One of the largest locations where Acadian people are buried is St. Charles des Mines Cemetery in Grand-Pre. It was erected well before the 1755 deportation, and many people visit it to pay respects to those laid to rest in this region. It is invisible to the naked eye now due to the many changes over the course of history.
However, it is a grand reminder of the generations of Acadia individuals that worked hard to make this place a home. We should always remember the sacrifices they made. Despite hardships and the unknown, they came to this area and worked hard to thrive. They made the most out of the resources they had available.
The site of this cemetery is not far from Memorial Church. There are signs that point out this historical area. The entire places have educational and historical information to help people learn more about the Acadia way of life here and what happened to them. They were deported and sent to new locations.
It is believed people were buried in the St. Charles de Mines Cemetery for approximately 65 years. This took place until the 1755 deportation started. When the troops came in and made them leave, they also burned everything in the area and destroyed it. In the late 1800s, excavating efforts took place in this area. While they were digging, they discover a few bodies.
It didn’t take long for them to discover more bodies, and put the pieces of the puzzle together. Where they were digging was an old cemetery. While efforts were made to find them all, there were some harder to locate than others. We have to remember that the tools and methods they had to work with weren’t anywhere as sophisticated as what we have today.
There are documents to confirm a few bodies were found in 1875. Several more were located in 1895. In 1909, John Frederick Herbin purchased the land. One of the first things he did was erect a large cross made from stones of the rubble there to honour his mother. She was part of the Acadian ancestry. He placed it in the spot of this old cemetery so it would always be identified and remembered.
A major dig took place in the St. Charles des Mines Cemetery in 1982. This was carefully planned in an effort to locate any remaining graves. Four of them were located and identified. When nothing further was found the dig was halted. In 2004, a memorial was being put in place in this area. Those responsible for securing it were astonished when they dug into the ground and located yet another body.
Jonathan Fowler gained permission to dig in this area in 2008. With the help of his university students, they discovered six more graves in St. Charles des Mines Cemetery. What they were learning is the boundaries of the cemetery were much further out than anyone had suspected. Fowler continued to research this and has drawn out what he feels are the boundaries of this cemetery.
There isn’t a known record to verify how many Acadians were actually buried at St Charles de Mines Cemetery in Grand-Pre. It is estimated at least 400 were buried here, but the records that have been pieced together today only identify and confirm 180 of them. Sadly, it is believed at least 100 of the burials were for children 10 years of age or younger. We can all continue to honour the Acadian culture and those that were buried here by sharing the history.