Christ Church preserves cemetery history
By Lois Ann Dort
GUYSBOROUGH – The village of Guysborough has a long and storied past, from the succession of early French forts built on Fort Point in the 1600s to the everyday artifacts of rural life found at the Old Court House Museum. More of that past was unveiled at the Christ Church cemetery last Saturday when three panels inscribed with over 700 names of those interred within were unveiled.
The sun-drenched day brought out approximately 80 local residents and visitors to the event led by Rev. Darroch Fagan. Opening speeches were given inside Christ Church beginning with remarks from Rev. Fagan. “In the earliest days of the settlement of Guysborough this was a community burying ground. Members of all denominations, races, creeds were interred here. It is an opportunity for us as a community to remember and to celebrate.”
Fagan went on to point out the work done in the cemetery, reclaiming it from overgrowth, and the research that made the historic panels possible. This work was done by numerous people in the community with direction from the Guysborough Historical Society and the Anglican Parish Council. “We appreciate the work that they have done, the gifts that they have all given of their time, their talents and their energies...I would like to thank you all for coming to support the Historical Society and the Parish in acknowledging the work that’s been done.”
Municipality of the District of Guysborough Warden Vernon Pitts addressed those assembled for the unveiling. “The commemorative panels unveiled here this afternoon are both dignified and impressive, displaying the names of our early settlers as far back as 1787 and capturing a very important piece of the history of Guysborough. Some of the families whose names were listed here were very instrumental in not only shaping our municipality but more so were instrumental in changing our province and country as a whole. Many of the names seen on these panels are family names that still exist today across the municipality. This display gives recognition to those great people that have come and gone before us. We owe a great deal to those that stayed, in some of the harshest conditions I’m sure, to help shape the community that we have today.
“I’d like to commend the group from Christ Church for taking this initiative forward from its inception to its conclusion. I would also like to commend the Guysborough Historical Society for doing in-depth research for this great project…I thank you all for coming,” concluded Pitts.
Councillor Myles MacPherson said a few words of congratulations and thanks followed by Guysborough Historical Society President Mark Haynes who told those assembled that it had been an “absolute joy working on this project.”
Haynes continued, “There are a hundred thousand Canadians across this land that owe their roots to this humble graveyard. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Speaking about the work that went into the project, from the use of heavy equipment to fundraising, Haynes said, “There hasn’t been one grant to do this kind of work which just shows the great community spirit.”
Chris Cook, a member of the Guysborough Historical Society who worked on the Christ Church panel project, spoke about the history of the cemetery. He explained that the date of the unveiling, July 19, was chosen due to the fact that it was the first date of interment at the site in 1787.
“Through the collective sorrow that has been expressed here lies the greatest legacy of this place and why we celebrate today as this place was the unifying location of the new community of Guysborough in the 1780s. It would be 35 years until the arrival of other organized religious denominations to the area…therefore this cemetery holds the pioneers of our community regardless of colour, ethnicity, language, religious creed or community standing. From 16-day-old Ann Farfer to 97-year-old Catherine Bush, everyone was included here and the community joined together,” said Cook.
“This cemetery not just reflects the history of Christ Church but the history of our community. Amongst the hundreds are indeed an eclectic mix and a true representation of the entire community eliminating a sense of 'us and them',” continued Cook. “Decorated British military officers lie beside those of African descent who found their freedom in Guysborough, who lie beside the German-born soldiers from the 18th century, who lie beside the farmers, the fisherman, laborers, lawyers, politicians, doctors and clergy,” said Cook who went on to list the founding families of Guysborough whose names populate the cemetery.
Cook concluded by thanking everyone for their interest and reinforcing the link to our past that this cemetery represents.
After the opening address everyone filed out into the warm summer day and stood watch as Scott Cook and Laura Francheville unveiled the commemorative panels. Rev. Fagan offered a prayer and a moving rendition of Amazing Grace was sung by Mandy Reid and Kate Tompkins. Following the ceremony everyone was welcomed to the Old Court House Museum for refreshments.