The Stones on Yankee Hill – II

On our visit to the area in September 2017 Doug and Pierre asked if we wanted to see two old cemeteries in the area. They didn’t have to ask twice – and we made our way first to the Sims Field Pioneer Cemetery and then across the road to the Yankee Hill Cemetery. Two cemeteries on either side of what was a country road, one now hidden in an overgrown grove of trees. But why two cemeteries so close together? As so often happens here on the Island it was a dispute over land.

In the Island land lottery of 1767 Lot 21 was granted to the McLaine brothers and in 1773 Robert Clark, a London merchant and Quaker, had bought it with the hope of setting up a lumber and trading centre. The first settlers (according to Clark many of whom were repentant sinners seeking a new life) arrived on Clark’s ship the Elizabeth in 1774 and founded the settlement of Elizabethtown and the broader New London area. Though the brig was a sturdy vessel equipped to withstand the winter extremes the settlers were not. It is thought that perhaps Clark had painted a brighter picture than what they found and the existence of the Old Cemetery (Sims Field) in 1774 would suggest that many did not survive that first winter. And sadly the Elizabeth proved not quite as sea-worthy and sank the next year. The settlement was soon abandoned and very little trace was left other than the cemetery and a street name.

Inspector of Highways J. B. Palmer drew this map of Capt Mackay’s proposed change to the existing straight road to Malpeck. B is the old cemetery (now known as Sims Field Pioneer Cemetery). The new road was to fork to the south of his property and go by the New Chapel (1810) ending somewhat short of the Ferry dock.
Map is currently in the Provincial Archives

In 1809 Captain William Mackay bought 615 1/2 acres of land from the Clark family. The sale allowed community access, under the High Road Law, on the road to Malpeck (Princetown Road) that ran through his property to New London Bay. Mackay almost immediately began to annoy his neighbours by blocking the road denying them access to the Old Cemetery (Sims Field Pioneer Cemetery), their new chapel, the public ferry dock and shipping facilities at the harbour. MacKay proposed a road that skirted his property and would have proved totally impractical for wagons and carriages. The matter went as far as the Governor and a full report was made that strongly favoured the community and suggested that the barriers be removed. But Mackay had his revenge – his neighbours kept their right of way but were not allowed to enter his property to bury their dead at the Old Burial Ground.

In his report the Inspector of Highways J. B. Palmer does imply that some of the community’s animosity may have also stemmed from MacKay’s earlier refusal to donate land for the building of a chapel. It had fallen to John Cambridge, Clark’s land agent, to donate a plot on the crest of Yankee Hill for the construction of a small log chapel in 1810. It was to serve the staunchly Presbyterian residents of New London, Cavendish (!) and Park Corner as a place of worship for the next 25 years until Geddie Memorial was build in nearby Springbrook. In 1836 the chapel was abandoned and fell into disrepair and decay. There is only approximate knowledge of where it was located on the site.

The Yankee Gale – George Thresher (1780-1857)
Oil on canvas – 1851
Confederation Centre of the Arts

I mentioned previously that the name Yankee Hill is attributed to the area being a home base for the American mackerel fishing boats that plied the rich waters of the Gulf of St Lawrence. Witnessing some of the destruction of Hurricane Dorian brought to mind one of the worst natural disasters in Island history: the Yankee Gale in October of 1851. For two days the winds buffeted and the seas swept over and sank some 120 vessels. It is estimated that as many as 250 sailors perished in the storm – many of them “Yankees”. Local people rescued the survivors and gathered the dead. All along the north shore of the Island, from Tignish to East Point local cemeteries became the final resting place for many of these sailors. It is thought that at least 25 American sailors were buried at Yankee Hill though their grave makers, possibly being simple wooden crosses, are amongst the 23 grave markers that have survived storms, been overtaken by nature and the elements, now most recently Hurricane Dorian.

Again this entry has turned out a little longer than I expected however in the next (and last, I promise) post I’ll share photos of those markers and a few anecdotes about the people they eulogize.

NB: Much of the historical information I have included comes from an article by Chester B. Stewart in the Island Magazine published by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation. Roadblock 1810 is a treasure trove of anecdotes and facts that paint a colourful picture of life in the early days of settlement here in PEI.

The word for July 11 is:
Gale /ɡāl/: [noun]
1.1 A very strong wind
1.2 A burst of sound, especially of laughter.
Mid 16th century: perhaps related to Old Norse galinn ‘mad, frantic’.
Interesting that the U. S. National Hurricane Centre gives the figures for “gale force winds” as being between 61 km/h; 17 m/s; 38 mph and 117 km/h; 32 m/s;72 mph. We’ve experienced a few of those over the past four years.

Lunedi Lunacy

I don’t normally share memes on here. My friend Deb over at She Who Seeks is far better at searching them out and posting wonderful thematic funnies so I wouldn’t even try to compete. However since she’s on Sabbatical for two (!!!!!) months I thought I’d share a few that have been cluttering up the – much like my own – ever decreasing memory of my iMac.

For the good Doctor Spo:

I’m thinking for a few situations we could just replace “Minister” with “Mayor or Councillor”.

Do I detect a slight touch of misandry in that last comment?

For my Island musician friends:

Poor Henry does get a bum rap – I mean only 1/3 of his wives got the chop!!!

For friends who send you a link to an article “you’ll really find fascinating” and then you hit a paywall:

And finally a bit of nostalgia.

