At the top of a hill down Highway 27 there is a grove of walnut trees that hide a secret, long-forgotten old cemetery called Wilson's Hill Pioneer Cemetery. I had driven past the hill a hundred times and never stopped, but on this day I did. I had a little time to kill before meeting a friend in Bradford, and it was a glorious summer's day. The traffic coming up from Toronto was heavy, as drivers detoured up the quieter highway in order to avoid the rush of the 400 on their way to cottage country.
I pulled over to the entrance, on a whim. The wrought-iron gate appeared at first glance to be locked, but the padlock hung open, and I pushed the squeaky old gate open and entered. There was what looked like a a wooden pulpit under a tree, with a sign that read, "please sign the guest book". Upon opening the wooden lid, I found inside a booklet in a plastic sleeve with a pen. I opened the plastic sleeve and took out the book. Heavy thunderstorms the day before had caused some dampness to get inside, so some of the pages were wet, ink had run. The signatures were not all that old, and no spectacular quotes caught my eye. I left the book to air out in the warm summer air, and looked for a path up the hill.
I followed what seemed to be the trail, as it wound upwards. Benches were placed along the way, offering a tranquil spot to rest on the way up. I still had yet to see a headstone or grave anywhere in sight. The trees at the top of the hill were dense and impossible to see through. I had always noticed that when driving by, the hilltop was a very private spot and well protected from the ground.
Just then something rustled in the bushes beside the path, making me jump. I felt a little spooked, knowing I was completely alone up here.
Then, suddenly, the path turned, and up ahead there they were - the gravestones. I gasped as I stepped up the rest of the sloping path and stepped into what I can only describe as the most beautiful natural cathedral I had ever seen. At the time I had no idea what kind of trees these were. Black Walnuts are very rare, and they grow in groves. This was an ancient grove of walnut trees, very tall and obviously, very, very old.gravestones were everywhere, the walnut grove was full of them, many of them dating back to the 1800's. Sunshine filtered down through the distinctive walnut leaves, speckling the ground like the reflections of a stained glass window.
I wandered amongst the graves, reading the names, marvelling that they had stood here for so many long years, forgotten, The place had fallen into disrepair for a long time. People had come, probably teens looking for a hang-out, and vandalised the graveyard. I knew this because of a sign that told of a man who had decided to take care of the place back in the early 80's. His ancestor was buried there, and he wanted to show his respect for the place. He fell in love with it, and cleaned it up and tended it until his death in the 90's.
Now he lay here too, the very last person to be buried at Wilson's Hill.
Lost in my reverie, I suddenly heard the sound of a snort coming up the winding path towards me.
Turning quickly in shock, I was stunned to see a horse-drawn hearse coming up the path.
A coffin lay inside it, covered in field flowers.
Beside it walked a woman, her head bowed in grief, her clothes those of a pioneer.
And then they were gone, as quickly as they had appeared.
I walked back down the hill and carefully put the booklet back in it's pouch, but not until I had signed it.
'Diaries of A Nostalgic' as published in the Great North Arrow Newspaper, March 2011
to read Chapter One here is the link: