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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada

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No. 1 April 1991


St. Bartholomew's Churchyard and Churches in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia*


William A. O'Shea

The "burial ground" adjacent to St. Bartholomew's Anglican Church in Louisbourg was consecrated by Bishop Hibbert Binney on August 28, 1861.1 There is no mention of the cemetery in earlier years. Had it been in use it seems probable that Bishop Binney would have consecrated it on August 12, 1858 when he consecrated the first St. Bartholomew's Church. 2

In the early years of the nineteenth century, the Rector of St. George's Church in Sydney or his missionary assistant were responsible for Louisbourg. The only mention of a burial in Louisbourg, from the beginning of the St. George's Vestry Records to the commencement of the Louisbourg Parish Register in 1859, is that of Maria Mann. She was buried on 26 October 1856 by Rev. Richard Uniake, though the location of her burial is not known.3

There were other deaths during that period but the burial services, presided over by local Justices of the Peace, are not documented in any formal record yet discovered. There are two other accounts of deaths in the Louisbourg Anglican community prior to 1850. The newspaper, "Spirit of the Times . . ." for March 15, 1845 has a brief note recording the death "At Louisburg on Sunday morning the 9th inst of Croupe, Fanny Adelaide, aged 3 years, daughter of Charles McAlpine, Esq"4 And in Laurence Kavanagh's Journal for June 1848 there is a note of the death and burial of Mrs. Solomon Townsend.5 But there is no record of where they are buried nor where early settlers such as James Townsend or Richard Lorway are buried.

It is possible, however, that the French Burial Ground across the harbour near the Old Town served as a graveyard for all those who lived around the harbour, Catholic and Protestant. This burial ground on Rochefort Point was used in the mid-nineteenth century as indicated by an entry in the journal of Laurence Kavanagh who notes that, "Mrs. Orman was entere'd today at 3 o'clock PM at the old F.B. Ground."6 The Old French Burial Ground dates to 1744/46 and was used during the second English occupation of Louisbourg after the siege of 1758.

It is probable that English settlers, such as James Townsend who arrived in Louisbourg as a soldier, would have naturally continued to use the principal burying ground of the community. It is equally possible that the Irish Catholic settlers used this cemetery prior to building their "new chapel", named St. Peter's, on the north shore of the harbour in 1847/48.7 

The first St. Bartholomew's Church was constructed between 1843 and 1858. Reverend Charles Ingles, writing to the Bishop on 1 January 1842, mentions his hope of a small chapel being built.8 In January 1843 he notes that church building at Louisbourg is continuing.9 But when Bishop John Inglis visited Louisbourg on July 27,1843 he had to hold his service in Mrs. Lorways home.10 Bishop Inglis does not mention a church under construction, but he encouraged the congregation to build one and noted that land had been given by "Mr. McAlpin." 1l

In reality, the acquisition of the property was not as straightforward as Bishop Inglis may have been led to believe. In 1835 Louisbourg merchant Charles McAlpine borrowed money from Rev. Charles Ingles of Sydney. McAlpine used as security for the loan a ninety-acre lot which included the land on which the church would be built. The loan was to be repaid, with interest, by 1839.12 McAlpine failed to pay the debt causing Ingles to appeal for collection to the Chancery Court in Halifax in 1850. The Court decided in Ingles' favour and auctioned off the land secured by the 1835 agreement. Reverend Ingles was the only bidder and paid 25 Pounds for all of the property.13 He later sold the piece of land " . . . upon which the church is erected," to the Bishop for 5 Shillings.l4

The construction of the church was a drawn-out affair. On January 3, 1845 Reverend W. Y. Porter, the travelling missionary for this part of the Island, notes considerable advancement in Louisbourg, though he does not elaborate.l5 By the end of December 1846, he writes that the chapel at Louisbourg is finished externally.l6 In 1847 he confirms this and states that a floor is being laid to permit immediate use. He goes on to say, " . . . more we can hardly expect just now, as from the failure of the potato crop and the low price of fish the settlement is not in a very prosperous condition.'' l7 The situation had not improved by 1848 when Porter writes that "The church here is at a standstill, the people extremely poor and very careless as to getting further, though the building could be used even in winter if we had a stove.''18

