New Brunswick

Forgotten Loyalist cemetery may be in Saint John's south end

A Saint John genealogist and author believes he has found evidence of a long-forgotten Loyalist cemetery on the city's waterfront.

Graeme Somerville will pay for surface remote sensing to see if an old Loyalist cemetery is near Tin Can Beach

A Saint John genealogist and author believes he has found evidence of a long-forgotten Loyalist cemetery on the city's waterfront.

Graeme Somerville said he has suspected there was another Loyalist cemetery somewhere in the city and he said he believes he has evidence pointing to a location in the lower south end.

Somerville is now making preparations to have an engineering company perform surface remote sensing on a parcel of land off Vulcan street, near what is today called Tin Can Beach.

Somerville will pay the entire cost of the sensing survey himself after getting permission from city council to perform the work.

The long-time city resident said his research shows the likelihood of a cemetery, predating the Loyalist Burial Ground, which may have been used for several decades.

He points to records showing a British gun emplacement near the western end of Vulcan Street marked on early documents as the Graveyard Battery and nearby was the Graveyard Breakwater. 

There is also archival record of a 1838 petition to Saint John city council asking that a fence erected by the military be removed so public access to both the waterfront and the graveyard could resume.

"This project is simply to find the location of the graveyard and the extent of it and possibly the number of graves if that can be detected," Somerville said.

Sensing may detect grave markers

Remote sensing can be performed from the surface without disturbing the soil.

Somerville said the technology should be able to detect any grave markers underground.

"Now if they are made of wood they would be long since gone. But if they're made of stone they would have survived, or if they were made of cast iron they would have survived," said Somerville.

The site of his focus lies immediately to the south of Vulcan Street. It is now vacant land but it was most recently home to a parking lot and the boiler house for the former sugar refinery.

The property is city-owned.

Somerville said it is too soon to say what will happen if it turns out the site is a grave yard.

But Coun. Shirley McAlary says if it is a cemetery, something should be done.

"It's exciting in a way because if we find that there is a burial ground there, I'm sure that whole area, we'll have to do something about it, make it more of a historical site," McAlary said.

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