Description of Historic Place
This cemetery is located in a clearing in the centre of Brudenell Island, a small two acre treed island located in the Brudenell River near the Brudenell Provincial Park. It is accessible on foot by crossing a connecting causeway. The cemetery consists of several sandstone grave markers and a large commemorative cairn which was erected in 1903.
The cemetery is valued for its unique location on Brudenell Island and for its historic association with the Brudenell pioneers.
In 1803, a group of Scottish settlers led by James MacLaren came from Perthshire and arrived in Pictou, Nova Scotia aboard the ship, Commerce. These thirty nine individuals were members of the MacLaren, MacFarlane, Stewart, Robertson, and Gordon families.
After stopping in Pictou, Nova Scotia, they moved on to PEI. While sailing by Brudenell Island, one of the settlers, James MacLaren's daughter, Christina (MacLaren) Gordon declared that she wanted to be laid to rest there once her time had come. Tragically, a year later, she became the first person to be interred in the Brudenell Island cemetery. Eventually, a small wooden church was built on the Island and James MacLaren often held Episcopal services there in Gaelic until his passing in 1818. This church no longer exists.
James MacLaren's father, Donald MacLaren, was a cattle dealer and owned land in the Scottish district of Balquhidder. He was among the Highland supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the ill-fated 1745 uprising and as a consequence lost his land and almost lost his life. In the wake of the rebellion, while being escorted to prison in Carlisle, he escaped by hiding overnight in a wet bog and covering himself with turf. The Government forces burned down his house and killed his cattle. His family, including wee James MacLaren, escaped. Donald had been shrewd enough to transfer the ownership of his land in trust to his wife's family - who remained loyal to the Hanovarians. But, when James MacLaren came of age, he found that he had to sue to get his lands back. When he eventually did, he found the estate to be deeply in debt and therefore decided to sell it to pay his creditors and move to Prince Edward Island. He was aware of the Island because of his friendship with Lord Selkirk, who was also bringing Scottish Highlanders to the colony and owned land in the vicinity of Brudenell.
James purchased 266 acres of land on what is now the Brudenell Provincial Park, Resort, and Golf course. Here, many of the families which had accompanied him established their farms. Brudenell Island became the resting place for many of these settlers. The cemetery was used until about 1820 and contains from 18 to 20 individuals.
The New Brunswick grey granite cairn which commemorates the pioneers was unveiled in July 1903 on Brudenell Island. Pipers led the crowd to the cairn which was draped in the Union Jack flag. Descendents of the pioneers, some from PEI and others from the United States, gave speeches. One of the local speakers was Georgetown native, the Hon. Daniel Gordon. He was the grandson of Donald Gordon, whose wife, Christina, was the first to be interred on Brudenell Island. Daniel Gordon was a successful merchant, politician, and shipbuilder. Today, another stone on the Island is engraved with a sailing ship and describes his success as a shipbuilder.
In 1953, a book was launched as part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations. By 1970, the descendents of the early families had incorporated themselves to develop, promote, and preserve the heritage of the cemetery. Most recently, in 2003, the bicentennial was marked by a major reunion of families at the site and the launching of a book detailing their genealogies.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4310-20/TR23
The heritage value of the site is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the location of the cemetery in a clearing on Brudenell Island
- the large New Brunswick grey granite cairn with inscriptions
- the stone commemorating shipbuilding in the area
- the remaining sandstone markers
- the signage indicating the entrance to the cemetery