Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada

ShoreLINES: Heritage Notes from Parks Canada's Special Protected Places in PEI - Fall 2012

Archeologists Uncover the Past in PEI National Park

This summer, visitors to PEI National Park had the unique opportunity to view and participate in an archaeological dig that took place in the Stanhope area of the park from July 30th to August 3rd. For a fourth season, archaeologists and volunteers continued with efforts to uncover the origins of an old cellar along the Farmlands Trail. This year’s dig was led by Parks Canada archaeologist Charles Burke, with assistance from the provincial archaeologist, Dr. Helen Kristmanson, and the Stanhope Historical Society.

History at your fingertips…

Human history is reflected through different types of evidence including physical remains (archaeological resources) that have been left behind by individuals or groups of people. The archaeological dig at Stanhope has revealed much about the history of this area. Originally thought to have been a cellar of an Acadian home located near Long Pond, evidence has revealed that this site is actually from the British period. It is possible that it was part of the Stanhope Farm settlement, one of the earliest British settlements on the Island established in 1770. The settlement remains a mystery, as there are no historical records to indicate the presence of a structure in that particular area.

It is possible that the house was occupied by the family of Stephen Bovyer (Jr.), who was the son of a British Loyalist from Rhode Island. The Bovyers acquired the lease to the Stanhope Farm after the original Agent, David Lawson, was evicted in 1788. A pewter button of the New Brunswick Regiment dating c.1803-1805 which was found at the site may have belonged to Samuel Boyer (Bovyer) who was enlisted in the New Brunswick Regiment in 1793. Stephen Bovyer Sr, died in 1788 and is buried in the Stanhope Pioneer Cemetery located in PEI National Park.

To date, much of what remains of the original structure of the house has been unearthed. This year, the archaeological team dug to the base of the structure, revealing the bottom of the hearth and cellar. In excavating the cellar, a fascinating discovery was made. A stone wall that is thought to have been an interior retaining wall to prevent earth from coming into the cellar was found to be chiseled smooth, with chisel marks readily visible on the stone.

Archaeologist Charles Burke suggests that the amount of care that went into dressing this stone, indicates that the individuals who built this house possessed a high level of craftsmanship and took a great deal of pride in the work they were doing. The wall was not hastily thrown together, the builders took the time to find stone that fit each specific location, chiseled it to smooth it out and ensured that it had uniform edges. While it is unknown what the original structure of the house looked like, we can extrapolate that if so much care and effort was taken on hidden features, it might also apply to the rest of the building. There may have even been a stone mason among the group of settlers who arrived in Stanhope from Scotland aboard the Falmouth on June 8, 1770 to initiate the flax industry.

A number of artifacts, including ceramics, have been discovered during the excavation. The ceramic pieces are predominantly creamwares and pearlwares and reflect an occupation time between 1780 and 1820. Other artifacts uncovered at the site include an intact thimble, tobacco pipes, bottle glass, a gun flint, lead pellet nails, window glass and, as mentioned above, a pewter button of the New Brunswick Regiment.

Parks Canada strives to foster understanding of and appreciation for national parks by sharing the stories of our land and of our people.

The archaeological dig in Stanhope provided an excellent opportunity for students, neighbours and visitors to get involved in this truly unique experience. In 2012 twenty-nine people volunteered their time and talents to help unearth the past. To provide additional opportunities for learning, Parks Canada held a special program “Digging up the Past” which included a walk through the Stanhope Pioneer cemetery and a tour of the archaeological dig. Many visitors experienced the dig firsthand and developed a new appreciation for the important role that archaeology plays in our understanding about the history and people of our nation.