Work to upgrade the Black Settlement Burial Ground in Willow Grove will get underway next month.

The cemetery, which was founded in 1831, is the resting place of many black loyalists and black refugees from the United States, who came to the Saint John area during the war of 1812. 

Black Settlement Burial Ground in Willow Grove

Black Settlement Burial Ground in Willow Grove was founded in 1831 and is the resting place of many black loyalists and black refugees who came to the city during the war of 1812 from the United States. (Cherise Letson/CBC)

It was also the location of a school and a church for the black community in the area.

Ralph Thomas, the president of Prude Inc. (Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity through Education), says volunteers have been keeping the burial ground tidy for years.

But with 2015 marking the 200th anniversary of the arrival of black refugees to the city, he says they wanted to do more. 

"We decided that we'd spruce it back up again. Bring it back to what it used to look like. Then add a few things that would say, 'Here's who was here,'" Thomas said. 

Thomas, who grew up in Willow Grove, says some of the work the group wants to do includes adding memorial plaques, replacing the stairs and fixing a replica of a church that stands at the site.

He says members hope the upgrades will spark a new interest in the region's black history. 

Black Settlement Burial Ground in Willow Grove

The Black Settlement Burial Ground in Willow Grove was also the location of a school and a church for the black community in the area. (Cherise Letson/CBC)

"What we want to do with this place is that every summer, we want to be able to have a student out here or some of the volunteers out here telling the story of the 1815 time frame. Telling the story about 1783. And just have a place to come and it will still look like a burial ground," Thomas said.

Greg Marquis, a history professor at the University of New Brunswick said he believes there is a growing desire to promote the province's black history.

"It will bring a visible reminder of the black presence and that will lead to other projects and greater awareness," Marquis said.