More Yankee Hill

Well our vacation time and the peace and quiet of Yankee Hill came to an end on Sunday and been replaced by the cacophony of tourist central. Two cruises ships were in yesterday and to entertain them it appears the Port Authority booked a Willie Nelson impersonator. He contrived to delight us for over five hours yesterday. Let us sincerely hope that is not the lasting impression our tourist visitors take away with them.

Almost on cue the evening temperatures dipped on our last few days at the cottage but the days remained sunny if a bit cool. Our last full day we took one final stroll on the beach. I know you’ve been presented with these views before but for Laurent and I they never get old.

Here’s to next year at Yankee Hill and French River.

The word for September 7th is:
Stroll \ ˈstrōl \: [1. noun 2. verb]
1. A leisurely walk.
2.1 To go for a leisurely walk.
2.2 To walk along or through at a leisurely pace.
Probably German dialectal strollen, variant of strolchen, from Strolch, fortuneteller, vagabond, perhaps from Italian dialectal strolegh, from Italian astròlogo, astrologer, fortuneteller, from Latin astrologus, astronomer, astrologer, from Greek astrologos.

Yankee Hill 2022

As anyone who follows Larry Muffin must know by now we have escaped tourist central at Prince and Water Street and made our way to Yankee Hill/French River on the Gulf of St Lawrence. This is our third year at Cottages on the Cape and we have already booked for next year – in case we haven’t mentioned it we love it up here.

I know I’ve previously posted at least one video and countless photos of the beach up here but I have a new toy that has to be tried out. The iPad Air has the latest version of iMovie – yes I know it’s a mickey mouse app but it was one I thought I knew – and I wanted to try it out. Turns out that iMovie has moved on and I was left with some head scratching when I put this video together. Think of it as a rough cut – I’ll get better at it I’m sure.

We went for a stroll on the beach around 1900 last night – it was getting cool but still pleasant.

The word for August 26th is:
Video / ˈvɪd iˌoʊ /: [1. noun 2. adjective 3. verb]
1.1 A recording of moving pictures and sound, especially as a digital file, DVD, or tape.
1.2 A short film made to go with a popular song.
2. Connected with or used in the showing of moving pictures.
3. To record a programme from the television, or to use a video camera to film an event.
1935, as visual equivalent of audio, from Latin video “I see,” first person singular present indicative of videre “to see”. As a noun, “that which is displayed on a (television) screen,” 1937.

Are We There Yet?

I’m sure that friends and acquaintances are getting rather tired of us harping on about our pending departure for French River. More than one eye-roll has indicated the general feeling mirrors Lady Macbeth’s command to: stand not upon the order of your going, but go!

It is funny – both haha and odd – that where once we would pack our bags and in some excitement head to the airport to journey around the world we are just as excite these days about a 65 minute car ride from home. Is it the pandemic that has elicited this reaction? Or is it perhaps weariness, after many years, of long distance travel? Whatever the reason we’ll be on our way tomorrow to one of our favourite spots on the Island: French River and Yankee Hill.

The village of French River – two more kilometres and you’re in Yankee Hill.
Photo: uncredited

So what are we going to do up there for two weeks? Well Sunday we head over to the Indian River Festival for a concert and then dinner with friends at Sou’West, a favourite in the area. Another evening we’re going to the Watermark Theatre over in North Rustico for The Gin Game. While we there at the cottage we’ll be celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary with a BBQ with our friends Pico and Don. And our Lori, Cathleen, and Nora have promised to come up and explore the Yankee Hill Cemetery and have lunch at O’Neil’s, another favourite. A trip down to Holman’s Ice Cream Parlor in Summerside is mandatory for whatever ice cream treat they’ve whipped up that day. And I’m pretty sure there are hamburgers with our names on them at Backwoods Burger over in Tyne Valley. Plans are afoot to explore a bit Up-West and make a trip over to Lennox Island First Nation and possibly a bit further up the western end of the Island which we have yet to explore.

Other than that there is the sandy beach that stretches from the mouth of the French River to the Gulf. (A left click here will take you to a short video) Only the locals use it during the week and even on weekends 10 or 12 people is a crowd. And should it rain well I picked up two books to read. The Temptation of Forgivenes, the latest Donna Leon mystery – her 27th – will give me a chance to get reacquainted with Commisario Guido Brunetti, one of my favourite detectives. New London, the Lost Dream recounts the history of the Quaker settlement that was established in 1773 on the very spot we are staying at. It is a largely unknown bit of Island history.

And then there is the possibility of just sitting on the deck at the cottage sipping an iced tea (yes I’m still on the wagon) and watching the changing backdrop of an Island sky behind the New London Rear Lighthouse.

The New London Rear Lighthouse from Yankee Hill.
Photo: W. Bruce Stewart.

The threat of Hurricane Elsa seems to have passed us by – some wind, driving rain, thunder and lightening – and as I write this it looks like it’s clearing. The forecast for the next little while suggests a typical Island summer – sun, the odd rain shower, hotish days and cool nights.

Okay! Okay! We aren’t standing on any order and we’re going! We’re going!

The word for July 9th is:
Vacation /vāˈkāSH(ə)n,vəˈkāSH(ə)n/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling.
1.2 The action of leaving something one previously occupied.
2.1 To take a vacation.
2.2 To leave something one previously occupied.
Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin vacatio(n- ), from vacare ‘be unoccupied’.

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 anonymous wooden crosses, are not 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.


The French River Area and New London Bay on the North Shore as shown in Meacham’s Atlas in 1880. Lemuel Sims owned 188 acres of the fertile soil on the sandstone cliffs bordering the Gulf of St Lawrence. The red dot indicates the location of the farm house and the current Beach House Inn that we stayed at.

The French River area is one of rolling hills, farm lands, forest, red cliffs and beaches. Across the Cape Road from the cottage we stayed at was an expanse of field that once comprised a goodly portion of the Sims’ Farm – in fact the main house at Beach House Inn was the original farm house. The land is now owned by the Lucy Maud Montgomery Land Trust, a charitable foundation whose stated mission is:

… to preserve scenic, agricultural coastal lands on the north shore of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Concentrating on the 13 km stretch of coastline between French River and Sea View — an area important to noted Canadian author L.M. Montgomery — the Land Trust works with local land owners to find ways of keeping land in agricultural use, therein not only helping to preserve an agricultural resource, but ensuring that the coast’s scenic beauty is preserved in a form much as it was when Montgomery lived.

The current crop is wheat and stretches from the main road to the cliffs bordering the Gulf of St Lawrence. Access to the cliffs is on a red dirt road that you are warned to “use at your own risk”. There were several times when the ruts were so deep we feared scraping the undercarriage of the car. But as our friends at Michelin use to say, back when they were a dependable guide, it was “worthy the detour!”

The word for July 28th is:
Sandstone /ˈsan(d)ˌstōn/: [noun]
Sedimentary rock consisting of sand or quartz grains cemented together, typically red, yellow, or brown in color.
1660s, from sand [noun] + stone [noun]. So called from its composition.
So why red you ask? (or don’t but I’ll quote from the Select Stones website:
….. these sandstones were deposited on the continent in an arid environment as sand dunes or ephemeral river deposits. The key is that these sands are left exposed for millennia to weathering and atmospheric oxygen … Over time, the small quantities of iron-rich minerals in the sand break down and the iron is oxidized into hematite crystals (Fe2O3) that form as very thin paint-like coating on the quartz sand grains. The hematite crystals absorb all light colors except red which they reflect, giving the sandstones their red color.

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