Historic Find: Long lost maps hold key to Petrolia’s early history


When Alanna Frew found a cloth map in an envelope in Petrolia’s long-term archival storage room she knew it had to be an old map.
What she didn’t expect was to find a long-lost map of one of the community’s earliest cemeteries – a map historians thought had been destroyed in the fire at Victoria Hall.
Frew found the map to the East End Pioneer Cemetery on North Street.
The original maps  provide information of Petrolia’s founders, before the incorporation of the town, featuring many recognizable and significant names of pioneers like McGarvey, Lancey and Bishop
Frew admits to being stunned by the find..
“I wasn’t looking for what I found,” she says in an email to The Independent. 
“When I saw the cloth material in the envelope I knew it was a map, but I assumed it was for Hillsdale. When I opened it up and saw North Street labelled it took me a couple of seconds to process, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I have spent my last two summers trying to piece together any little tidbits of information that I could come across for this cemetery, and at this point I had thought that anything that may have existed had been lost in the fire or was just never documented.”When she realized what she had in her hands, Frew was stunned.
“I was in complete shock when I realized what I was holding. As soon as I figured out that it was the East End Cemetery I knew that this was huge, and that this was going to open up so many doors for our research and for the creation of the interpretive signage that is planned for the site. I am so excited that I was able to locate these maps, not only because I have finally succeeded in finding what I have been looking for, but also because of how important it is for Petrolia.”
The chair of the Heritage Committee, Liz Welsh, agrees.
“It’s hard to put into words, the impact that discovering these maps will have on our future; not from a simply historical perspective, but also in telling the story of Petrolia’s pioneers from the very beginning.”
The committee has been piecing together the history of the site with the help of summer students for years, but until now, there has not been enough information available to erect a sign to explain the cemetery.
Welsh says the discovery opens a world of possibilities.
The map establishes ownership of all lots on the site and will allow researchers  to connect transfer of pioneer lot purchases to the current Hillsdale Cemetery site and help researchers of family genealogy link the old with the new and answer questions about the town’s history in the process, says Mandi Pearson, the town clerk and cemetery manager.
 The original maps are made of linen and are very delicate so great care will be taken to preserve them  through careful handling and by having copies made for use and research purposes, says Welsh adding the maps are in excellent condition considering their age.
While the map is key, Frew also found most of the original lot purchase deeds. The only mystery of the Early Pioneer Cemetery yet to solve is to find the deed that which shows the original purchase of the parcel of land in 1870.