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Sainte-Famille Cemetery gains official recognition as heritage site

Warden Abraham Zebian, representing West Hants, does the honours cutting a ribbon to reveal a monument marking Sainte-Famille Cemetery in Falmouth.
Warden Abraham Zebian, representing West Hants, does the honours cutting a ribbon to reveal a monument marking Sainte-Famille Cemetery in Falmouth. - Sam Macdonald
FALMOUTH, N.S. —

Tree-shaded, well-manicured Saint-Famille Cemetery in Falmouth is a pastoral sight befitting its location in Hants County.

It’s a site of great importance to the Acadian heritage present in Hants County.

Although no structures remain from the time when it belonged to Acadian farmers, Sainte-Famille Cemetery is one of two confirmed pre-deportation Acadian cemetery sites. It’s also unique in that it is the only one now with both provincial and municipal heritage designation.

This dual designation was officially put into place on a sunny Sept. 19 afternoon.

“Two years ago, we had a ceremony to unveil the plaque designating this as a provincial heritage property,” said Sally Ross, secretary of Les Amis de Grand-Pré. “Normally, we would expect to have a municipal ceremony first, but the law had to be changed in order to include cemeteries as heritage properties.”

Addressing guests before an official unveiling, Ross stressed the importance of a municipal designation, describing it as just as important, if not more than a provincial designation.

“Except for the dykes and old place names, there is very little left in the landscape in Hants County to remind us the Acadians lived here for over a century,” Ross said. “This cemetery was used from 1698 to 1755 and is where over 300 people are buried.
It’s significant because it’s the human dimension of the long-ago Acadian presence.”

The cemetery site hosted a small crowd of people celebrating the double recognition, after the council of the Municipality of the District of West Hants voted in unanimous support of the designation.

The francophone and Acadian community came out in full force, with accolades given to everyone involved with Les Amis de Grand-Pré, the Odyseé Acadienne (Acadian Odyssey) and the significant group of volunteers and dignitaries who worked to make the designation a reality.

The motion to give Sainte-Famille municipal recognition got unanimous support from the council of West Hants.

Warden Abraham Zebian did the honours of punctuating the official unveiling by cutting the ribbon, pulling away a covering and revealing the stone monument marking the doubly-recognized heritage site.

“We recognize and understand the importance to our whole community, especially our local area,” Zebian said. “Les Amis de Grand-Pré have been involved with this cemetery since its discovery in 1996. It’s hard not to see the outstanding, beautiful work that they have done.”


Did you know?

The first Acadian families who came to what is now the Windsor-Falmouth area (Pisiquid) from Port Royal settled in the 1680s.

Those first settlers founded the Sainte-Famille Parish in 1698. Among these families are names recognizable in the region today, including Rivet, Babin, Forest, Landry, Breau, Trahan, Hébert, Vincent and Thibodeau.

During the digging of a foundation for a home near the site in 1996, human remains were found at what is now a dual-designated heritage site.


“We gather here today because of the many efforts of those in a group of local residents and government agencies at the provincial and municipal level, to recognize the historical importance of this particular site,” said Ken Belfontain, a member of Les Amis De Grand-Pre.

Sainte-Famille Cemetery is managed with a number of other Acadian heritage sites in the region, by the Amis de Grand-Pré volunteer not-for-profit group.

Sam.macdonald@kingscountynews.ca

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