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The McNab Family Cemetery

The small cemetery at Fort McNab, called by Thomas H. Raddall, "the world's best defended graveyard", predates the Fort by many decades. It was part of the original McNab homestead on the island. It contains thirteen marked graves of the McNabs and their relatives as well as a number of unmarked graves. Seven of the original stone markers have been destroyed by vandals.

According to Ron G. Blakeney who visited the island cemetery in 1971 and recorded the inscriptions on the remaining ornate headstones, the damaged markers were replaced by the Halifax-Dartmouth Regional Authority which leased a portion of McNabs Island in the 1970's. He reported nine, small white wooden crosses at the cemetery in 1971, of which only five remain today. They are in poor condition. It is not known whose graves they mark. Perhaps those of deceased McNab tenants, soldiers stationed at the island's forts, unidentified bodies found on the island's beaches, or victims of the 1866 cholera outbreak? We may never know.

The following graves still retain their original elaborate headstones. The actual inscriptions are given in bold italics, whereas brief biographical notes, using information gleaned from the personal genealogical collection of Donald Ross, follow in regular type:

Erected/ in memory of/ Lewis Gibbens/ youngest son of/ James and Harriet McNab/ who died 24th August 1845/ aged 8 years and 6 months
The youngest of eleven children of the above, born in 1837. The notorious Peter McNab IV (1834-1874) was his older brother.

Erected/ in memory of/ The Honourable Peter McNab/ died 1st June 1847/ aged 80 years
Peter McNab II (1767-1847), oldest son of Peter McNab I (1735- 1799), inherited the entire island from his father.

This stone/ is erected/ to the memory of/ Mrs. Joanna McNab/ wife of Peter McNab Esq./ who departed this life/ 20th May 1827, aged 61/ and John Henry/ son of Peter and Joanna McNab/ who departed this life/ June 1817, aged 18 years
Wife and young son of Peter McNab II.

In memory of/ Mary Susan/ daughter of Thomas and Ann Gibbs/ born 19 October 1808/ died 7th July 1809
Ann Gibbs, born Ann McNab in 1781, was a daughter of Peter McNab I. She later remarried and was known as Ann Hunter. This is the oldest grave in the cemetery.

Sacred/ to the memory of Sarah Ann/ wife of Lewis H. Jacobs/ and only daughter of/ William D. and Ann Hunter/ departed this life 19 August 1846/ aged 31 years
Another daughter of Ann McNab Gibbs Hunter.

Sacred/ to the memory of Mrs. Sarah Culliton/ who died 4th February 1833/ aged 78 years/ also/ Mr. Thomas Culliton/ died 12 December 1837/ aged 72 year
Parents of Joanna Culliton and parents-in-law of Peter McNab II.

In addition, seven graves are marked by identical slabs of concrete. It is not entirely clear who is responsible for replacing the vandalized original markers. Sources other than Ron Blakeney's manuscript, located in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia (call number MG5, vol.5, #30, microfilm reel 15075), suggest the late Mrs. Gladys Conrad (nee Lynch), the military, and Parks Canada.

Sacred/ to the memory of/ Roderick Hugonin/ died June 28, 1863/ aged 8 years
Son of Captain Roderick Hugonin and Harriet McNab (1829-xxxx), younger daughter of James McNab (1792-1871).

James John Hugonin/ died February 27, 1852/ aged 4 months
Older brother of Roderick Hugonin.

In memory of/ Mary Anne McNab/ died November 4 1855/ aged 49 years
Twin sister of Sophia Louise McNab and younger sister of Peter McNab III (1793-1856).

In memory of/ Edwin C. McNab
Younger son of Peter McNab III, born in 1828.

In memory of/ Ellen McNab/ aged 91 years
Miss Ellen McNab (1843-1934) was a daughter of Peter McNab III and his second wife, Anne Elizabeth Wade. She was the last of her family to own land on McNabs Island and the last person to be buried at the family cemetery.

In memory of/ Charles E. McNab
Young Charles (1826- 1831) was a son of Peter McNab III.

In memory of/ Peter McNab Sr./ died/ October 6, 1856/ aged 63 years
Peter McNab III, owner of northern end of the island.

The internments range from 1809 to 1863, in addition to the 1934 grave of Ellen McNab. One of the original headstones, that of Sarah Ann Jacobs, recently broke in two. It has since been repaired by Parks Canada staff. The entire cemetery is fenced off and the gate locked. The Friends of McNabs Island Society, through and agreement with Parks Canada, maintain the cemetery.

A review of Parks Canada documents relating to its holdings on McNabs Island reveals several cryptic references to an agreement between His Majesty King Edward VII (ie: the Imperial War Department) and McNab descendant Alan Cassels (on behalf of the McNab family), dated 16 April 1904, stating that "the conditions of sale or transfer of the area know as Fort McNab must include right of access and egress and use of the cemetery by the living members of the McNab family"