Beneath the tarmac of Loews Theater car park in New Brunswick lie the remains of Mary Ellis. For the last 193 years, she has occupied a prime parking spot; a strange conclusion to a romantic and tragic life.
Mary Ellis found herself in New Brunswick in the 1790s, having travelled to visit her younger sister Margaret. When staying with her sibling, she met and fell helplessly in love with a sea captain and former Revolutionary War Officer who promised to return to her after his next voyage. He left his favourite horse with Mary and sailed down the Raritan river, out to sea, vowing to come home as soon as he could.
For every day that her beloved was away at sea, Mary rode his horse to the riverbank, hoping for a glimpse of his returning ship. Years passed with no sign of him and in 1813, Mary purchased a plot of land by the river so that she could maintain a constant watch. Then, fourteen years later in 1828, Mary died, having never been reunited with her lost love. She was buried on her property, eventually joined by other family members including her sister and – according to local legend – even her captain’s favourite horse.
Mary’s family plot sat undisturbed in a beautiful woodland setting for decades, with her grave surrounded by beautiful wrought iron fencing. However, as communities grow and develop, the woodland and farmland that once housed her family was ripped up and paved over, changing ownership many times.
What was once a rural idyll soon became an urban space of strip malls and occasional flea markets. Throughout all of this redevelopment, somehow Mary’s grave survived, protected from shoppers by a chain link fence. Reportedly, Mary’s descendants would occasionally tend to the grave, but more often than not, the grave played host to such tall thickets of weeds, that shoppers would park beside the little enclave, having no idea that they were mere feet away from a headstone.
In more recent years, following the redevelopment of the site into Loews Cineplex, the car park was re-graded again, elevating Mary’s grave and giving her a clear view of the river. They also installed a new retaining wall, ensuring Mary – and her many fellow grave companions – rest easily for many years to come.
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