THE OLD WINDSOR BURYING GROUND (December 13/96)

In 1889, The Advertiser’s sister paper, The Hants Journal, printed an early history of Windsor and area that had been compiled by Henry Youle Hind. The original title of the book was “Sketch of the Old Parish Burying Ground of Windsor, Nova Scotia with an Appeal for its Protection, Ornamentation and Preservation.”

Unless you’re into old cemeteries, this dry, lengthy title could easily turn you off. But don’t be fooled by it. The book is a gold mine for history buffs, especially anyone interested in 17th century and 18th century Hants and Kings County. While the book deals mainly with religious topics, there are so many historical tidbits that is should have been called Glimpses of Early Kings and Hants County, or something along this line.

The misnamed sketch of the old parish burying ground of Windsor was reprinted by Lancelot Press in 1989 and again given an inappropriate title. The book is more than an early history of Windsor. We learn about the Acadians of Kings and Hants County, the Micmacs, the problems faced by the settlers that took upland vacated by the Acadians, and so on. There is even an overview of the province as it was in 1784, which you can find below.

I’ve just finished reading the burying ground sketch and to prove my contention that it’s also a general historical text as well as a book on religions and cemeteries. I’ve picked out some of the more interesting highlights.

In 1826, the average annual death rate tripled and even quadrupled in parts of Hants and Kings when an influenza epidemic swept across North America and into Nova Scotia. From the book: “An unusual mortality occurred during the year 1826 when over four times the number of burials above the average is recorded.” Mention is made of an earlier influenza epidemic (1789) that was also continent-wide.

The dykes break and they broke in 1759, 1828 and 1869. From the book: “This occurred (an unusual number of deaths) during the season in which the dykes were carried away (July 24, 1828). The valuable dyke lands were flooded and the sea came to within a few yards of… the old burying grounds. During the Saxby storm of October 1869, just 110 years after the great inroad of the sea in 1759, a similar incident took place.”

Mentioned in the book are several papers in the British museum, one a “petition from the inhabitants of Kings County and Windsor” asking that the Acadians be allowed to remain in the province. The petition is dated March 23, 1765, and most likely refers to the Acadians who were still being held at Windsor.

This may be explained by the fact that the settlers who took up Acadian land couldn’t cope with repairing and maintaining the vast system of dykes the Acadians had built up. The book presents reasonable evidence that the Acadians who were being held prisoner in Fort Edward were used as labourers on the dykes.

From the book, Nova Scotia as it was in 1784: “Of roads there was only one. Forest paths formed the means of communication inland to remote points… Communication was maintained by boat and canoe with settlements approachable (only) by such means.”

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