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Stone face 

Megan Wennberg digs up more interesting facts about Old Burying Ground monuments.

Mason in the corner

The Old Burying Ground closed for good in 1844, but for a polished monument of granite plinths (the only granite in the graveyard) located in the far left corner of the Ground on Barrington St. near Dalhousie’s Sexton campus. This particular monument and the cleared space surrounding it occupy roughly one twelfth of the entire grounds, despite not being placed there until 1938, 94 years after the cemetery closed.

And to whom does this spacious, untimely stone belong? The man’s name is Erasmus James Phillips, born April 23, 1705, died September 26, 1760. And why is he so special? Depending on your beliefs, he’s not. But the Masons would beg to differ. In June 1738, Phillips became “the founder and Master of the first Masonic Lodge on Canadian soil at Annapolis Royal.” Phillips went on to serve as the Provincial Grand Master of the first Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia from 1757 until his death in 1760. The monument was dedicated by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in a “special communication” held in Halifax on July 11, 1938.

Also worth noting, Phillips’ monument faces directly onto the main entrance to Government House. “It’s a puzzle,” says Trask. “They must have had a special arrangement with St Paul’s church (legal owner of the Old Burrying Ground), but we’ve tightened up the rules since then.”

What’s in the box?

“People always ask me, ‘what’s in these boxes?’” says Trask, indicating a line of box tombs in the military section of the Old Burying Ground. “Well, I’ll tell you. When we did a lot of work on this site in the early 90s, a lot of fragments of gravestones were found and so what we decided to do was keep them on the site, so they’re inside. These are not above-ground graves.” 

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