True and Fascinating Canadian History
The Mystery of the
Missing Member's Grave
by J. J. (Buffalo Joe) Healy
A missing body? No grave? Is it possible? Suspects? Ought Forensics attend? But attend where? Spine chilling questions yet to be satisfactorily answered...
Retired RCMP Superintendent Ellis Craig hails from the gentle sloping hills of central New Brunswick. Locals simply call this parcel of Canada 'Paradise'. I've known Vet. Ellis Craig for many, many years. Under regular circumstances he's as calm as a law professor proofreading first year law exams.
Truth be known, Ellis Craig was in the Force for many years and has a solid background grounded in justice and the law. It can be said that his voice speaks with some authority. However, in the mysterious case which follows, Craig's thoughts are paralyzed.
Recently, Superintendent Craig related a story which, from the outset, sounded like it needs further exploration. His uncle by marriage was Reg.#3679, Cst. J.S. Mullan of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP). But, the whereabouts of his body and the location of his grave are gripped in mysterious circumstances.
So far we know that Cst. James Summerville Mullan was born in Woodlands, ON. He joined the NWMP on April 18, 1900. Following a posting to 'Depot', Mullan was transferred to 'F' Division (Fort Qu'Appelle) then to Calgary. Eventually, he was posted to the Yukon but after two years in the north he was granted a free discharge. His career in the Force spanned just two years. Although Mullan was reputed to be of the reliable sort, on one occasion, he found himself in Service Court having been charged for sleeping on duty. He was fined fifteen dollars.
After leaving the NWMP, Mullan tried his hand in local mining but he tired of it and decided to return to New Brunswick where he had spent his youth. Years earlier, Cst. Mullan's father, Rev. J.S. Mullan, Sr., had moved to NB and become a Presbyterian minister. The family had spent many years in the Nashwaak area of southern NB.
Upon return to NB, Mullan married Ms. Jessie Stevenson formerly of Norwood, Ontario. Afterwards, it seems that former Cst. Mullan and his wife lived a comfortable life. He was employed as a a provincial representative of several firms including the Moffat Stove Co.of Montreal. Like his father, Mullan also took an interest and was involved in many church related affairs. So far, nothing of an unusual nature about Mr. Mullan came to the fore.
After his retirement from the RCMP, Superintendent Craig began to research his family's background. In the course of his sleuthing, Superintendent Craig found the newspaper obituary of Cst. Mullan -- Craig's uncle by marriage. In the obituary, Craig notes that Mullan spent eight years with the RCMP in the Yukon. Superintendent Craig believes that the author of Mullan's obituary seems to have greatly exaggerated.
Cst. Mullan's policing service especially the part about spending eight years in the Yukon. One is prone to ask: Are the irregularities in the Mullan obituary a foreboding sign of a broader mystery? To this day, Superintendent Craig remains intrigued by the fact that Mullan's obituary says that he was a member of the first detachment at the top of White Horse Pass. That would have been about 1898 at the time of the Gold Rush, but official RCMP records indicate Mullan didn't join until 1900. The facts simply don't square up.
Cst. Mullan died at age sixty-six at their home in Fredericton, NB on April 30, 1939. According to his obituary, Mr. Mullan's body was then placed on board the Fredericton train which was destined for Norwood, Ontario -- the hometown of Sarah 'Jennie' Stephenson.
Perhaps they had made a marriage-pact whereby she too would return to her hometown of Norwood where they would be buried side by side? That aside, apparently the train left Fredericton with its casket as cargo but thereafter Mullan's trail lies as cold as Winnipeg steel.
In his quest to locate his uncle by marriage, Superintendent Craig has searched each cemetery in Norwood, ON. No Mullan grave, no Mullan body!
No one can be sure what transpired after Mullan's body was placed on the train in Fredericton, NB. But, it is known that our constable is not buried in the Norwood Cemetery! In this case, it seems that more than something has gone off the rails.
**Cst. Mullen's brother, Reg.#3677, Cst. William Douglas Mullen was also in the NWMP.
The Mystery of The Missing Member's Grave continues to this day.
Part II: The Mystery of the Missing Member's Grave: Solved
For the past several months, this Ottawa Vet has been secretly investigating the Mystery of the Missing Member's Grave in various parts of Ontario -- especially Norwood, Ontario, a small town located on Highway 7 close to Peterborough, ON. My wife knew little about the Mystery but she was intrigued by my lengthy disappearances away from home.
