Pioneers rest in peace

 by Adele Townsend, 1979

adele townsendEarly Scottish settlers lie in the Pioneer Cemetery near the sandy cove at St. Margaret's in Eastern Kings. Bear River, a fresh water stream, flows into the sea nearby. The Highlanders, driven from their homes by religious persecution after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charles, must have found St. Margaret's a pleasant spot to build again.

I don't have any ancestors buried in the old cemetery but I've spent many hours wandering through it. As a child, I went with my family to picnics there. Part of the time was spent on the beach and swimming but the best part was spent picking blueberries among the markers. At that time the spot resembled a scene from Wuthering Heights. The treeless moors surrounded the old cemetery with its stone fence. Inside, the mounds and hollows mllows were covered with bayberry bushes and wild flowers that somtimes completely obscured the smaller stones. To enter the cemetery, then as now, one has to go over a causeway over an old stream bed. It was a fascinating spot and the berries were always bigger and bluer there.

In later years an attempt was made at restoring the old cemetery. All but a few of the larger and heavier stones were bulldozed over the fence and the burying ground itself was levelled in preparation for replacing the stones. But there was a delay and for years the situation remained the same. Older then but still a blueberry picker, I walked around the stone fence of the cemetery. I am firmly convinced that as I looked over and around the tangled heap of markers, I saw a snail white child's stone with a very early 1800 date. (I've looked for it in recent years but it is not there now.)

A number of years ago, I visited Patrick McCormack and his wife at St. Margaret's and they told me the story of the old cemetery.

The first church was built in 1803, a small log one. In 1837 the church was enlarged to make room for the increasing population and in 1857 a still larger church was built.  By 1860 the settlement had moved further inland from the shore and for convenience the church was hauled up to the present location. This church burned in 1921 on June 10. If I recall rightly, the fire was started by a spark from the train and burned a large area from Five Houses to Danny Sandy's.  

Some markers from the old cemetery were moved from the shore to the new graveyard but most remained. In 1974 the historical spot at the shore was restored by the Department of Health and the Heritage Foundation, under the supervision of John McAleer of the Department of Vital Statistics.

The old markers represent a way of life that is gone now. One can imagine the many hours spent in the home carving out a memorial to a loved one on the sandstone slab. What if the word could not be completed on the line? Carry it over to the next. What we see today (and the carving is still clear on most of the sandstone) is the labour of love and more enduring than our cold granite ones of today.

As I wander around the stones, I wonder at the number of them that have the words, in English or Latin, "Rest in Peace." Today, now that the stones have been restored and the old cemetery is again being cared for, I truly believe the pioneers finally rest in peace.