OLD CEMETERIES – WHERE HISTORY COMES ALIVE (February 1/02)

On a rise beside the highway in Steam Mill, two native children lie in an unmarked grave.

Near Kentville a cemetery at least 200 years old lies untended, its headstones scattered; long in disuse, this burial ground once sheltered the remains of some 30 souls but now is almost forgotten.

In Greenwich near the site of the old Horton township poor farm is another abandoned burial ground. Here Edythe Quinn writes in her Greenwich history were buried the poor farm inmates “who died without relatives or anyone to arrange for burial.”

Near Newtonville, 23 people are buried in a tiny cemetery that was first used in 1890 and saw its last burial in 1936. The forest has claimed this cemetery which holds descendants of some of the first settlers in the Annapolis Valley.

There are many similar burial sites in this area. Like the gravesite of the native children, some are unmarked; and as the years pass and new generations come and go, many have fallen into disuse and are forgotten and neglected.

A search is now underway to locate the burial site of the native children. Efforts will also be made to mark the 200-year-old cemetery and possibly restore some of its lost glory. The burial ground near the old poor farm at Greenwich has already received considerable attention and plans are being made to restore the area and properly mark it.

Some work has already been done at the old Newtonville cemetery. Brush has been removed, headstones have been cleaned, and a freshly painted gate put back in place. Several years ago a trail was blazed into the cemetery and a right-of-way established so descendants of those buried there – mostly Coldwells, Benjamins and Jordans – can visit their ancestor’s resting place. Plans have been made for additional restoration work in the near future.

Behind much of this research and restoration is the recently established Burial Ground Care Society of Kings County. The Society first came to the public’s attention last year when this newspaper reported on their efforts to restore the burial ground adjacent to the Greenwich poor farm. As noted above, some work has been done on the poor farm cemetery. I attended a Society meeting on January 21 and I found that the poor farm cemetery restoration is currently high on the priority list.

The Society deems it important to locate abandoned and neglected burial grounds in the county, such as the poor farm cemetery, and this will be the main object of future activities. As well locating and identifying old burial grounds, the Society’s objective is also to make them “accessible and presentable.” Their mission statement reads as well that the Society will “research and record the history of neglected or abandoned burial grounds in Kings County.”

As someone interested in history I agree with the objectives of the Society. Occasionally I’ve come across old burial grounds in the county, and reading the headstones, I’ve often wondered about their history. Many of the old burial grounds I’ve seen in the back country are in a sad state and its a shame they’ve been neglected and allowed to deteriorate.

The recent interest in old burial grounds is best summed up by Richard Skinner, one of the founders of the Society. History can come alive when one leaves the books and records and visits a gravesite, Skinner wrote in a recent issue of Kings County Vignettes.

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