Description of Historic Place
The cemetery is located on a point of land in Lower Montague across the bay from Panmure Island. It has an entrance gate and is located near the shore in a treed area. There are only five remaining headstones as well as several worn sandstone markers. The site has endured coastal erosion and a section of it has disappeared.
This cemetery is valued as one of the earliest pioneer burying grounds in the Three Rivers area; for its association with the Aitken, Wightman, and MacKinnon families among others; and for its association with Black Islander, Dembo Sickles (Suckles).
The earliest known grave in this cemetery is that of John Aitken (1729-1799). He came to Canada aboard the "Lovely Nelly" which departed Dumfries, Scotland in 1775. With him was his wife, Margaret (Lowden) Aitken and their two sons and two daughters. He was listed on the ship's register as a "labourer" who was leaving "to provide for his family a better livelihood." His stone is legible and enclosed by a fence.
This area is also known locally as Wightman's Point. In 1821, John Wightman and his wife, Margaret (Rae) Wightman and their family emigrated from Hoddam in Dumfries, Scotland. Their son, the Hon. Joseph Wightman (1806-1887) would be a major business and political figure in the area, serving as High Sheriff of Kings County. One of his sons, Dr. James Wightman, is interred here. He was the assistant surgeon to the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry during the U.S. Civil War. He contracted typhoid and died on June 16, 1863 in the Armoury Hospital in Washington, D.C. His remains were sent back to the Island, but he is recorded on the roll of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry.
Neil MacKinnon (1829-1858), the son of Angus (1798-1869) and Mary MacKinnon of Sturgeon PEI was drowned at sea. His stone is one of those which is legible.
The site also contains many graves marked with simple sandstones. Some of these may have once had inscriptions, but these have weathered away.
Another individual believed to be interred here is Dembo Suckles (c. 1762-1845), a Black Islander who had arrived here as a slave owned by Captain William Creed (c. 1739-1809). Creed and his associate, David Higgins (d. 1783), had come to the Island in the late 1760s from the New England colonies. They attempted to establish a fishing business in Three Rivers in Lot 59, but this was disrupted by the outbreak of the American Revolution. The Census of Rhode Island for 1782 is the first to mention Dembo Sickles (Suckles) in the Creed household. By 1793, Suckles was living in the Three Rivers area, since he is mentioned in the diary of the famous missionary, Dr. James MacGregor. MacGregor was not a supporter of slavery and he notes later that beginning in November 1795, Sickles (Suckles) entered into a contract of Indenture with Creed - whereby he would receive his freedom after "seven additional years of servitude."
When this time was up in 1802, Suckles married Mary Moore, a slave owned by then Governor Edmund Fanning. They had nine children, four sons and five daughters. The 1841 Census lists Suckles as residing in Lot 59 as a farmer.
In 1991, a memorial service was held at the site with representatives of the Creed, Suckles, Aitken, MacKinnon, and Wightman families. Today, this cemetery is owned by the Province of Prince Edward Island.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4310-20/TR15
The heritage value of the cemetery is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the location of the cemetery in a secluded wooded area near the coastline
- the remaining stones with their inscriptions
- the unmarked graves indicated by sandstones
- the fence and entrance gate