This cemetery is Amherst Island's first designated non-denominational cemetery and in the late 1820's consisted of half an acre probably enclosed by a wooden structure.
In 1831, Samuel Pentleton was the first person to be buried here as his headstone denotes. Although there are stones with earlier dates they were burials transferred here once the cemetery was designated. There are a high number of children's graves in Pentland due to house fires but primarily due to the diphtheria epidemic that swept the Island in the mid 1800's. As a result, the cemetery contains hundreds of burials and many unmarked graves, as swift burials were essential due to the diphtheria and other epidemics during this period.
The headstones record the predominantly Irish pioneer families that settled on Amherst Island and today, many of their descendants continue to reside on the Island. In 1980 the Kingston Genealogical Society published a detailed listing of all headstones/monuments in Pentland at that time. The last body to be interred was in 1954 and the ashes of another were placed in 2001.
One of the most notable persons buried here is Daniel Fowler, (1810-1894), who emigrated from England, settling and building his home, The Cedars, now a historical site on Amherst Island. A watercolourist, he was a founding member of the Royal Canadian Academy and his works are found in English galleries, the National Art Gallery of Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum and many private collections. Mr. Fowler lived for forty years on the Island, designing and building an Anglican Church and planting the cedars at the entrance to Pentland Cemetery.
The cemetery was first enlarged in the 1860's and enclosed with stone walls or fencing. This specific type of fencing is only found in two known areas, Ireland and Adolphustown, Ontario. John Crowe, an Irishman from the Ards Peninsula, County Down, built a rod a day and charged a dollar a rod and usually room & board as well. The fencing is constructed of fieldstones stacked upon one another for the body of the fencing with the top of the fence using fieldstone standing on end giving a unique architectural and ornate appearance.
In September 2015, the cemetery was visited by CBC's Rick Mercer during the first Irish-Canadian International Dry Stone Festival to be held on Amherst Island. Click here to watch the Rick Mercer Report @ Amherst Island.
The restoration of the Irish dry stone walls or fences was initiated by the Amherst Island Women's Institute in 2004 with the hiring of a master stonemason to instruct volunteers on the art of rebuilding these unique fences. Restoring Pentland's 300 foot west stone fence involved dismantling nearly the entire fence, before rebuilding to John Crowe's original design and specifications. It took eight years to complete the project which saw 1,400 feet completely rebuilt along three sides of the cemetery. In 2015 the last stone was placed on the north fence after eight summers of restoration. Visit this link for an article and video in the Kingston-Whig.
While restoring the west fence, a stone corner was uncovered which indicated that the cemetery once had stones fences encircling it. Work started on the southeast fence but as stones from these fences had disappeared over time, new stones were required for the last two sides. All artifacts found in the fences were kept and a time capsule was placed. The Federated Women's Institute of Ontario and the Ontario Historical
Society has recognized the spearheading of this unusual project in which volunteers worked many hundreds of hours.
Image - John Shaw-Rimmington
Monument restorers have been impressed with the inscriptions and designs found on the headstones, the quality of the quartz used and the unusual ironwork.
Pentland Cemetery is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act for both historical and cultural reasons (By-law 2005-41). Its restoration documents Canada's pioneer history in rural areas and provides a tangible historical site for present and future generations.
Transcriptions and photographs of most of the headstones can be found at the Cemetery Project.