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The Mystery of Martimas, the Horse of Hendrie Park

October 29, 2020

By Lauren McAusland, Interpretation Intern, Royal Botanical Gardens.

As the colourful leaves begin to fall and a chill enters the night air, you may have found yourself craving candy or another favourite Halloween tradition: a ghost story. Royal Botanical Gardens doesn’t have any ghosts to brag of, but we do have a few spooky surprises in our gardens!

Hidden in a small grove north of the Scented Garden in Hendrie Park lies this gravestone, dedicated to Martimas

Grave stone dedicated to Martimas

Why is there a gravestone in a botanical garden?

Once upon a time, before Hendrie Park became a botanical garden, a man named William Hendrie owned and farmed the land. William Hendrie was born in Glasgow, Scotland and moved to Hamilton in 1848. He purchased the farm to breed draft horses for his business transporting cargo to and from railway stations. Hendrie also raised racehorses, his favourite of which was Martimas

Hendrie Family Standing Behind Plaque

In 1898, Martimas won the Futurity Stakes, a race for the best two-year old horses in America. With the race prize, Hendrie paid to build a wing of Hamilton General Hospital in Martimas’ name. Maritmas later won the Toronto Cup at Woodbine and the Canadian Derby at Fort Erie, earning him a place in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

archival photo of jockey on martimas the race horse at a track with owner

When Martimas died in 1916, Hendrie erected a memorial stone in his honor. To this day, the circumstances of Martimas’ burial remain a mystery.  No one is sure exactly where, or how much of Martimas is buried.

Many believe that William Hendrie buried the entire horse right where the gravestone is currently located. Some, like William Hendrie’s great-grandson, have suggested that only Martimas’ head was buried. Others speculate that William Hendrie’s stables were once further east on land which is now the Bayview neighbourhood. If you live in this area, Martimas, or his head, might be buried in your own backyard…

Happy Halloween!

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