Description of Historic Place
Fox Hill Cemetery rests upon the highest rise of land in the area, and is located on Church Street, Port Williams, NS, overlooking the Wellington Dyke. The cemetery was established around 1762 and is now inactive. It is enclosed by a solid fence with stone gate posts at the entrance. The land, gravestones, fence and gate posts are included in the provincial designation.
Fox Hill Cemetery is valued because it is the burying ground for many of the earliest settlers in Cornwallis Township. Also, because of its position overlooking the Wellington Dyke, it is a highly prominent landmark in the area.
Fox Hill Cemetery was established around 1762 on land donated by Colonel John Burbidge. Burbidge arrived from Halifax to the Cornwallis Township in 1762. Burbidge was an Englishman and had been in the army and later went into business. He was a member of the first House of Assembly from 1758 to 1760 and in 1765 was made a Colonel of the Militia. Burbidge influenced his friends, William Best and Benjamin Belcher, both of Halifax, to come and settle in Cornwallis.
In 1762, Burbidge and his friend William Best and others attempted to organize a Parish. Burbidge gave an acre of land on Fox Hill to the new parish on which he and William Best erected a small church. The land was donated to the rector and the church wardens and their successors of St. John's Anglican Church and included sufficient land for a burying ground. Not until 1782 was the parish fully organized. In 1813 the church was sold and moved to an adjoining farm where it still stands. After the removal of the church, the acre of land given by Burbidge was ordered to be fenced.
Fox Hill was named for Cornelius Fox, a former seaman turned school teacher. He kept school from 1772 to 1797 in a two-storey building directly across from the burying ground.
Although many of the first Cornwallis Township settlers were buried at Fox Hill, the earliest surviving tombstones are from the first decade of the nineteenth century. These include those of John Burbidge and his wife Rebecca, Stephen Belcher and Benjamin Belcher. There are also wrought iron fenced-in gravemarkers of the Norris Family, which includes that of Reverend Robert Norris, the Rector of St. John's from 1806 to 1829.
The burying ground sits upon the highest rise of land in the area, overlooking the Wellington Dyke. It was originally at the junction of the Old Town Plot and what is now Church Street. The old road, still easily traced, ran from the cemetery to the Town Plot parade ground on the Starr's Point Road.
Over the years the burying ground was often neglected. Then in the 1940s and 1950s, community groups realized its historical value and cleaned it up. Land was donated to square up the area and a survey undertaken. A solid fence surrounding the burying ground and stone gate posts were erected. The cemetery is now well kept.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 118, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of Fox Hill Cemetery include:
- chain-link fencing with stone gate posts at entrance;
- mature trees located throughout the cemetery;
- original and historic grave stones and monuments, with their surviving inscriptions;
- grass-covered interment areas, and separate family burial plots enclosed with wrought iron fencing;
- unobstructed view over the Wellington Dyke.