Ruthven was once the Ghost Town of Indiana
Indiana, Ontario is a ghost town unlike those with wooden structures along dusty roads, men with cowboy hats walking about on plank sidewalks. Canada’s ghost town is different.
At first glance the former town of Indiana, Ontario, Canada (now Ruthven Park) looks like a southern plantation along side the Mississippi.
An old stone mansion surrounded by weeping willows, stone fences and statues, looking over our most storied river known as the Grand.
What remains today are ruins of the old mills, some houses and the family mansion once belonging to the most influential family in Haldimand history… The Thompson’s
Why Indiana Died
Once the sister to the town of Cayuga (only minutes down the road), Indiana’s progress would surpass it. As long as boats transported lumber along the Grand River everything was fine.
Nobody, including David Thompson, would have dreamed of such a technology being built across Canada.
Indiana’s fate was sealed when the train found its way into Haldimand. A hub was built in Cayuga, bypassing Indiana, and the old lumber town didn’t stand a chance. The boats disappeared and lumber was processed in larger ports like Toronto.
Indiana residents left their wooden houses behind along with loved ones buried in the town graveyard. Slowly the wooden structures fell. Only the Thompson mansion, the town and family graveyards, a couple of historic houses remained, along with the energy.
The Thompson Family
The Thompson mansion centres Ruthven Park as a reminder of Indiana and the ambitions of David the 1st over 150 years ago.
David the 1st
The patriarch of the Thompson family fought in the War of 1812. A kid serving under the famed General Isaac Brock, he was a messenger and witness to the Battle of Queenston Heights when the great General fell.
He’d survive the war and as an adult began the Grand River Navigation Company. He built a mill along the Grand River and settled the land along side it. The mansion was finished in 1847 and the town of Indian emerged.
Everything successful at home, Thompson ran for Parliament and won the seat representing Haldimand.
David was still a politician in his later years leading up to 1886. While still holding the Parliament seat, David Thompson died inside the Thompson mansion on the second floor while sitting in his favourite rocking chair.
The graveyards of Ruthven Park include a largely Irish, rough looking plot on the east side of the grounds, and a polished family plot on the west side.
The town graveyard is bigger, up on a hill overlooking the highway and gatehouse. The stones lovingly restored by Lower Grand River Land Trust after time and tree roots caused damage.
The Thompson family plot is hidden down a path beside the current parking lot. It thins to a walkway dimmed from the electric light of the lot. The path unnoticed in the dark of night. Walk the path, and a minute later it clears, you’ll see a hill and the old fence surround the Thompson family.
The Ghosts of Ruthven
Ruthven Park is an anomaly of historic gems. Located in a remote place surrounded by beauty but outside the modern world. The mansion left original from the last Thompson’s who lived there until the 1990’s.
Combined, this makes for some interesting energy. For the full experience, please join us for the rare Ghost Walks of Ruthven.
For this article let me introduce you to it’s most interesting ghost…
Little Bessie – –
During a historical tour a young girl wasn’t listening. They all listened to the guide, parents and daughter, as they went through the mansion. Amazing stories of how the Thompson’s lived and what they experienced. Then arriving at the grand staircase, the tour guide noticed the little girl focusing on the stairs.
She ignored it, continued on with the stories and forgot until after the tour when saying goodbye. At the back door as the family walks up and mom says “Our daughter has a question”
Then the daughter asked,
“Who was the other girl sitting on the stairs?”
The confused tour guide knew there were no other kids in the group. She asked the daughter to describe the little girl, and in that something clicked.
A historic letter written by David the 2nd (son of David Thompson the 1st) back in the 1800’s where he described his daughter Bessie. It sounded like the same description.
This would be confirmed for us at the Ghost Walks, in 2008 a special tour was done. Before the story of Bessie was told, another little girl approached our former Ghost Guide Lady Jade and asked, “Who was the little girl on the stairs?”
Why the Stairs?
When having experiences, it’s important to ask questions.
Bessie didn’t live a long life, dying inside the mansion in 1876 of a disease called Diphtheria. Tragically she was only 11 years old and knew little about the outside world. The house was her everything, so a ghost hunter would think ‘where else would she go?’
But why the stairs? Because, as the sickness got worse Bessie spent a lot of time sitting on the stairs. She was looking out the side window beside the front door. Then footsteps and a shadow appeared before a knock at the door caused her to scream, run up the stairs and hide in her bedroom.
The dreaded visitor… a local doctor wanting to give her bad tasting medicine.
**For the full experience, join us for the rare Ghost Walks of Ruthven