And the word for February 10th is:
Meme /mēm/: [noun]
1.1 An element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
1.2 A humorous* image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.
1970s: from Greek mimēma ‘that which is imitated’, on the pattern of English gene.
*Sadly now often vicious or filled with misinformation or outright lies.
I have been jeered at on more than one occasion for “mispronouncing” this word however my mind switches to the French pronunciation /mɛm/ – yes I know there is no ˆ over the e in English – so sue me!

The Stones on Yankee Hill – I

I had started a post on the Cemetery at Yankee Hill back in September 2017 after our first visit there with our friends Pierre and Douglas. A day trip to the area in June and our recent staycation close to the site had me revisiting the photos and text with an eye to finally getting around to posting it. Turns out that it will be a two parter.

Strangely the damage to Prince Edward Island caused by Hurricane Dorion in September of last year went largely unreported except in the local media. The storm hit the North Shore with particular force and it is estimated that in the Cavendish area 80 percent of the trees suffered damage from the high winds and the storm surge eroded 2-3 metres (6-7 feet) of the coast line. We had seen some evidence of it when going through the National Park but got a close up look as we tried to make our way to Yankee Hill Cemetery in June.

Entire stands of trees had been uprooted – particularly birch trees – older or diseased trees had been snapped like twigs and the pathway to the Cemetery was completely blocked. The area was dotted with what a local called “widow makers” – half felled trees precariously supported by other trees bending under their weight. It was difficult to tell if any of the 24 headstones had been damaged or what the current state of the cemetery was. Any attempt to find out would have been both arduous and dangerous.

There had been no sign of any attempts to clear the area and the damage suggested that it would be a big job. From Spring to Fall the Cemetery is cared for under the Island Young Offenders programme administered by a volunteer Board in Summerside. However this was a dangerous job which would need to be done by professionals. Given the isolation of the site and what appeared to be restrictive access we wondered if anything could or would be done.

Two weeks ago we had a conversation with the gentlemen who owns the cemetery as an extension of his property – from what I could understand he holds it in trust as a Provincial Historical Site (though I could stand corrected on the exact legalities of all that). He is an archaeologist and was happy to have trusteeship of the site. The good folks at Provincial Tourism had surveyed the site and work was to start on clearing the damage at the end of July. Apparently there is an access route into the site. He also confirmed that, miraculously, none of the existing stones had been damaged.

In the second part (scheduled for Tuesday) I’ll revisit the photos we took in 2017 and share a brief history of one of the more unusual cemeteries I’ve visited over the years.

The word for August 7th is:
Cemetery /ˈsɛmɪtri/: [noun]
A large burial ground, especially one not in a churchyard.
Late Middle English: via late Latin from Greek koimētērion ‘dormitory’ or ‘sleeping place’, from koiman ‘put to sleep’.
I had not realized that a cemetery was not the burial ground attached to a church – that, logically when I stop and think about it, is a graveyard. As burial in the church yard became unsustainable new burial places, independent of the church, appeared—and these were called cemeteries.

She Kissed Me

but I didn’t turn into a Prince just a starry-eyed stripling.

Over at his blog home Larry Muffin celebrated the great (such an overused word but in this case nothing else would do) actress, activist and politician Melina Merkouri. It brought back a memory from my misspent (well not so much misspent as overspent) youth which I thought I’d reshare. So for Pierre who missed this when I first wrote it in 2008 I give you an old man’s fond memory:

Willy Or Won't He

Early March of 1967 I was in my first year with Air Canada (my employer for the next 33 years) at Toronto Airport. A clerk in the Operations tower, I worked in a fishbowl perched at the end of a boarding finger reached by a metal spiral staircase. In those days people walked outside to board an airplane, any airplane not just the small propeller ones. One windy afternoon I had struggled down the stairs with an armload of flight plans heading for the terminal. A charter flight from Philadelphia, carrying Melina Merkouri and the cast of the Broadway-bound Illya Darling, was deplaning as I walked towards the terminal.

I don’t recall how it happened but I tripped and 25 flight plans and I fell to the ground in an undignified pile. As I scrambled to collect the plans and my dignity a smoky accented voice asked: Are you…

View original post 148 more words

Lunedi Lunacy

I realized that I hadn’t check in with my two friends over at Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre during the pandemic and thought it would be an good idea to see how they are handling the “new normal”. Well it looks like they are doing as well as can be expected for two socks on one pair of hands? (Not a phrase I’d ever thought of writing before!!)

For a pair of socks – sorry boys but facts are facts you can’t have opinions about facts – they have been doing pretty well with Zoom, video shows and keeping au courant with what is happening in the world. And it looks like they have come through the lock down with their sense of the ridiculous intact. (And when did I ever think I’d write that phrase about a pair of sock??)

The word for August 3rd is:
Falsetto /fôlˈsedō/: [noun]
1.1 A method of voice production used by male singers, especially tenors, to sing notes higher than their normal range.
1.2 A voice or sound that is unusually or unnaturally high.
1.3 A singer using falsetto.*
Circa 1774, from Italian falsetto, diminutive of falso “false,” from Latin falsus. Earlier in an English form as falset* (1707).
*One who sings thus is a falsettist particularity in church music and not to be confused with castrati who were a cut above in the vocal hierarchy – or a cut below depending on your point of view.