Old St. Paul's Cemetery was founded in 1749, the same year the city of Halifax was founded, and is therefore the province's first official burial ground. Over the years, some 12,000 people were buried there, even though there only are about 1,200 headstones (so about 10%) marking people's graves in the cemetery, the main reason being that many were buried without headstones, the other reason being that after the last burial, which took place in 1843, the burying ground slowly fell into disrepair, until the Old Burying Ground Foundation undertook the rather grueling task of restoring the cemetery. They did an awesome job, turning the grounds into a lovely, quiet park. There's also a sign near the entrance where all of the headstones that have been identified are clearly marked, so that people doing genealogical research can easily find their ancestors.
St. Paul's church is the oldest Protestant church in the country and the oldest building in Halifax. Erected under King George II in 1750, shortly after the city was founded, the church's architectural plans were based on those of St. Peter's Church in London, England. During summer, free guided tours of the church are offered and our guide was so great, he made sure to include some details he knew would be interesting for kids, and he also offered to give us the tour in French, which he spoke quite well. A truly beautiful building, with a rich history!
In use from 1749 to 1843, the old Burying Ground (St. Paul's Cemetery) was one of the highlights of my trip to Halifax.
It was a dark day when we visited and a crow cawed as we entered through the gates into the empty cemetery. My brother and I both got a chill at the sound effects.
Interpretive signs highlight graves of historical significance. Take the time to read many of them, they tell sad stories. Some of the stones are so worn you can only read them by getting down and looking at a sideways angle.
Many of the deceased were only a few months old. I remember one grave that told the story of a four-year old girl who died, her father died at 33 four months later, and his baby (which had been born after his death) died the next year. Very sad stories, it gives a glimpse of what life must have been like in the late 1700s.
Open to the public but grave rubbings (with paper and charcoal) is not allowed.
See my Halifax Travelogues for more photos of the Old Burying Ground.
St Paul's Cemetery was my favorite sight in town though it was closed due to extensive damage by Hurricane Juan. There were many trees fallen over and I guess it might have been dangerous to wander around in this situation. From outside, it was one of the more scenic cemeteries I have seen in North America, with great old headstones from a bygone era. Aptly named, The Old Burying Ground, it is likely the oldest graveyard in the Martimes.
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