Description of Historic Place
The Old Port Medway Cemetery was the first public burial ground established in the community of Port Medway. It is located near the end of Port Medway Road in the seaside community of Port Medway, Nova Scotia. Municipal heritage designation applies to the cemetery and its landscape features.
In the Township of Liverpool’s proprietors’ records, allowance was made in March of 1786 for a burying ground of one acre to be laid out in Port Medway, but it wasn’t until October 27, 1820 that a deed to the inhabitants of the community was drawn up and recorded for this lot of land. The heritage value of this site lies primarily in its ties with the families who first settled here, many of whose descendants still reside in the area.
Burials were taking place in this ground before any allowance was made for a public cemetery. There are several monuments predating 1800, including the headstone for Samuel Mack, a wealthy entrepreneur, who was buried here in 1783, age forty-seven. Mr. Mack was one of the earliest settlers in the community and founder of one of the first lumber mills on the Port Medway River. He is also noted as having been a great uncle to the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr.
Other early families to settle in the Port Medway area included those named Foster, Morine, Cohoon, Briggs, Parke, Atkins and Dolliver, all of whom are represented in this cemetery. In all, there are approximately three hundred monuments representing about three hundred fifty people, the burials spanning more than two hundred years. The grave markers are of a variety of materials including fieldstones, slate, sandstone, cast zinc, granite, marble and cement. Many decorative elements adorn the markers as well, such as the winged death’s head on the Samuel Mack headstone, the beautifully carved flowers on the Eldred and Eunice Cohoon markers, doves, urns, lambs and willow trees, to name a few.
Stewardship of this cemetery has been ongoing at least since 1945, when the Old Cemetery Association assumed responsibility for its care. A major armour-rock project was carried out around 1990 to protect the seaside cliff that forms the eastern boundary of the cemetery, after erosion from the sea had exposed some coffins and skeletons and collapsed some gravestones. In 2002 the Old Cemetery Association merged with the Greenwood Cemetery Association to form the Port Medway Cemeteries Committee, which is the present caretaking organization that sees to the mowing, trimming of trees and brush and general upkeep of the grounds. More recently, the group has been able to enlist the services of one of the country’s best gravestone restoration specialists, who has assisted the Association with the repair and straightening of many of the stones and has prepared an assessment report and plan of action for continuing the restoration of the site.
Source: Municipal Heritage Property files, "Old Port Medway Cemetery", Region of Queens, NS.
The character-defining elements of the Old Port Medway Cemetery include:
- waterfront location in a rural community;
- proximity to one other registered heritage property;
- original monuments;
- mature trees;
- grass-covered grounds;
- concrete retaining walls.