Once, on the phone, she asked for an update about 'The Mystery of the Missing Mounted Member Mister Mullan'. From the outset, this Vet thought it was important that the exact whereabouts of Mullan's final resting place be found so that his grave could be recorded. Read on -- but few details can be told about this Vet's time line or how the mystery was actually solved.
To begin, the finer and more intricate details of Reg.#3679 Mullan's grave investigation and its discovery must be kept under wraps forever. This protocol will protect certain sources who prefer to remain anonymous. They have their reasons. Another source suggested: 'Keep his grave a secret -- let Mullan sleep until the book is published!' I decided to overturn this suggestion for the benefit of history and the Force (NWMP) to which Cst. Mullan so proudly belonged.
The discovery of Cst. Mullan's grave begins first with this observation. The people of Norwood, Ontario could not do enough for this Vet during his visits. Assistance to solve the Mystery came from several people and I am very appreciative of their welcome, hospitality and research tips. I am so grateful that I believe the town's name of Norwood ought to be immediately changed.
Names more appropiate for Norwood might be: 'Welcome Village' or 'Hospitality Home' or 'NoWood - Just Warmth'. My new friends in Norwood will be talking about the Mullan Mystery for years to come. Folks living in Norwood did not know that a member of the North West Mounted Police was resting comfortably among them but now, I understand the reason for Cst. Mullan to choose Norwood as his final resting place -- for I, too, had a difficult time leaving Norwood!
After arriving in Norwood for the first time, I met Mr. Theodore Van Will, Sexton at St. Paul's Catholic Church. It was sundown in Norwood and it was cold. The town was quiet and very little traffic passed along Highway 7. It seemed that Mr. Van Will was the only person in town so he was not too difficult to spot as he was shoveling snow off the steps of St. Paul's -- located on Norwood's main street.
After listening to the mystery, Mr. Van Will recommended this Vet contact Mrs. Patricia Cochrane who happens to be the priest's Assistant at St. Paul's. Eventually, I met Mrs. Cochrane. In addition to her clerical duties at the church, Mrs Cochrane is also an expert genealogist. In fact, genealogy is her daily fix or her 'cup of tea.' Patricia maintains a huge database with over fifty thousand names in the Norwood area. Her databse also includes the obituaries of people going back several generations.
On my next visit to Norwood, Patricia Cochrane was prepared with her research and facts related to Cst. Mullan. The records which Patricia kindly shared with me listed all the names of the four generations of Mullan's living in Norwood since the death (1939) of former Cst. Mullan. Recall too, that Cst. Mullan had once married a Norwood woman by the name of Sarah Jane 'Jennie' Stephenson.
Stephenson had been born in Norwood then she eventually moved to New Brunswick. Jennie Stephenson and James Mullan returned briefly to Norwood where they married on July 18, 1906. Mrs. Stephenson was also listed in Patricia's database and her name was linked through historical records to our NWMP James Summerville Mullan.
So, to be clear, 'Jennie' Stephenson was Jim Mullan's first wife. Superintendent Ellis Craig's aunt Nellie, (Eleanor Craig), was married three times. Eleanor Craig's first husband, Edward 'Ned' Wilson died in 1926. Eleanor Craig married Jim Mullan sometime after that. After Mullen died in 1939, Eleanor Craig married Byron Cookson. Nellie lived into her nineties
With the expertise of Patricia Cochrane and her database, it was not too difficult to firmly conclude that Mullans' wife Sarah Jane Stephenson was buried in the Norwood Asphodel Cemetery. Furthermore, the information in Patricia's genealogy database and her documentary evidence pointed to the fact that Cst. Mullan was buried in the same grave with Sarah Jane Stephenson! Another genealogist and colleague of Patricia Cochrane also confirmed the burial location of James Mullan. She stated: '...James Sommerville Mullan's burial info as he died April 30, 1939...his birth and death dates are not [inscripted] on the stone but I am sure that he is buried in that plot.' Bingo!
The photo (upper left) is of Genealogist, Lead Researcher and kind new friend Mrs Patricia Cochrane of Norwood.
This day, my time ran out, but this Vet would return another day to search for the Stephenson/Mullan gravesite.
