Robbie Yorke peers at the gravestone of one of Parrsboro’s earliest settlers, James Noble Shannon, near the community’s original settlement at Partridge Island. Yorke is spearheading a public campaign to have the site refurbished and recognized for its historical value.
PARRSBORO – Some of this area’s earliest settlers are buried beside the road near Ottawa House museum, although those passing by would likely not notice.
Robbie Yorke aims to change that.
The local resident has embarked on a personal campaign to restore and beautify the site, where he says Shannon and hundreds of other settlers are buried. There is only a single grave marker at the site now, although it is barely visible through the weeds, located behind a cairn erected during the 1960s.
“Every time I drive by that particular site, I think it’s just disgraceful to look at,” said Yorke, who said he became interested a few years ago. “Hopefully this will be the last year for that. It’s always bothered me.”
Yorke was doing maintenance work for another historic cemetery, one that belongs to St. George’s Anglican Church located along Victoria Street in Parrsboro, when he began thinking seriously about the project. Buried in that Victoria Street is James Ratchford, considered by many as the founder of Parrsboro.
But Parrsboro’s first merchant was James Noble Shannon, who along with Jonathon Crane was the first permanent resident of Partridge Island, predating Ratchford’s arrival and Ottawa House museum, of which Shannon was one of the earliest owners.
It is Shannon buried in the cemetery that Yorke wants to preserve.
Shannon was buried there in 1822.
“It’s over 200 years old,” said Yorke. “There would have been a lot of wooden crosses that are all gone now. Within the last 20 years there was another stone at the base of Shannon’s, lying flat, but it’s gone now too. Probably a lot of the (markers) are just underground.”
While considerable effort has been put into the restoration of nearby Ottawa House, the Shannon cemetery continues to fade into the past. A plaque on the property’s cairn refers to a historic schoolhouse that had been located further up the road, and at had been used as a powder magazine during the War of 1812, but there are no plaques, signs, storyboards or anything explaining the history of the burial ground.
With the increased traffic on the road due to tidal power developments in West Bay, Yorke said this deteriorated state of the property is no longer acceptable. Shannon’s gravestone, for example, has degraded visibly in the past few years.
He made a recent public plea for support on Facebook, and has gained considerable support in a matter of weeks. Members of the Parrsborough Shore Historical Society have shown interest, as has Mayor Lois Smith.
Perhaps most importantly, support has also come from the property owners – descendants of Diligent River native Raymond Yorke, who now live in the United States.
“They are very happy with the way the project is moving forward, and they look forward to coming to the site every year when they come to Parrsboro,” said Yorke, who said he keeps in steady touch with them.
The project is a work in progress, but he has a clear vision of what he would like to see at the property. First up will be drainage, landscaping and fencing work, followed by replacement or repairs to the cairn, and the addition of picnic tables, benches, flowers, and storyboards explaining the history of the people buried there.
“We’re going to see a nice park here,” said Yorke.