RAILWAY DESTROYED ACADIAN CEMETERY – FOLKLORE (July 15/05)

When work began on the Cornwallis Valley Railway (CVR) in June 1889, a line was surveyed from the government wharf at Kingsport to Sheffield Mills. Passing close to Canning, the CVR line ran through a piece of dykeland between Borden Street and the Habitant River.

According to folklore, railway workers running the line through this dykeland uncovered what is believed to have been a cemetery of Acadian origin. This piece of folklore was related to me by Harold Gates who lives at the intersection of Borden Street and the J. Jordan Road. His property is part of the what he calls the “old Woodworth grant.”

Mr. Gates said the story about the discovery of the cemetery was passed on to him by a friend of his father, Bill Harris. Mr. Harris, in turn was told about the discovery of the cemetery by his father. According to railway history buff Leon Barron, the Acadians had dyked this section of dykeland; it’s known that there were Acadian homesteads in the area, so it’s possible that a burial ground also existed there.

Why an Acadian and not a Planter cemetery? We have to assume that records would exist of Planter burial grounds and that people living and farming here 100 or more years ago would know where they were located. That the burial ground was unmarked and was uncovered on land known to have been worked by the Acadians probably contributed as well to the assumption about its origin.

That’s the folklore anyway and to quote Mr. Gates, “I’m not saying it’s right.” For those interested in such things, Mr. Gates said the cemetery was found on what is now his property.

As for what happened after evidence of a burial ground was discovered, Mr. Gates said that according to his father, work on the railway didn’t stop. “There was a cover-up,” he said. I looked through two railway histories, Woodworths and Clarkes, and there is no mention of the cemetery.

Mr. Gates had contacted me through this newspaper to discuss my column about a tour of Acadian sites near Canning. As well as the cemetery being located on his property, Mr. Gates believes an Acadian church also stood nearby. “My recollection of the folklore said the church was nearer here (and not near Bell Hill) but I don’t know for sure,” he said.

Speaking of churches, Mr. Gates told me about one built in the county in 1904 or 1905. Mr. Gates said he remembers that the church belonged to a religion called the Church of Christ, Disciples. I ran this through the Internet and found that there is a church of that name. It was founded in the United States and one website said that at one time there were eight or nine branches of the church in Canada. However, I couldn’t find evidence that this church existed in Kings County.

Gates said he has a booklet giving the history of this church. “The booklet has it that according to folklore, the church was built on Church Street and moved to Port Williams,” Mr. Gates said. When the church fell into disuse it was converted into an apartment building that is still being used today.

Gates question that the church was built elsewhere before being moved to Port Williams. “My father was born in 1890 and he told me he drove a horse on a scoop to open up a cellar for the church. He was 14 at the time. Take a look at the building, he said. It’s too big to have been moved and the folklore is wrong.”

I’ve contacted the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Disciples and requested some background on Canadian activities. It would be interesting to see if the church once had a mission here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s