Dixon Connection at The Old Protestant Burying Ground

Piper plays at summer social

The Clyde River History Committee attended a summer social at the Old Protestant Burying Ground this past Tuesday evening. We were all intrigued to attend our first social at a cemetery, and it turned out to be a wonderful exploration into the early history of Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island as a whole. Many of us never had a chance to visit this site, so we looked forward to their guided tours. The event program follows:

  • Prelude – Piper Brady Singleton, Belfast Pipe and Drum Band Confederation Players
  • Welcome – Chair, Don Patton
  • Remarks – Author George Wright, Who Departed this Life: A History of the Old Protestant Burying Ground
  • Musical Performance – Shirley Wright and players
  • Tree Planting – Reverend Dr. Gordon Matheson
  • Tour of significant sites (including military) and refreshments
  • The invitation was to come and meet your neighbours – Past and Present!

Ann (Grant) Dixon’s headstone – stone came from Nova Scotia and is the same stone used in Province House & Confederation Centre of the Arts. Click on photo to enlarge.

A few days before the event, I received a note from Hilda (Dixon) Colodey that there would be a Clyde River connection at the Old Protestant Burying Ground. Her 2x great-grandmother and my 3x great-grandmother Ann (Grant) Dixon is buried there. Here are the ancestral lines:

Dixon Line:

  • 1st generation: Ann (Grant) married to George A. Dixon
  • 2nd generation: Mackieson Dixon married Amanda Lowther
  • 3rd generation: George Dixon married Margaret MacQuarrie
  • 4th generation: Boyd Dixon married Peggy Easter
  • 5th generation: Hilda, Mack, Alex & Peter

Dixon-Beer Line:

  • 1st generation: Ann (Grant) married to George A. Dixon
  • 2nd generation: Margaret (Dixon), Mackieson’s sister, married Archibald Livingstone
  • 3rd generation: Mary Ann (Livingstone) married James Beer
  • 4th generation: Frederick Beer married Frances Darrach
  • 5th generation: John Beer married Hazel MacLean
  • 6th generation: Blois, Doreen & Vivian

Link to online Ann & George Dixon family tree: www.janedyment.ca

Ann was born in 1799. She travelled to PEI with her husband George A. Dixon in 1832 and purchased Selkirk land on the Bannockburn Road in Clyde River, then known as Dog River. They farmed and operated a mill. Ann died in 1841. Her two daughters, each named Mary Ann (first died in 1830 and second died in 1851), are buried beside her at the Old Protestant Burying Ground.

Hilda tells me that when Ann’s oldest daughter Margaret had her first daughter, she carried on the name Mary Ann.

George A. Dixon remarried Annie Atkinson and they had two more children. George and Annie are buried in the Burnside Presbyterian Cemetery in Clyde River. This cemetery was established in 1856.

A few facts about The Old Protestant Burying Ground:

  • Estimated that about 4000 people were buried here between 1784-1873. A list has been created for 3200.
  • Fell into neglect and suffered bouts of sabotage, but in 1999 a group of citizens came together to restore this important part of Island history.
  • A few of the many notable people buried here:
    • Hon. George Wright, member of legislature – his father Thomas was a surveyor for Samuel Holland.
    • Ambrose Lane, Colonial Administrator, built the stone house in Clyde River. There is also a small waterfall on the property referred to as Lane’s Rock.
    • William Douse, Earl of Selkirk’s land agent that the Dixon’s and Beers would have dealt with when they purchased their original properties. A story about a family reunion and family crypt is featured in this story in Toronto Star.
    • William Crosby – We featured an earlier story, The Crosby’s of Meadowbank, that references William Crosby.
    • Samuel Holman – the first member of the Holman family of merchants.
    • John Frederick Holland – Eldest son of Samuel Holland
    • Online biographies of many interesting people buried here.
    • Online list of all those known to be buried here.

Here is a thoughtful description written by Judy Gaudet of Charlottetown on The Old Protestant Burying Ground:

Imagine a city underground. It is the Charlotte Town that used to be. Here are many prominent people: Ambrose Lane, twice Administrator of the early colony; Hon. George Wright, Surveyor General and five times Administrator of the Colony; Condolly Rankin, High Sherifff; Peter MacGowan, Attorney General; Susan, Governor Ready’s daughter is there; and Jane, Barrister Palmer’s wife. Here are Benjamin Chappell, first postmaster of PEI, and James Coles, whose son George was a Father of Confederation. Plaw the architect, Charles Binns, the attorney. Benjamin Bremmer’s father, JS, the bookseller is here, and his mother, who ran the bookstore when JS died, until she herself was killed in a train accident in Boston.

Here’s bandleader Galbraith’s wife Susan. Here are auctioneers, wheelwrights, soldiers and blacksmiths. Theophilus Desbrisay, the first Anglican Rector, who served for 47 years, is here with his wife, children and grandchildren. Here are the joiners, carriage builders, tinsmiths, teachers and poets. John LePage’s wife and children are here. Here are butchers, bankers, stationers, milkers, masons, saddlers, and harness makers. You might think work could go ahead as usual in the city under the ground. Life and Death.

Here’s Dr. Henry Johnson, the young preacher, just come over from England, liked by everyone, died within weeks of his arrival. Frederick Goodman, Hon. George’s son drowned along with Ann Maloney when their skiff was hit by a sudden squall on their way back from St. Peter’s Island. John Ross, the publisher, lost his young son in the same year as the Charlotte Town fire took his business. Arthur Aggasiz, a young gentleman, had a seizure at the bottom of a well, where he went to retrieve a bucket and drowned despite all the servants could do; Eliza Taylor, wife of Neil Graham, the ship’s carpenter, died in childbirth. His second wife died that way, too.

Many women did. Many children died. But we all have our time. And it may that they are not in this city under the ground at all, “but amidst the stars and near the throne” as one stone claims for a lost Knight child. But should we not pay some honour to this place where they were last seen? Surely if we forget them, and their lives, their contributions and their humanity, the city above ground will be the poorer.

Please make sure to take some time to visit The Old Protestant Burying Ground at 270 University Avenue. Carl Phillis is the caretaker and he is there each week day from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. He welcomes visitors and loves to answer your questions about the cemetery.

If any of our readers have ancestral connections to those buried at the Old Protestant Burying Ground, we invite you to add information in the comments below.

No Comments

  1. Peter Rukavina on July 21, 2017 at 9:10 am

    The Canada 150 event at the Old Protestant Burying Ground was one of the best-organized events I’ve been to in a long while: there was seating, there was good amplification, there was food and drink, the speeches were brief but meaningful, and the crowd was diverse and interested.

  2. R. Jean Beer on July 21, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Very interesting history. I always wondered about that cemetery. Thanks for the research. jb >

  3. Jane on July 21, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    The Charlottetown Guardian ran a series of articles on the Old Protestant Cemetery by Elsie J. Cambridge, “Historic PEI Cemetery and its Monuments”, starting October 4 1947, and running for several Saturdays after that. The list includes the names, inscriptions and the state of the gravestone at the time. The articles usually appeared on page 12 – http://www.islandnewspapers.ca/islandora/object/guardian:19471025-012

  4. Clifford C. Parmeter. on February 18, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    The Dixons a very proud family.. very lovely family..

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