Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 71 > Page 35 - Mary Willa Littler and "The Strangers' Grave"

Page 35 - Mary Willa Littler and "The Strangers' Grave"

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1996/12/1 (276 reads)

the time that I said I was going to do it until the monuments were in place, with 202 names on the monuments, of single mishaps. From April 15 of 1876 until April 15. 1969. The first fatality was April 15 and the last one was April 15. In Springhill. (And there will be no more.) No. The coal mines are closed in Springhill. So in a two-year time period, I accomplished a goal that some people said was impossible to do. "Why are you doing it?" You know. (Sure, but you knew the answer.) Yeah. I wanted it done, and I knew it could be done. (Have you found other Cape Bretoners from 1891?) Thomas Rogers in Dominion. Around 1988 or 1989--1989, probably. But I didn't have a marker with me to place--I didn't expect to find it. I wasn't looking for him being buried in Dominion. It was a surprise to me.... I'm hoping to go there Monday afternoon and place a marker there. (The one at lona....) That's John Gillis. (Have you placed a marker there yet?) Ac? tually, here's the marker I placed on his grave. (Mary Willa showed a photo of a full-sized gravestone rather than the lit? tle marker.) That's not what I normally place. Because it was quite important to me. This one was different. (John Gillis-- why was that?) Because of this letter I received from Mr. Neil J. Gillis. This was the original letter I sent to him in De? cember of 1981: "Dear Mr. Gillis, I am writing in refer? ence to the Springhill Explosion, the 21st of February, 1891. A Canada Community De? velopment Project under the title of Com? munity Restoration has undertaken the work of locating the areas designated for the burial of these explosion victims. To date we have located 80 graves of the 125 vic? tims . My query is: one of the victims was a single man, 24 years of age, from James- ville, Victoria County, Cape Breton, named John Gillis. I'm wondering if it is possi? ble that his remains were brought back to that area, and perhaps buried in a family lot. And, he may have been a relative to "W' ''?? i mmm'' /,:-:r::''g- you. Any as? sistance you can give me in this mat? ter will be greatly ap? preciated. Sincerely yours. Mary Willa Lit? tler. Pro? ject Manag? er, Commu? nity Resto? ration Project." And here was his answer to me. He just turned the page over and an? swered on the very back of the same letter, "The John Gillis who was killed in the Springhill Explosion, 1891, was my uncle. I heard my father say that he was 17 years old when he was killed. His body was being claimed by another family, until he was positively identified by one other man from lona. He, Alex P. MacNeil, knew that one-half of one of John Gillis's ears was bitten off by a horse when he was very small. Sincerely, Neil Gillis." And. it also put: "John Gillis buried in the par? ish cemetery, lona. Nova Scotia, south of Cape Breton Auto Radiator co RADIATOR HOSES • REPAIRING • CLEANING • RECORING r-io' _, COMPLETE CYLINDER HEAD SERVICE _ . 518 Grand auto * truck * industrial Sydney Lalce Road Cotnplete Line of Gas Tanks 564-6362 . NOW DOING AUTOMOBILE AIR CONDITIONING • Your Human Rights .. .We Can Help. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission investigates complaints of discrimination, provides information and education, promotes positive race relations and affirmative action, conducts research and liaises with community groups and organizations. Central Office: Lord Nelson Building 7th Floor, 5675 Spring Garden Road P.O. Box 2221, Halifax, NS B3J 3C4 Tel: (902) 424-4111 • Fax:(902)424-0596 Cape Breton Office: Provincial Building 1st Floor, 360 Prince Street Sydney, NS BlP 511 Tel: (902) 563-2140 • Fax:(902)563-5613 Other Regional Offices in Digby and New Glasgow • NomsGOim Human Rights Commission Honourable Jay Abbass, Minister A. Wayne MacKay, Executive Director STEPHENS Building Supplies Congratulations TO Cape Breton's Magazine ON YOUR 25TH ANNIVERSARY! Makita Power Tools Kohler Windows Donat Flannand Windows All Types of Cedar Sidings CGC Gypsum Board Iko Roofing Plywood Peach Tree Steel Door Systenns 199 Townsend Street, Sydney 564-5554. Vinyl Replacement Windows Prefab Houses & Garages Pressure Treated Lumber Cedar Lumber SICO Paints & Stains Weldwood Vinyl Siding Fibreglass Pink Insulation Free Computerized Estimates 35
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