AN “IRISH CEMETERY” IN CENTREVILLE (December 2/05)

The Ambrose F. Church map of Kings County shows that a Catholic Church existed in Centreville at the time this area was surveyed and the map made up – which may have been as early as 1864 for the survey and possibly a decade or two later when the map was prepared.

There is a cemetery where the church once stood and this undoubtedly is the burial ground that according village folklore is of Irish origin. After talking with several people about Centreville’s “Irish cemetery” and looking at records in the Kings County Museum, I’ve turned up some interesting facts about the old burial ground.

First of all, there are no records to indicate the cemetery is of Irish origin (whatever that means) but folklore says Centreville originally was an Irish settlement. The burial ground is one of three Roman Catholic Church cemeteries in this immediate area and is the oldest of the three and possibly the oldest in the county. The cemetery has been the property of the Catholic Church since 1856. Allan Cyr, who is on a Church committee currently involved in restoring the cemetery, tells me that Registry of Deeds records indicate one William Ruscoe, a blacksmith and possibly a Justice of the Peace, conveyed a portion of land to the Roman Catholic Church in 1856, said portion being the site of the cemetery.

Mr. Cyr confirmed that as is indicated on the Ambrose Church map, a Catholic Church definitely was located there. I have been unable to pinpoint the date it was built. Mabel Nichols’ Kentville history has it that a Catholic Church was built here in 1842 but doesn’t give the location. Nichols may have been referring to the chapel in Centreville since she states that later another Catholic Church was built, this one in Kentville in 1853. Eaton in his Kings County history also has 1853 as the year the Kentville chapel was completed. Further confirmation that the Centreville chapel existed is on record at the Kings County Museum and there is a note saying that it was removed in the early 1900s.

As for the site being an Irish cemetery, I can see by looking at records in the Kings County Museum how this notion may have originated. As can be seen from existing records, Irish families in this area favoured the cemetery as a resting place for their deceased.

In 1995 the Kings County Genealogical Society surveyed the Centreville cemetery and recorded inscriptions on the stones. Wayne Baltzer, a member of the Society, said they found many stones with Irish names, one dating back to 1858. The Society made a list of inscriptions on some 30 stones and 25 contain Irish surnames; these surnames are Hagerty, Sarsfield, O’Brien, Cavanagh, O’Keefe, Slautery, Power and Lynch. Several of the stones give the origin of the deceased as being various parts of Ireland.

The cemetery in Centreville apparently is much older than its stones indicate. The Genealogical Society records indicate the cemetery’s “period of use” is 1858 to the present. However, Allan Cyr tells me that when William Ruscoe gave a portion of his land to the Catholic Church in 1856 “the burying ground was already there.”

In other words, no one knows how old this cemetery is. It’s also possible that Irish immigrants were the first to establish a cemetery there; existing records suggest that this is a possibility.

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