New Brunswick

Search begins in Saint Andrews for Black Loyalist burial ground

Provincial archeologists have started the search for evidence of a Black Loyalist burial ground around the Algonquin Resort golf course.

Archeologists are searching Algonquin golf course, thanks to efforts of New Brunswick Black History Society

Researchers are looking for evidence of a Black Loyalist burial ground around the Algonquin Resort golf course, in an area of Saint Andrews they believe was the historical Poor House Cemetery. (Courtesy Graham Nickerson)

Provincial archeologists have begun the search for evidence of a Black Loyalist burial ground around the Algonquin Resort golf course.

Field researchers spent the week taking "an initial stab" at the site close to the golf club, which — according to the oral history — was a place where black settlers lived and were buried.

"It's not conclusive, but it's the best area we have," said Graham Nickerson, a member of the New Brunswick Black History Society.

"If we find something in this location, that's great. Otherwise, maybe in future work we'll come across something that doesn't make sense in terms of the native history of the area, and perhaps that would indicate another site of interest for Black history."

The team is doing a survey over what they believe is the area known as the Poor House.

That's where people in financial hardship would go to receive relief, Nickerson said.

"And when they died, they wouldn't have had anyone to bury their remains," he said.

"So they would have just been buried in this sort of section around the Poor House, where they just buried poor people."

Geophysical surveys

An 1844 map of the area puts the Poor House in the vicinity of the golf course. (Courtesy Graham Nickerson)

The archeologists are using a ground-penetrating radar, and doing a gravity survey of where the Poor House would have been situated, said Nickerson.

"So they'll cover that site and should be able to see down several metres," he said.

"And if there are grave shafts in there, they should be indicated in the data."

Nickerson first became aware of the site through a story in the Ottawa Citizen in the 1990s.

There is no concrete evidence a settlement or burial ground existed, but many black communities weren't properly surveyed, and much of their history was not documented.

"We have multiple anecdotal bits and pieces of evidence, so right now we're looking at what people think is the site," Nickerson said.

"As far as the Poor House, there are a number of sources that indicate people were buried there."

Results of the survey should come back next week.

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