Port Medway has status

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Port Medway has lots to celebrate this August. Two of their historic sites are receiving heritage status.

Port Medway has status

On Aug. 1, Mayor John Leefe will preside over dedication ceremonies presenting municipal heritage status to the Old Port Medway Cemetery and the Port Medway Lighthouse. If that isn’t enough, a week later on Aug. 8 the cemetery will get provincial heritage status. “We’re up in the stratosphere here,” says Robert Whitelaw from the Port Medway Cemeteries Committee.

The Aug. 1 ceremonies also take place the same day the Friends of Old Port Medway Cemetery host their art show along with a barbeque. The friends donate 25 per cent of their sales towards the cemetery.

After the dedication, the committee is offering tours of the cemetery.

Kevin Barrett will represent the province for the provincial dedication on Aug. 8. This dedication takes place during Scanning the Past: A Collection of Photographs and Historical artifacts from Port Medway.

As a special treat to visitors, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’s Millennium Project, the Elson Perry will be on display Aug 8 as well. The Elson Perry is a replica of a Port Medway boat built by the first lighthouse keeper. Boat builder Eammon Doorley will also be down for part of the day.

All ceremonies and shows are taking place at Port Medway Lighthouse Park. The cemetery is located next to Seely Hall, close to the Park.

By getting provincial status, the cemetery committee can access funding through the provincial government to help restore the cemetery.

The Port Medway cemetery committee has actively maintained both this and the currently used cemetery. Restoration of the old cemetery is ongoing, and phase one was completed this past spring.

Much of the time was spent working with Heather Lawson, a grave stone restoration specialist; they straightened and repaired stones in need. “The idea was to get the ones most at risk done first,” says Whitelaw.

Lawson is returning in the fall to work on several more that need attention before next winter.

In 1990, major work was done to repair the seaside cliff, when it was discovered the cemetery had eroded to the point where the gravesites were threatened.

The lighthouse was built in 1899 to help guide pulp ships into Port Medway harbour, so they could reach the mill up in Charleston.

According to Whitelaw, who’s written extensively on the history of the cemetery, the earliest stone is the winged-skull slate marker of the “Connecticut Yankee” Samuel Mack.

Mack was an entrepreneur, and the founder of what eventually became the Edward Doran Davison lumber empire. After a fire in the 1860s, the business moved to Bridgewater.

Mack was also the great uncle of Joseph Smith Jr., the Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mack’s brother Solomon was Smith’s maternal grandfather.

Since 1945 the cemetery had been cared for and administered by the Old Cemetery Association, until it merged with the Greenwood Cemetery Company in 2002 to form the present Port Medway Cemeteries Committee.

Organizations: Port Medway Cemeteries Committee, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Old Cemetery Association Greenwood Cemetery Company

Geographic location: Port Medway, Port Medway Lighthouse Park, Charleston Connecticut Bridgewater Saints

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