The Stones on Yankee Hill – III

So finally I get around to actually taking you into the Yankee Hill Cemetery. It’s only been three years since I took the pictures! It was a sunny warm September day and the dappled light through the trees gave – me at least – the feeling of a Georgian novel. There was a touch of Byronic romanticism that you could picture on a threatening day suddenly turning Gothically sinister and on a moonless night downright frightening.

Given the machinations of Captain MacKay it was necessary to find a new burial site for the good folk of Yankee Hill and the surrounding area. The land that John Cameron gave in 1810 for the log chapel was large enough to accommodate a graveyard. The small chapel (barely six metres square) was to serve the largely Presbyterian congregation of an extended area from Cavendish across the bay* to Park Corner. It can be assumed the original graveyard was of a considerable size though it’s exact boundaries are unknown. It was however situation on a pleasant hill with an aspect to the dunes beyond.

There appears to be no existing records of the early burials but there are 23 known memorials indicating the resting places of 27 souls from the area. The earliest marker remembers the death of Robert William Cundall in 1828 and the latest gravestone dates from 1904 with the passing of James W. Cousins.

The first stones on the path in are for Ann and Andrew McPherson and at the foot of their graves is a small marker that commemorates AMcP. Unfortunately nothing else is decipherable on the remnants of the stone – perhaps it is one of their children?

Behind the McPherson’s is a stone marking the resting place of George McLeod who was 4 years old when his family emigrated from Sutherlandshire in Scotland to PEI. Many of the other McLeod’s in the area came from the same area so he is possibly related to one or two of the McLeods buried in the cemetery.

A rather unusual table memorial separates his stone from what would appear to be a family plot for the McLeod clan. Unfortunately exposure to the elements has rendered the inscription illegible.

There is at least two grave widths between the headstone for the elder Hugh McLeod (1845) and that of Nancy (1869) and her husband Hugh (1866) which would suggest there are other family members whose headstones have gone missing.

The final resting place of John and Mary Cousins and several of their children and grand children.

A row of six gravestones mark the resting place of several branches of the Cousins family who held land in the French River area. John Cousins (1840) came to PEI in 1785 as an Empire Loyalist after the American Revolution. His family had been Huguenots from Normandy and the original spelling of the name was Couzens. After settling in Park Corner he married Mary Townsend (1850) in 1786. In 1775 when she was seven she had come with her family on Robert Clark’s ill-fated venture to found a New London. Cousins was one of the largest landowners in the region with over seven hundred acres.

The rather odd phrase “relic of” is used to indicate that Mary had been the surviving spouse of John. It also appears on the grave stone of Catherine McKay. It is a unisex term simply meaning “survivor of” and could be used for a widow or widower.

James, the son of William and Mary, is the last recorded burial in the cemetery in October 1904. He had been postmaster at Park Corner for many years. From the inscription on his stone it would appear that he had suffered for a long time from a unnamed aliment.

Several of the stones bear the maiden names of the wives – something that I would have thought unusual for the time. However a bit of research revealed that in Scotland it was a common practice until recently for a married women to be known formally, if not necessarily in everyday life, by their original surnames after marriage. It was a form of recognizing your birth clan. The custom carried over to memorials and tombstones.

Robert William Cundall Esq (1828)
& his son Thomas (1831)

Robert William Cundall settled in Park Corner and married Penelope Bassett the daughter of a landowner in the area. On her father’s death she inherited a share of Lot 20. Cundall died in 1828 at the age of 49 – his marker is the oldest of the existing stones. His oldest son Thomas died three years later in a drowning accident at the age of 13. According to the note in the graveyard the second son William took over the running of the family properties when his father died??? He would have been at the most eight or nine at the time so you do have to question that statement????

Though the log chapel was abandoned in 1836-37 burials were to continue for another 67 years. As time passed the chapel rotted away – though until recently there were locals who recall playing “fort” on the stone foundation and amongst the few remaining wooden crosses and toppling tombstones. The area became overgrown and as happens nature took back the land. However in 1971 a volunteer group cleared both Yankee Hill and Sims Cemeteries and in 1973, PEI Centennial year, they were declared memorials and Provincial historical sites.

Hopefully the damaged caused by Dorian will be cleared away and it will be possible to once again cross the wooden bridge and experience a glimpse of the stories of the lives, loves, achievements and families of that corner of our Island.

Most of the historical information concerning individuals was provided by the object labels at the Cemetery.

The word for August 25th is:
Relic /ˈrelik/: [noun]
1.1 An object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical or sentimental interest.
1.2 A part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence.
1.3 An object, custom, or belief that has survived from an earlier time but is now outmoded.
1.4 (archaic) The surviving partner of a marriage i.e. widow or widower.

Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

4 thoughts on “The Stones on Yankee Hill – III”

  1. Interesting facts about the Scottish use of maiden names for clan purposes and the meaning of “relic.” Thanks!

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