In 1996, the location of the Ste. Famille cemetery was discovered at at 419 Gabriel Rd., Falmouth, NS, during excavations for a subdivision. It is estimated to hold the remains of some 300 Acadians from the 1st half of the 18th century. The land was purchased and a memorial now stands at the site. The laying of memorial bricks began in 2003.
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Original Plan for the memorial
|History of the Area:
The area (also Pigiguit, Pisiquit, Pesquid, Pesequeth) is named after the Pisiquid River (know called the Avon River). Pisiquid had two parishes: La Sainte Famille
& L'Assomption. At first, Pisiquid had only one parish (Notre Dame de l'Assomption),
founded on Aug. 8, 1698. But the people living on the other side
of the river wanted their own church; crossing the river wasn't the easiest
thing to do. So the bishop at Quebec issued an edict to create the
second parish of Ste. Famille on June 28, 1722. They were ministered to by a single priest, who preached at each church
on alternate Sundays. NOTE: The Dictionnaire notes that
L’Assomption was at Pisiquid west, and Ste. Famille was at Pisiquid east,
but the Ste. Famille cemetery was found on the west side of the river???
St. Famille Parish covers what is now Falmouth, NS, while L'Assomption covered the Windsor, NS area.
The Discovery of the Sainte Famille Cemetery
1996, a work crew was excavating the ground to begin construction on Gabriel
Road in the Mountain View Subdivision near Falmouth, Nova Scotia.
After finding bones in the soil, David Christianson of the Nova Scotia
Museum was called to come out to the site. He found a
couple of skeletons and over 2 dozen graves. The graves were identified
by clay caps which were about a foot under the surface. The graves
were five feet deeper. Wrought-iron square nails and fragments of wood
dated the graves to the 18th century. A King George III halfpenny
and ceramic button from the 1700s were also found. The discover of
the graves placed the area under the provincial Special Places Protection
Act. Though the uncovered graves were scheduled to be studied, those
not disturbed would be left in place. It is estimated that the site
contains over 300 graves.
plans ceased and a committee was formed to take care of the situation.
The committee consisted of: Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc, Centre d'etudes Acadien at
Moncton University; John D. Wilson and Mark Lepage of the Hants County
Historical Society; Father Maurice LeBlanc of West Pubnico, Nova
Scotia; Dave Doucet from the National Historical Site of Grand-Pre; David
Christianson, archeologist; Lucille Amirault and Hubert d'Eon of Grand-Pre
and Paul J. Gaudet of the Acadian Businesses community. They incorporated a non-profit bilingual organization named "The Committee for the Preservation of the Sainte-Famille Cemetery." They began raising the funds to buy the land ($34,000) and erect a memorial ($50,000). The Government
of Canada supported this project with a contribution
of $10,450 through the Canada Millennium Partnership Program. Nova Scotia Economic Development provided $25,320. An archeaologial dig was conducted to find the boundaries of the cemetery. Lot #7, which containes about 70% cemetery site was soon purchased.
The committee also borrowed money to purchase the remainder of the cemetery
on lot #6. The size of the property purchased is 200'x225'. The Ste. Famille church is thought to have been located
on the site of lot #8, which is covered by a house.
The work on the memorial officially began on August 13, 2000. Also on that day, a reburial ceremony (to reinter the remains that were uncovered) was held. The following dedication speech was written by John Wilson, past president of the West Hants Historical Society.
| For centuries the Pisiquid river has been the highway for native people coming and going from their village where the salt water meets the fresh water at high tide. But this time the incoming tide carries different people. They are descendants of the settlers at Port Royal, and they are scouting for farm land. Along the way, perhaps at the Mi'kmaq village at the mouth of Halfway River, perhaps at the meeting place near the junction of the Pisiquid and Sainte Croix Rivers, they meet with the natives to ask permission to enter their territory. The Acadians and Mi'kmaq are long time allies and friends.