Some work must have proceeded since a missionary, visiting Louisbourg in 1853, had a more positive impression. He stayed at the home of Charles McAlpine, " . . . a member of the congregation and the principal inhabitant of the place." He was aware, as well, that the land on which the church stood was given by Rev. Charles Ingles. Of the church he writes, "It is a plain but substantial building, not finished inside but very comfortable with good seats, a communion table, and a neat stand for officiating at upon a raised floor. The congregation was about 80 but is often much more" 19

Two years later, in 1855, Porter writes that there is a desire at Glace Bay and Louisbourg to complete the church but the fishing is depressed.20 But, by 1858 the first St. Bartholomew's was complete and consecrated. There is no extant description of the little church, but it was probably constructed on a scale similar to Christ Church in South Head, Cape Breton, the only wooden Anglican church to survive from the mid-nineteenth century.

The narrow-gauge railway which came to Louisbourg in the 1870's promised prosperity and the Anglican congregation was sensitive to its place in a growing community.21 The chapel was run down and there was a desire for the "... erection of a place of worship more suitable than the present one which is falling into decay and is in other respects inadequate to the wants of the congregation." It was agreed that the new church be erected on the site of the old one and that the material obtained from the old church would be reused in the new structure. The building committee placed an advertisement in the newspaper and Thomas Lewis was the successful bidder for the building contract. At a meeting on 17 April 1876 it was "Moved and seconded the members of the Church assemble at 10 AM on Tuesday the 18th April inst. to assist in pulling down the present building. This motion was carried unanimously."22 The new church was sufficiently completed for services to be held the next year.23

The style of the new St. Bartholomew's seems to rely on architect Richard Upjohn's published plan for a small wooden rural church.24 The structure reflects the return to a medieval tradition in church building. It is gothic in style with a defined nave for the congregation and chancel for the choir and altar. A photograph of the church, taken sometime after 1887, shows that the siding was originally vertical board and batten, as recommended in Upjohn's plans.25 This siding was covered by shingles at the turn of the century, probably in 1902, when the original spire was removed and the present one constructed.26 Repairs to the vestry in 1988, undertaken when the chimney collapsed through the roof, showed that the original board and batten is underneath the shingles, at least in part.

In a photograph taken from the west end of Louisbourg, between 1895 and 1903, it is obvious that the cemetery was fenced.27 There is a record of Reverend H. W. Atwater purchasing 1000 palings for a fence in 1876.28 And at the annual Easter meeting in 1877 " A committee . . . was appointed to see that the graveyard be properly cared for and the fences kept up." The Committee included, W. H. MacAlpine, Henry Townsend and Thomas Tutty.29 Reverend T. F. Draper replaced fences in 1903 though it is not known whether he continued to fence the cemetery.30

There is no other discussion of cemeteries until 1903 when at a Town Council meeting in June it was noted that the question of a civic cemetery had been before the Council the previous year. But it is obvious there had been no movement on the subject. Reverends Jefferson and Buchanan and Dr. D. A. Morrison reinforced the need for a civic cemetery and it was decided that the Citizens' Committee would meet with Council to work on details.31

At a ratepayers' meeting in September 1903 there was a formal presentation and discussion of the idea to have the Town purchase a plot of ground, at the east end of town, for a civic cemetery which would be used by all denominations. The concept had been agreed to by the Citizens' Committee working with the committee from Council. Since Z. W. Townsend read the resolution the idea also seems to have had the support of the Methodist congregation. The Presbyterian minister, Mr. Buchanan, supported the idea as well.

However there were undercurrents of dissent during the meeting with the result that Louisbourg resident and County Warden, H.C.V. Levatte, suggested postponing the vote on a resolution which asked the Town to purchase property.32

At the next meeting of the ratepayers, held in October in the school house, Rev. Draper reported that the majority of his congregation were against the idea. Dr. Morrison, reversing his earlier position, spoke up to say that the majority of the Presbyterians were not in favour. It was moved by H. C. V. Levatte and seconded by Rev. Draper that the various churches appoint committees to purchase land and that all would buy land in the same location.33

A new Anglican Cemetery was consecrated in 1911.34 But the plan for purchasing land adjacent to other denominations seems to have lapsed. While the Anglican Church opened its cemetery at the eastern edge of the town, the Methodist and Presbyterian congregations purchased separate lots across the road from each other a kilometer away along Clarke's Road.35

After 1911 there were a few burials in family plots in the old cemetery beside the church, the last being in 1940.36 The condition of the cemetery has varied during this time. In the 1960's it was overgrown with blueberry bushes and some of the stones fell into disrepair or disappeared completely.37 However, since the early 1980's there has been an increasing awareness by members of the congregation of the significance of the churchyard to the Anglican community and the grass has been cut regularly. With the completion of the Conservation Plan, by the Louisbourg Heritage Society in the fall of 1990, a process has been put in motion to ensure a more comprehensive programme of care and maintenance for the St. Bartholomew's Churchyard.