^ Back to Top ^
The search for the Stephenson/Mullan grave began after another visit to Norwood. Unfortunately, a lot of snow had fallen and walking through the Norwood Asphodel Cemetery by this Vet was nearly impossible. After what seemed like several hours, this Vet was no further ahead as snow had covered the flat markers and many names on graves markers were illegible by the snow. The December day was nearly over. Darkness in a cemetery is no ally.
In spite of impending cemetery darkness, a great light shone inside this Vets' head. Soon, this Vet was knocking on the door of nearby residents Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Chamberlain of Norwood. Once again, hospitality was the hallmark of the Chamberlain family and this Vet was warmly received indoors. After the Mullan mystery was explained, Gord Chamberlain exclaimed that he had never known of a dead NWMP nor met a live RCMP! Mr. Chamberlain was eager and excited to assist this Vet with further and immediate investigation. In an exhilarated voice, Gord called his wife and said: 'Call Bud because he has the cemetery maps!'
Within minutes, Mr. 'Bud' Wrightly, the Norwood Asphodel Cemetery map man was at the Chamberlain home. Within another flash, Bud had the cemetery maps laid out on the car's hood and he sucessfully pinpointed the Mullan/Stephenson grave location: Section 2, Lot 87, Range 13 -- up the cemetery hill, to the left near the lone pine tree -- and a fews steps from the railway tracks which originate from Saint John, NB.
This time trudging through the cemetery seemed easy -- more akin to strolling along a warm Breezy Point Beach. The gold ring was within our grasp! The Mullan/Stephenson grave was easily spotted. Notes were made and photos for proof were taken. The family name 'Mullan' is visible on top of the high, slender red marble rather than on the front face which is the normal custom. The marker would be easy to miss and, no doubt, would have been missed if not for the help of Bud and Gord.
Gordon Chamberlain and 'Bud' Wrightly concluded that this was the probable cause of NWMP Mullan being overlooked. We duly noted that Mullan's name was on top of the stone, but Sarah Jane 'Jennie' Stephenson's name was more prominant on the stone's front face. In addition, Stephenson's biological data was also visible on the grave marker. However, although space on the stone was made available for Mullan's biological data, this data was never etched and this space was empty. Hence, the mix-up. One could easily be led to believe, incorrectly, that Constable Mullan was not buried along with his wife. The truth is now known. Alleluia!
In summary, there's no doubt that the Mystery of the Missing Grave could have baffled investigators for future generations. In fact, NWMP Cst. James Summerville Mullan is truly buried in the Norwood Asphodel Cemetery along with his wife Sarah Jane 'Jennie' Stephenson. It's in stone. The proof is in the plot.
In this Vet's mind, Cst. Mullan had shared a true promise to be buried with his wife. One might perceive that former NWMP Constable Mullan's last words with Jennie his wife went like this '...to meet you [Jennnie] was a slice of heaven, to marry you was a slice of heaven and the last slice would be to buried with you in Norwood'!
Norwood is a slice of heaven too!
The picture above right shows the James Mullan/Sarah Stephenson gravestone and this Vet's new friends. On the left is Mr. 'Bud' Wrightly, centre is this Vet (Reg.#23685) and on the right is Mr. Gordon Chamberlain.
Allow this Vet to say thanks again to all my friends in Norwood, Ontario. The year of former Cst. James Summerville Mullan's death was 1939. It's been a long time for a member of the NWMP to be lost in a cemetery. No doubt the help which was extended to this Vet from the 'Norwood friend community' contributed greatly to solving and explaining the Mystery of the Missing Member's Grave.
Now, retired RCMP Superintendent Ellis Craig will be able to sleep better -- comforted by the recent discovery of his long lost uncle-by-marriage, North West Mounted Police Constable James Summerville Mullan.
And finally this point. Experts cannot explain all happenings in a cemetery. Afterall, there are ghosts! And whatever remains of ghosts! Strangely, but as we were leaving the cemetery, ghosts were on this Vets mind.
Hallucinations may have been caused by this Vet's lack of sleep or flashes of a deep red setting sun. In the rearview mirror, I caught a quick glimpse of a woman standing near Mullan's grave -- beautiful, smiling. Then she was gone!
Might she have been the ghost of Sarah 'Jennie' Stephenson?
Reporting from the Fort,
J. J. (Buffalo Joe) Healy
December 25, 2010