Remains found at building site finally being put to rest.
London, ON (September 11, 2023) – A story that began 17 years ago is finally coming to a close on September 13th at St. Peter’s Cemetery. In 2006, the remains of Catherine Mason and three children were found at what was then a construction site for 565 Proudfoot Lane. After extensive research and investigation, the remains are now finally and respectfully being laid to rest.
The land is owned by Summit Properties, and without living relatives, the remains have come under the care of the Summit team along with O’Neil Funeral Home, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of London. Over the last six months, the group has been hard at work to ensure that the remains find their final resting place. The delay is due to a change in government regulations and the government body dealing with such cases.
“It has been a whirlwind experience for us at Summit,” shares President, Stefan Soumalias. “It’s been an eye opener for our staff to understand not only the complexity of this work but to learn more about London’s history and those who helped build our community.”
During the excavation, a thin, rusted piece of metal was found that was later identified as Catherine Mason’s coffin plaque. Catherine’s story begins with John Mason, who according to the 1871 census, having been born in the United States, was listed as 55 years old, Roman Catholic and of African descent. He was a labourer who moved to Canada and married Catherine (Reid) in 1854. By 1858 Catherine had passed away following the birth of their two sons, John and Benjamin Franklin, and John had remarried.
“Quite a bit was uncovered about the Masons, and the recovery of their remains helps further understand the trials they and others faced during the mid to late 1800s in this area,” shares Joe O’Neil of O’Neil Funeral Home and local historian. “The children faced malnutrition, and/or chronic infection, and Catherine herself suffered from severe dental disease, and bouts of extreme stress each year until the age of five.” Local historians can attribute some of this to the “black frost” that occurred after the planting season of 1857 and destroyed much of the local crops
and food supplies.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of London, in accordance with provincial law, agreed to be a ‘representative of the religious denomination with which the interred person was affiliated’. Catherine and John Mason are noted in the records of St. Peter’s Cathedral for their wedding and two baptisms. “We are proud to be able to provide them with a Christian burial and lay them to rest in St. Peter’s Cemetery, not far from where they lived in the 1850s,” said diocesan spokesperson Matthew Clarke. “The Diocese of London thanks Rosario Muscedere and his team at St. Peter’s
Cemetery for their work and donation of the memorial marker,” he added.
Summit Properties hopes to be able to donate Catherine’s coffin plaque to Fanshawe Pioneer Village to be added to their collection of artifacts relating to the important contributions of Black settlers to the history of this area. The group is also deeply indebted to Hilary Bates Neary and the Diocese of London’s Archivist, Debra Majer, for their passionate work and research to help tell the story of Catherine Mason and her children.
Note: The Public and members of the media are welcome to attend and honour the interment on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, at 2:30 pm at St. Peter’s Cemetery on 806 Victoria St, London, ON N5Y 4E1. Given site restrictions, RSVPs to email@example.com by end of day on September 12th would be appreciated.
About Summit Properties
Summit Properties exists to create spaces and opportunities for people and businesses to thrive. We work collaboratively and foster relationships in the business community to consistently meet the needs of our discerning tenants. For more information, please visit www.summitproperties.ca.
About O’Neil Funeral Home
Family owned and operated since 1963, O’Neil Funeral Home is a Full Service Funeral Establishment Operator – Class 1 as classified by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO), offering immediate need services as well as preplanning and grief support. For more information, please visit www.oneilfuneralhome.ca.
About the Diocese of London
Founded in 1856, the Roman Catholic Diocese of London serves an estimated 440,000 Catholics in nine southwestern Ontario counties. The Diocese currently comprises over 100 parishes and Catholic Communities ranging from Windsor to Woodstock and from Goderich to Port Dover. The Bishop of the Diocese of London is the Most Rev. Ronald P. Fabbro, CSB. For more information, please visit www.dol.ca.