1. Bishop Binney's personal log - Anglican Diocesan Archives, Halifax. St. George's Church and burial ground in Sydney were not consecrated until 1833, some 42 years after the exterior of the church was completed. While this suggests that a burial ground adjacent to a church could be used before it was consecrated, it would have been unusual for the Bishop not to have consecrated the burial ground in Louisbourg, were it being used, when he consecrated the church in 1858. For the St. George's reference see yen. Archdeacon Smith, " The First Seventy Years of St. George's Parish", Cape Breton Historical Society. Some Papers & Records of the Society 1928 - 1932, No. 1, 1932, M. A. McInnis, North Sydney, N. S. pages 7 - 29.

2. Bishop Binney's log is at odds with Archdeacon T. F. Draper who, in a lecture on the History of the Church of England, indicates that the consecration took place in 1860. See his "History of the Church of England in the Island of Cape Breton", 4 March, 1929, Cape Breton Historical Society, Unpublished, Original in McConnell Memorial Library, Sydney, Cape Breton.

3. St. George's Vestry Records, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Beaton Institute, University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, Nova Scotia. Key documents to the cemetery include: Parish Register of Louisburg, Big Loran Mainadieu, Cow Bay, Glace Bay Etc., Cape Breton, for the years 1859-1878. This includes births, marriages, deaths, confirmations, members of the congregations, references to deed transactions, and minutes of several meetings. The Record of Burials from 1879-1944 is valuable as well though the entries do not distinguish between old and new cemeteries in either Louisbourg or Main a Dieu. Both books are held by the Rector of St. Bartholomew's Church, Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.

4. Spirit of the Times and Cape Breton Free Press, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Saturday, 15 March 1845. Beaton Insitute, University College of Cape Breton.

5. Laurence Kavanagh Journal, 1848-1849, 5 June 1848, 7 June 1848, McConnell Memorial Library, Sydney, Nova Scotia. Kavanagh was the lighthouse keeper in Louisbourg.

6. Laurence Kavanagh Journal, 24 May 1849, 27 May 1849. There is no indication of Mrs Ormand's religious affiliation.

7. See Christopher Moore, "Cemeteries," September 13, 1974, Memoranda Series 1974, Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, (HF25), pp. 9-11. James Townsend was a sergeant in the 45th Regiment of Foot and was present at the 1758 siege of Louisbourg. See William A. O'Shea, Helen A. O'Shea and Jean Kyte, Louisbourg Streets, Louisbourg Heritage Society, September 1990, pp. 37-38. Laurence Kavanagh records in his Journal for 30 July, 1848 that, "The Rev'd Mr. Mehan Bles'd the new Chapel and named it St. Peters."

8. Rev. Charles Ingles to the Bishop, Jan 1, 1842, Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, (SPG) Calendar, Reel 16, letter 98, p. 70.

9. Rev. Charles Ingles to the Bishop, Jan 1, 1843, SPG Calendar, Reel 16, letter 99, p. 70.

10. Mrs. Lorway died at the age of 100 years and 11 months at the residence of her son Captain John Lorway near Sydney on January 25, 1853, "Cape Breton News", Feb 1853. She is buried in St. George's churchyard in Sydney.

11. Brian Tennyson, Editor, Impressions of Cape Breton, University College of Cape Breton Press,September 1986, p 124. Tennyson's collection of travel descriptions carries an account of Bishop Inglis' visit to Louisbourg.


The Charles McAlpine referred to was a merchant who had moved to Louisbourg from Halifax in the 1820's. He conducted the 1827 Census of Gabarus, Louisbourg and Big Lorraine. He died in 1869 and is buried in the cemetery, in the centre on the highest point. The Parish Register records, "At Louisburg, on the 1st February 1869 Charles McAlpine, Merchant in the 75 year of his age."

