Description of Historic Place
Located in a secluded section on the western tip of Panmure Island, this early 19th century cemetery is situated close to the shoreline and was once surrounded by a stone fence. Shoreline erosion has led to some of the fence falling into the sea. The grave markers that remain are plain sandstone and some have carved initials. The site is only accessible from the shore or through the woods.
This early cemetery is valued for its historical association with the pioneers of Panmure Island.
In 1790, Donald MacMullen came to the area with 417 other immigrants in three ships. He would settle in Gaspereaux. Around 1814-1815, he had a Roman Catholic Church constructed on Panmure Island. This remained there until 1838 when it was dismantled and, rebuilt and enlarged in Georgetown, where it became the Mission of St. James.
The cemetery was first established in 1812 or 1813 with the interment of an Aitken girl who was then a resident of Panmure Island. She had ventured out across the ice to visit friends in Lower Montague when a winter storm blew up and she died from exposure. The cemetery was located near the sea to allow for easy transport of remains to the burial ground as roads were poorly maintained.
The cemetery was located on land owned by Andrew Macdonald (1745-1833). He had been a tacksman on the Island of Shona in Scotland and had emigrated to the area in 1805 with his wife and, nine sons and four daughters. He came to own 600 acres on Panmure Island and cleared half of it. Prosperity came from his thriving shipbuilding, merchant, and timber business which he exported to Britain. After he tragically lost his original home in a fire, he had bricks sent from Britain and constructed a large new residence. However, nothing of this remains today.
In 1831, Macdonald willed the cemetery property to the Roman Catholic Church. He was later interred there in 1833. His gravestone, however, was located in Georgetown, where several of his sons had become successful businessmen.
The site remained in use until about 1850, when it was gradually replaced by the cemetery at St. Paul's in Sturgeon which began being used in 1863. The names of those buried at Panmure Island include Aitken, French, Macdonald, Murphy, Brown, Creed, and Parker.
In 1977, an effort was made to clean the site of debris. At that time, there were as many as 150 sandstone markers visible, some with initials and crosses carved into them. In August 2008, a special ecumenical service of blessing was held at the site to honour the early pioneers of the area.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4310-20/P23
The heritage value of the cemetery is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the location of the cemetery overlooking St. Mary's Bay in a wooded point of land on Panmure Island
- the remains of a stone wall which once surrounded the cemetery
- the remaining sandstone markers some with carved initials and crosses
- the potential for many unmarked graves on the site