.