Ancestor's Graves

by Bev Knutson-Shaw from Vulcan, AB

My paternal grandfather, Leon Fownes is from Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick. His forefathers were loyalists. When returning home after the first world war, my grandfather was given land in Alberta where he farmed, married and had a family. He never returned east. As a result, my mother never met much of her extended family. But as she has aged, Mom has developed a deep desire to connect with her Fownes family in the east. 

So a few years back we decided that to celebrate our birthdays we would make a trip down east to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. I wanted to visit two dear friends, but Mom (with her list of long lost Fownes relatives) had her own agenda. Reluctantly, I went along with her plan to look up people we didn't know but who shared the same last name as my mom. 

We met many interesting Fownes people who were happy to meet us. 

By the end of our vacation, Mom had managed to contact most of the people on her list, but she still had one thing to do. She had been told that a Fowne's graveyard had been dug up while they were constructing the Fundy Trail Parkway near St. Martins, New Brunswick. She wanted to visit it. 

So, armed with some interesting directions and a questionable map we headed out on a Sunday afternoon. It was a dreary, rainy day and I really didn't feel like heading into the forest to search for a graveyard. But my mom was adamant. 

We drove through St. Martins until the road ended. When it did we looked for the landmark we had been given: a tree beside a rock. As you can imagine, it took a moment or two to find, but we did and we headed out into the forest. 

The directions, which by now were dripping wet, said to look for an old stone fence. We looked and looked and looked some more. We must have been out there for over an hour. We were all soaked to the skin, and our map was ruined. Finally, after wandering around in circles, we located a pile of stones that one would barely recognize as a fence. The instructions said to follow the wall until you get to a big tree. It would be here that we would find the grave stones. The trouble is, we didn't know which end of the fence we were at or if we were even at the end of the fence. We picked a direction and started walking- sometimes it seemed as though the stones had ended and then after a few steps they would begin again. Eventually we got to what we believed was the end of the fence. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a piece of orange surveyor's tape off in the trees. It was here that we found a group of grave stones - 6 or 7 stones from the Fownes family and the Melvin family. The park workers had set the stones up against the trees and put a tape around them. One of the head stones was from the first Fownes to come to Canada- William Fownes Loyalist (1750-1846 and his wife Isabelle(1763-1833). These were my first Canadian ancestors. It was amazing to think about these people, who they were, and what their lives were like. 

We felt like we had discovered the new world. As the light was fading fast, we took some photos and then headed out in another direction- we discovered that (as Murphy's law would have it) we were about 5 minutes from the main road. It was a good day. A day that had started out dim and dreary had became the highlight of my trip. A great memory and a connection to my past. The graves and the land that they are on were reconsecrated in 2001.