CEMETERY BOOK: LOTS OF INTERESTING HISTORY (May 17/02)

“There’s a lot of history there, and most people will find them interesting if they take the time to look,” Maynard Stevens says of the old cemeteries in this area.

Stevens was responding to a favourable observation I’d made about his recent book, Where they Rest in Peace, published last November by Gaspereau Press. In the book, Stevens writes about seven cemeteries in Kings County, in the process including some interesting history about the people buried in them.

This is what I found delightful about Stevens’ book. It may be billed a guided cemetery tour but it’s really about some of our early settlers and pioneers, the people who played various roles in shaping the commercial and agricultural fabric of Kings County. In Lower Horton cemetery, for example, stands an obelisk marking the resting place of some the Borden family, Planters whose influence “extended not just throughout Nova Scotia but to Canada as a whole.”

And in Wolfville’s Old Burying Ground are the DeWolfs and Bishops, two of the most influential families in Kings County. As he tours the cemeteries, Stevens writes about the first DeWolfs and Bishops, the first Chipmans, Fullers, Websters, Denisons and other leading families, including mini-biographies of many of the area’s leading figures. If you are curious about the Planters and Loyalists who played prominent roles in our formative years after the expulsion of the Acadians, Stevens book will surely satisfy that curiosity.

But while the biographical sketches of our early historical figures are interesting to read, I enjoyed most the odd facts and figures that Stevens managed to unearth (no pun intended) about the people buried in the old cemeteries. Like me, you may find your curiosity aroused by the little-known fact that slavery existed in Kings County and more than one prominent Planter and Loyalist was a slaveholder. For the most part, historians who glorify our early leading settlers ignore the slavery issue; Stevens’ work is one of the few histories to mention it.

Stevens tells us about the intriguing “Horton Carver” and “Second Horton Carver,” the men whose headstone carvings stand guard over many gravesites in Kings County cemeteries. In the Chipman Corner cemetery is the gravesite of Captain John Huston (1710-1795). Stevens writes of Huston’s close connection with Sir Brook Watson, Lord Mayor of London from 1796 to 1797. There’s the story of Elkanah Morton Jr. who may have been the first male child born to the Planters in Kings County.

These and other stories of historical interest are found throughout the book. “You may pause and consider for a moment all the history buried here,” Stevens writes at the conclusion of one cemetery tour. Considering all the history that is found in his book, I recommend it to anyone the least bit interested in the Planter and Loyalist periods.

Maynard Stevens tells me he has always been interested in cemeteries and the history that lies within them. He first started to collect information on Kings County cemeteries some 15 years ago, “as a summer project with my wife,” and worked seriously on his book a year before it was published. He writes that his book is an introduction to the “rich history found in the cemeteries of Kings County,” intimating that he has barely scratched the surface and there are many more tales to be told. Hopefully, Stevens will continue his research and offer us more cemetery tours.

Stevens book is available at the Kings County Museum in Kentville.

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