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Mysterious caretakers keep watch over highway cemetery

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Gravesite marks location where a Free Church of Scotland once stood

They sit right next to the highway.
If you have ever travelled on the westbound stretch of the Trans Canada Highway between New Glasgow and Truro, odds are you've seen them.
Nine stones behind a black gate marking Ebenezer Cemetery.
Despite the thousands that drive by each day, few stop to visit them.
The stones, though old, still clearly bear the names of the dead.
Some buried there died in the prime of life. Others were snuffed out before they had a chance to walk.
Margaret Williams left the world after being in it for just three months.
Mary Reid lived to the age of 80.
Jane Maxwell was just 20 years old.
The cemetery, for all its loneliness, appears well cared for but, if you called the local funeral homes, they'll tell you the same if you inquire – who maintains it is "a mystery.”
The story of how this cemetery originated begins with a church that, like the cemetery, was called Ebenezer.
The church was started in 1845 as a Free Church of Scotland by 20 families.  According to historical information online, the first church in the community was a Presbyterian church in 1822 known as St. Luke's. Ebenezer was started by a seceding group which formed under the Free Church of Scotland in 1845-1846.
The Free Church, as a denomination, was formed by evangelicals in Scotland who broke from the Church of Scotland in 1843 in protest against what they regarded as the state's encroachment on the spiritual independence of the church. The ripples of that split spread to Nova Scotia.
The St. Luke's and Ebenezer congregations reunited in 1908 as St. Luke's  and, in 1929, the entire congregation merged into the United Church of Canada.
According to a Sept. 25, 1976, edition of The News, then called The Evening News, the church was being demolished. The paper describes how the stones were removed to allow the site to be fixed up.
One of the most common names in the cemetery is Proudfoot.
Jim Proudfoot, who co-owns Home Hardware in Stellarton, said he isn't sure of the historical information but added his ancestors’ homestead was located next to where the cemetery sits so he presumes the Proudfoots buried there are relatives. As a child, he said the cemetery was grown over and trees covered the area. It wasn't until later it was cleared and it got the look it keeps today.
 (Local historian John Ashton and librarian Maren Fassnacht assisted with the historical research for this story.)


Why Ebenezer?
The name Ebenezer is a Biblical term coming from the Hebrew words ‘ebhen ezar’ or ‘stone of help.’
In 1 Samuel Chapter 7 in the Bible, the prophet Samuel erected a stone after a decisive victory of the Israelites over the Philistines and called it Ebenezer saying: "Thus far the Lord has helped us."


GETTING THERE:
Take the westbound lane of the Trans Canada Highway 104 over Mt. Thom. The cemetery is located a couple of kilometres past Exit 19 to Salt Springs. If you park along the side of the highway, a small path leads to the cemetery a short distance away. Alternatively, you can access the cemetery from Highway 4.

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