Missing mass grave remains a mystery one year after search begins

The search for a missing mass grave somewhere along Windsor’s waterfront has slowed but not stopped.

The University of Windsor partnered with the city in the fall of 2020 to try and determine where an unmarked grave containing more than sixty Norwegian immigrants is by using ground penetrating radar (GPR.)

“Our results are not conclusive,” says University of Windsor associate professor in earth and environmental sciences Dr. Maria Cioppa.

“Science is always like this,” Cioppa explains. “You can rule out possibilities and you can narrow it down and then you go, okay, we need to do more work.”

The burial site was believed to be somewhere along the Detroit River between Walkerville and the downtown core — dating back to 1854 following an outbreak of cholera.

Cioppa says she and her team can rule out the possibility of it being near “The Spirit of Windsor” locomotive, now focusing efforts along the riverfront between Lincoln Road to the west of Moy Avenue.

“They need to be found,” she says.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens took to social media last year to draw attention to the search, hoping the location can be found to allow for proper recognition.

“This is an important event. An event worth commemorating if we can find these graves and I really appreciate the University of Windsor and Dr. Cioppa for continuing to look,” Dilkens says.

Cioppa explains to CTV News that colder weather hampers GPR search efforts and that COVID-19 guidelines prevent university volunteers to assist.

“To find an unmarked grave without a coffin and that sort of thing is actually a difficult proposition,” she says.

Cioppa remains cautiously optimistic some attempts to locate the mass grave can be made before winter and that more university students will do their thesis to examine the area.

“I think we need to find them if they’re still here,” she says.