As they move up this beautiful river valley on the rising tide, they see virgin forest covered hills rising gently from the river. They see small streams flowing down from the high ground, along which are bountiful meadows. They also see vast stretches of salt marsh. This is what the Acadians are looking for - they have the technology to harness the salt marshes and turn them into rich farmland. The streams will provide power for their grist and saw mills. The forests and waters will provide game and fish for their table. Protected from the cold winds and waters of the Bay of Fundy and from marauding pirates and raiders, they decide to settle the valley that the Mi'kmaq call Pisiquid.
All but forgotten and ignored by governments, the settlements prosper and grow in number. Wars, treaties and political intrigues blow over like the north winds across the mountain tops, but rarely touch them.
Settlements are most often located above the flood plane near where streams join the river, or beside meadowland along larger streams. The settlements often carry the surname of a family leader such as; Forest, Landry, Babin, Breaux, Thibedeau,Vincent, Trahan. During the first years they are visited on occasion by troops of soldiers in blue jackets speaking their language, then by troops in red jackets speaking a foreign language, but other than seeking shelter and buying provisions, neither cause them trouble or pay them much heed. The settlers are nearly self sufficient, trading their excess products indiscriminately to New Englander traders and the French fortification at Louisbourg.
The population of Pisiquid district grows to 3,000.
The settlers did not forget their religion, the parish of Assumption is established in 1698 on the east side of the Pisiquid near Windsor and in 1722 the parish of Sainte-Famille is established on the west bank of the Pisiquid. The parish church is built in the village of Babin, on a hill overlooking the lower river ford on the trail to Grande Pre. A cemetery is located nearby, on the very spot we stand today, life is good.
Then, suddenly all is swept away. The struggle between France and England for control of North America comes to this peaceful valley. There follows 10 years of bloody guerrilla warfare during which the Acadians are deported, their villages burned or abandoned and their Mi'kmaq allies decimated.
Over the next 250 years all surface traces of Sainte-Famille cemetery are erased under generations of the farmer's plow. But the first European settlers of this valley are not forgotten. Acadian historians and genealogists keep a candle burning. The saga of the Acadians is kept alive in the folklore of those settlers who replaced them in this valley. Passionate local historians, like Roland Meuse, collect anecdotes and artifacts of the period. Then, in his township books, our dear departed friend and inspiration, John Victor Duncanson, provides a history of Acadian settlements in Pisiquid district, including the location of Sainte-Famille cemetery.
The recent accidental disturbance of the site brings it to the attention of Provincial authorities, which leads to its purchase by the Committee for the Preservation of Sainte-Famille Cemetery. With this purchase the site is preserved in perpetuity. The people of Falmouth now have a historic site of national and international significance dedicated to the first European settlers in this valley.
For their hard work and persistence in bringing this project to fruition, members of the Committee for the Preservation of Sainte-Famille Cemetery and the West Hants Historical Society, particularly Lucille Amirault, Donna Doucet and Cheryl Adams, deserve our deepest thanks and gratitude.
I would also like to recognize Cathy Greeno who has worked diligently throughout the summer in the planning and organization of this event.
SUPPORT the Cemetery: Buy-a-Brick Campaign & Coverlet
The Committee for the Preservation of Sainte-Famille Cemetery is coordinating a Buy-A-Brick
cemetery discovered in Falmouth, N.S. We are asking interested individuals, families and organizations to sponsor an engraved brick to
help us with this project. The cost of each brick is $34.00 American ($50 Canadian).
Brick Order Form
Phone Number: ______________________________________________________________
Exact Inscription (3 lines - 12 characters per line)
Mail this form with your check made payable to
The Committee for the
Sainte-Famille Cemetery to:
C.P./P.O. Box 150
50x70 inch 100 % cotton, two layer color-fast and machine washable
To order the coverlet complete
the following order-blank & mail it with your payment
Street Address: ___________________________________________________
City State and Postal Zone: __________________________________________
Number of coverlets: ________ X $
Amount enclosed: ________