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Round Hill Graveyard Walk tells the tales of earliest English settlement


ROUND HILL, N.S. —

When the sun starts to set and the shadows lengthen, most people steer clear of graveyards.

Sally Deveau isn’t most people.

Sure, there’s a bit of daylight when she starts out, but by the time she gets to the Lovetts' plot the flashlights are out and people are being careful not to trip over tree roots, headstones, and footstones.

Jacques Baker carries a coachman’s lantern powered by a single candle. It adds atmosphere. He’s been here many times and has been trying to determine which grave is the one old stories say moves from place to place – here one day, over there the next.

It’s a Friday night in Round Hill and Deveau is leading the graveyard walk that takes the brave participants back in time to when the first graves were dug and the bodies of the earliest English settlers were lowered into the ground.

Deveau warns participants about holes caused by subsidence of soil and the very real possibility of sinking knee deep into a grave. It’s happened before apparently.

It’s a spooky place surrounded by trees and situated high on a hill off Highway 201 overlooking the Annapolis River. One might say it’s a view to die for.

THE LOVETTS

Phineas Lovett, the patriarch of the Massachusetts clan and virtual founder of Round Hill, isn’t actually buried at the Round Hill graveyard. In later life he moved to nearby Annapolis Royal and he’s buried in the Garrison Graveyard there. But he’s the starting point for Round Hill and the starting point for the graveyard walk.

Deveau tells the story of the Lovett family, an LED light clipped to the brim of her cap so she can refer to her notes. And she talks about the Evans family, the Jeffersons. There’s more than 250 years of history buried there.

Phineas Lovett moved with his family to Nova Scotia in the 1760s and represented Annapolis County, and later Annapolis Royal, in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.

Deveau tells the story of Lovett’s ambition and energy, his numerous businesses, and his estate overlooking the Annapolis River.

“It is documented that Edward, the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, and his wife Julie often visited the Lovett estate and enjoyed ballroom dancing there,” Deveau said.

STARTED DIGGING

Conducting these graveyard walks Friday and Saturday evenings in the autumn was not something she ever aspired to do, but when talk in the community turned to the idea, she said she’d love to do it.

“I don’t know where it really comes from,” she said. “Just the spookiness of the graveyard I guess is what excited me. Then of course the more I started digging, the more I found out, and then it was like ‘oh my goodness, look at this!’”

She said the history is fascinating.

“The more you learn the more you want to learn” she said. Deveau’s maiden name is Hill and her family is from Hilltown in the Weymouth area, yet she has found ancestors from the early 1800s buried in the Round Hill graveyard.

The stories are priceless, and while they come from a different time, they don’t come from a different place. The Round Hill of today is tied directly to the days of Lovett.

Deveau talks about Henry Evans who originally arrived in Halifax in a leaky, 30-ton schooner. He’d paid $15 and four gallons of rum for his passage. Later, from Boston, he boarded the Charming Molly and arrived in Annapolis Royal after a 70-day voyage.

JEFFERSONS

“Mr. Evans’ only child, Elizabeth, married Robert Jefferson,” said Deveau. “Robert Jefferson was a cousin to United States President Thomas Jefferson.”

She said Robert Jefferson built the house here in Round Hill that is now occupied by Bill and Marie Goucher.

“This house was called The Retreat,” she said. “It is said to have been a retreat for recollect priests and their students. Robert and Elizabeth had 14 children and they left many descendants.”

She went on to tell an interesting story about Robert and Elizabeth’s daughter Elizabeth.

“When baby Elizabeth was only a newborn, a 16-year-old friend of Robert’s was visiting from England and as a joke Robert takes his newborn daughter and places her in his young friend’s arms and says ‘here’s a wife for you.’ Lo and behold, 19 years later, baby Elizabeth and this young man were indeed married.”

There are hundreds of graves and stories for each one. Deveau will never have time to tell more than a handful of the histories and that’s why she does two different walks, telling different stories as she alternates Friday and Saturday evenings.

WE ALL DIE SOMEDAY

She’s had as many as 30 people take part in the graveyard walks.

“We’ve had people from Coldbrook, Kentville,” she said. “We’ve had people from Digby and Weymouth.”

She said those who take part are interested in history, genealogy, and graveyards.

“Everybody has an interest in where they came from,” she said. “I think with a lot of people it’s the more you find out the more you want to find out.”

And she has a bit of graveyard philosophy to share.

“We’re all going to die someday, and death is a big part of life. It is,” she said. “It’s kind of something we all have to accept whether we want to or not. To be afraid of the graveyard? To me it’s the safest place to be.”

Baker goes on the graveyard walks as often as possible. Based on all of his previous walks he thinks he’s got the moving grave narrowed down to 12 possibilities.

Next Round Hill Graveyard Walks are Oct. 11 and 12, and Oct. 25 and 26. They start at 7 p.m. and you’ll see a sign on the south side of Highway 201 just east of the Round Hill Community Hall. Cost is $5 and that helps cover the cost of food and drink at the hall after the walk.

Bring a flashlight and dress warmly

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