There are no headstones to his two sons William H. and Edward S. MacAlpine. William, a warden of the church from 1860 and prominent on the building committee for St. Bartholomew's, is not even noted in the Record of Burials. He died c 1895. Edward S. is recorded and there is coverage of his illness and untimely death in the "Sydney Record" for12, 15 and 16 August 1904. The McAlpines no longer live in the area though there are descendants through Guy B. Hiltz who married, Annie, the daughter of Edward S. MacAlpine.

12. Cape Breton County Registry Of fice, Book "K", page 253, 19 February 1835, Sydney, Nova Scotia.

13. Ibid., Book "Q", page 491, 6 March 1850, Sydney, Nova Scotia.

14. Ibid., Book W, page 420, 21 September 1853.

15. Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPGFP), "C" Series, Reel 30, Public Archives of Nova Scotia (PANS).

16. SPGFP, "C" Series, Reel 30, PANS.

17. SPGFP, "C" Series, Reel 30, 8 January 1847, PANS.

18. W. Y. Porter,15 January 1848, SPGFP, "C" Series, Reel 30, PANS.

19. "The Church Times", Halifax, Nova Scotia, vol VI,#40 Saturday, 1 October 1853.

20. SPGFP,"C" Series, Reel 30, PANS. Porter had more success at South Head and Main a Dieu. Bishop Binney notes in his personal log that he consecrated St. James Church at Main a Dieu on July 26, 1852. Binney also notes that on July 27 he consecrated a church and good ground in Cow Bay - Christ Church. This, of course, is the little church at South Head. It is interesting the Bishop mentions that the Main a Dieu church had no burial ground. Presumably this means no new burial ground, the older one still being used.

21. Louis J. Ferguson, "The First Louisbourg Railway 1875-1883", unpublished paper, March 23, 1976.

22. Minutes found in the Parish Register. a: Undated, but preceding the minutes of 1876, outline the intent of building a new church and the committee that was formed to oversee the construction. b: Dated 17 April 1876 refers to the contractor, Thomas Lewis.

23. Archdeacon Thomas F. Draper, Manuscript of the History of the Anglican Church on Cape Breton, handwritten c 1901. Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, Archives.

24. Richard Upjohn, Upjohn's Rural Architecture, Dacapo Press, 1975. Republication of the 1852 edition. Upjohn provided all the information necessary to have his Wooden Church constructed by local labour. He included complete elevations for outside and inside, a Bill of Timber and Lumber, and Mason's and Carpentar's specifications. He even provides plans for an altar, font, credence, lectern, bishop's chair and pews.

25. St. Bartholomew's Church and the Rectory between 1887 and 1903. Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site Archives, Negative No. VH -17.

26. Sydney Record, Sydney, Nova Scotia, 23 August 1902. The original flat roof on the Rectory was replaced by a higher peak roof in 1903 according to the Sydney Record for 13 July of that year.

27. View of Louisbourg looking east from Slattery's Head between 1895 and 1903, Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site Archives, Negative No. VH - 17.

28. O'Toole Account Book 1876-1878, Larry O'Toole, Louisbourg 1989.

29. Minutes of Meeting held on 2 April 1879, Parish Register from August 1859.

30. Sydney Record, Sydney, Nova Scotia, 15 June 1903.

31. Sydney Record, Sydney, Nova Scotia, 27 June 1903. There is no mention made of the civic cemetery proposal in any of the extant letters from Archdeacon Draper to the Bishop.

32. Ibid., 5 September 1903.

33. Ibid., 17 October 1903.

34. 1911-1912 Year Book, Diocese of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, l912 -see consecrations in index.

35. What was called Clarke's Road is now signed MacCuish Road.

36. There are 60 stones or remains of stones indicating 65 burials in the cemetery. In addition, there are an estimated 93 unmarked burials for a total of 158. The most recent stone in the cemetery is a granite marker belonging to the Cann family. While the stone indicates that Isaac Cann died in 1939, the Record of Burials states that he was buried on January 1, 1940. The earliest marked burial is a broken stone for Joseph Slattery dated 1866. Slattery was a Roman Catholic who, according to the Parish Register, ". . . prior to his death expressed a desire to be buried in the Ch Burying ground which request was complied with."

37. Photograph taken c1961. Archives, Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site.

* Revised from William A. O'Shea and Sandra Ferguson, Cemeterv Conservation. St. Bartholomew's Churchvard. Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, Louisbourg Heritage Society, November 1990.

© Louisbourg Heritage Society, Box 396, Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, BOA lM0, May 1991, ISSN 819-994-6895, ISBN 0-9694720-3-X

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