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Lost no more – over 100 unaccounted for memorialized with new plaques and garden at Hantsport cemetery

Garth Scott, points to his brother Robert Scott’s name on the plaque he unveiled during the opening ceremony of the Riverbank Memorial Garden. Robert Scott’s gravesite is unknown.
Garth Scott, points to his brother Robert Scott’s name on the plaque he unveiled during the opening ceremony of the Riverbank Memorial Garden. Robert Scott’s gravesite is unknown.

HANTSPORT, N.S. – 110 lost souls. 110 people with a missing headstone or edifice to their memory. 110 with their legacy now intact.

Monarch butterflies danced around flowers surrounding new benches and plaques that represent dozens of people buried at the Riverbank Cemetery in Hantsport, whose gravesites remain a mystery.

For the loved ones of those who are gone, it’s a relief knowing their missing friends and relatives are represented in some form.

Garth Scott, whose brother Robert Scott is buried somewhere on the grounds, said he was happy to see this project, the Riverbank Memorial Garden, come to fruition.

“My brother was born in 1940, during the war, my father was in the navy at the time and we were very poor,” Scott said. “My uncle… paid $5 at the time to have him buried without a marked grave.”

Since that time the location of Robert Scott’s final resting place has become a mystery.

Garth Scott unveiled one of the plaques during the ceremony on Sept. 17, which has several names listed of those whose gravesites are unknown, including that of his brother.

Four such plaques encircle the main stone in the centre, with benches facing them, surrounded by flowers and greenery. It’s a circle of remembrance for those who are lost but not forgotten.

“To me, this means more than words can express actually,” he said. “It’s a deep, heartfelt feeling that you’d hope you’d never have to go through.”

Scott, who is also a member of the Hantsport and Area Historical Society, which organized, researched and planned the project, said it felt like just yesterday that this project began, but this has been many years in the making.

Jane Haliburton (left), former chairperson of the cemetery committee with the Hantsport and Area Historical Society and Donna Langdon Dunfield stroll through the cemetery following the ceremony. Langdon Dunfield’s younger brother died as an infant and his gravesite is unknown. She said the memorial garden was very important to her. She helped to unveil one of the plaques.

Years in the making

Over 50 people came out to attend the ceremony on a muggy, overcast Sunday afternoon. So many that organizers had to scramble to get extra chairs – which they were clearly excited to see.

Brian Bishop, member of the Hantsport and Area Historical Society, said there may be others who are buried on the grounds, that there are no records of at all.

“We know there are a few people buried here, but their families have chosen not to remember them with a stone,” Bishop said.

Bishop said it was important to acknowledge this significant failure of record keeping, while also coming to terms it.

The Historical society became involved with the cemetery in 2009 when it became apparent that the cemetery was in serious need of restoration.

“There were many overgrown trees that needed pruning, some needed to come down,” he said, adding that many community groups became involved in that.

The historic cemetery, founded in 1863, although some gravestones go far earlier than that, is the final resting place for notable residents of the former town, including members of the shipbuilding family, Churchill.

Doug Symonds, former cemetery manager and Jane Haliburton, original chairperson of the cemetery committee, who proposed the memorial, unveil the final plaque during the opening ceremony.

It’s also where Harley Lawrence rests, a homeless man who was killed in Berwick and had previously volunteered at the cemetery.

“I just think it’s wonderful for these families, to know that their loved ones’ names appear here at the cemetery,” he said. “They’re not just a forgotten name.”

Maintenance of the cemetery is handled by the Municipality of West Hants and the Mt. Denson Garden Club will be maintaining the memorial garden.

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