Butler’s Burial Ground, reportedly one of the most haunted sites in all of Niagara, is the last resting place of Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler, along with members of his family and Butler’s Rangers.
Butler was born in the 1720s (the exact year differs from source to source) in New London, Connecticut. He died in 1796. Butler gained infamy as the leader of a British provincial regiment of loyalists during the American Revolutionary War, known as Butler’s Rangers. The regiment primarily operated in Western New York and Pennsylvania but were also active in Ohio, Michigan and as far south as Virginia.
The Rangers were accused of participating in, or at the very least failing to prevent, both the Wyoming Valley Massacre and the Cherry Valley Massacre in 1978. During these incidents the Iroquois forces of Joseph Brant slaughtered a number of American settlers and militiamen. The actions (or in-actions) of the Rangers as party to these attacks gained them quite the fearsome reputation. Due to the attacks and the British allegiances of the men, returning home was never an option after the war. Butler and many of his rangers settled in what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake in (what was then) Upper Canada.
Butler became an important figure in Upper Canada. He was instrumental in maintaining the alliance between First Nations and the British in the late 18th Century. He served as a Deputy Superintendent for the Indian Department, a Justice of the Peace, and a local militia commander. Butler also helped establish both the Anglican Church and Masonic Order in Ontario.
The dark history of these Burial Grounds, however, don’t end with Butler’s storied life. On the same grounds where Butler is buried, 23 soldiers from the US 13th Infantry were killed on July 8th, 1813, along with their commander Lieutenant Samuel Elridge. A small monument commemorates the incident.
By late 19th century the fences that marked the cemetery were removed and the land became overgrown. Cattle from the surrounding farms grazed there among the broken and forgotten graves.
Even after the land was reclaimed misfortune befell the monuments to those buried there. A stone crypt on the site belonging to the Claus family, who served Butler’s Rangers during the war, was partly destroyed nearly a century ago when a large tree feel onto it. The damage exposed the bodies lain within to the elements. When the crypt itself was later repaired it became a focal point for local ghost stories, with many a teenager daring to approach its door in the night.
Today Butler’s Burial Grounds is a curious place, surrounded by suburban homes, nicely manicured lawns and swimming pools. A chain link fence, loosely chained shut but hardly secure, easily allows the curious to enter. The Niagara Parks commission placed new stones at the marked graves on Canada’s centennial in 1967. The Claus tomb remains buried, although perhaps the stone arch that peaks above the grass on the hill is evidence of it still.
During the day it’s hard to believe the place has such a history, but at night the twisted remains of the forest surrounding the hill still gives it an air of dread.