Digging up history

By Joel Charron

An archeological dig has unearthed tombstones that once sat beneath the site of the former Ecole St. Jean Baptiste.

The archeological firm of Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants Inc. from London has been contracted by the town to try and determine the boundaries of a cemetery that once stood on the site of the abandoned Brock St. School.

Janet Gardner, an archeologist with the firm said the group used plans from when the site was excavated in 1988.

The project started in the northeast corner and dug along the north wall of the school. According to Gardner, no burials were found, however items, which, belonged to the former St. Rose High School, which once sat on the site, were found in the vicinity.

The dig continued along Brock St. where a number of empty grave shafts were founds. Actual burials that belonged to infants, as well as, adults were revealed as the dig moved to the southern end of the property.

Gardner said that roughly nine burial sites were found, compared to 138 that were unearthed in the 1988 excavations.

The archeological team did find a number of headstones, which were found along the southern boundary of the property. One complete headstone was found along with a number of broken headstones. Gardner said she believed the headstones could have possibly been swept to the southern edge of the school during the construction of the school around 1950.

“I was pleased to see that we were able to recover some of the tombstones from the cemetery,” said Gardner. “Unfortunately they weren’t found in association with any of the burials that we found.”

Gardner said the headstones would be given back to the church, to be put in their museum for safekeeping.

She also added that although some of the headstones only have dates on them, they would be able to check the church burial records to indentify who the headstones belonged to.

Once the boundaries of the cemetery are determined, the cemetery will be registered with the Ministry of Culture.

There are assumptions to how far the cemetery extended, knowing that the old high school and the convent were north of the church along Richmond Street.

It is not believed that the cemetery extended past the Murray St. right-of-way. There were also “historical timbers” found in the area, which would suggest that a fence ran along Brock St. and down the right-of-way.

Any demolition of the school will require an archeologist to be on site, in case anything is uncovered during the procedure. The demolition permit would require special permission because of the cemetery.

The same archeological firm was hired in 1988 to determine what kind of future uses that the land could be used for.

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