A secluded and overgrown cemetery in rural Cape Breton, the final resting place for some of Nova Scotia’s earliest settlers, is slowly crumbling into a nearby river. Warden Bruce Morrison of Victoria County, where fishing and tourism are the main employers, says, “They would be descendants of the Scots … who came over here and settled.” He adds that, “There’s no simple solution to this. It’s isolated. It’s remote.”
Local resident Jeffrey Parks, from Middle River, N.S., believes that the graves in the Centre Glen Cemetery near Big Baddeck should be saved from such an ignominious fate. He fears for the loss of history, saying, “Now, their graves are being washed away …. I don’t want this to happen to me when it’s 100 years from now.”
Last year, Mr. Parks retrieved from the water a headstone with the name Alexander MacLeod inscribed on its face. Born in 1842, Mr. MacLeod was buried in 1906. The marker also includes the names of other family members. The remaining headstones can be found amid an unruly thicket of brambles and, at this time of year, rising above a heavy layer of snow. The road to the cemetery is long gone.
Mr. Morrison says the county has no less than 20 abandoned graveyards that are progressively succumbing to erosion caused by rivers, lakes, or the open ocean. Many of those communities moved on and the remnants of those communities were left in the graveyards.
At the time, church officials said they didn’t have the money to stabilize the steep bank. Some of the graves there are more than 200 years old. Mr. Skafte, an administrator for Abandoned Cemeteries of Nova Scotia, has made it his mission to resurrect some of these battered monuments to Nova Scotia’s history. He and other graveyard sleuths have found more than 100 forgotten cemeteries in the past three years.