Description of Historic Place
The site is located on land near a cove in the community of Belfast. Unmarked sandstones indicate early Acadian graves and a few remaining headstones indicate those of later Scottish immigrants to the area. It was long neglected and overgrown, but has recently been restored. The designation includes the remaining grave markers and the associated land parcel.
The Acadian-Scottish Ancient Burial Ground is valued for its unique associations with both the early Acadian and Scottish settlers of the Belfast area of Prince Edward Island. Under the French Regime, the area was known as the Parish of St. Paul. It was established in 1752 and remained until the Expulsion of the Acadians from the area in 1758 under the command of Andrew, the fifth Lord Rollo (1703-1765), a Scottish aristocrat.
The tragedy of the Explusion was compounded when "The Duke William", the vessel on which the Acadians were being transported, sank as it neared the English Channel. Nearly all of the 400 passengers died, except for an Acadian priest and the captain with about 34 British sailors who managed to launch smaller vessels and escape.
Scottish immigration to the area began in 1803, with the arrival of the Selkirk Settlers. These were Highland familes who left their traditional lands in Scotland to settle on land provided by Thomas Douglas, the fifth Earl of Selkirk (1771-1820). He was a philanthropist who wanted to improve the prospects of his countrymen. He paid for the equipping of ships and supplies and even accompanied his colonists to the Island, briefly staying with them as they prepared to face their first winter in the new world.
The burial ground today shows evidence of the presence of both of these groups. Sandstone markers indicate 18th Century Acadian graves. It is unclear whether these once bore memorial inscriptions, since they have eroded. The burial ground was later used by the Selkirk Settlers and there are several remaining marble headstones. The only intact standing headstone is inscribed for Alexander Nicholson, a native of Skye, Invernesshire. It is dated September 26, 1820.
The property gradually fell into disuse and became overgrown. However, it was never totally forgotten by the community. The 1928 book, "Skye Pioneers and the Island" by Malcolm MacQueen made reference to the appearance of the burial grounds at that time.
It was not until 2000 that the property was restored. Overgrowth was removed and basic landscaping was performed. On August 26, 2000 as special dedication and plaque unveiling occurred to commemorate the heritage of the place. A local Free Church of Scotland Minister and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Charlottetown were present to help celebrate the restoration.
Source: Culture and Heritage Division, PEI Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
File #: 4320-20/A4
The following character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of the site:
- the cemetery in its location, extent and the surviving land formations
- evidence of the use of the place as a cemetery with unmarked graves and some surviving headstones