Myrtle Goulden Demings, who lives directly across the western channel in Carleton Village, grew up in this house and has so many interesting memories about the island. She could write a book! Her parents bought this property around 1910 and her family lived here until the 1950s. Myrtle married a young soldier who was stationed at Fort McNutt, George Gribble. After the war, George became the assistant lightkeeper at Cape Roseway, and Myrtle and George and their infant daughter Bernice lived at the lighthouse.
Myrtle told me that there are some old graves here, where we now live. Her father always told the children not to play in the southeastern corner of the back orchard, because people were buried there. But even back when Myrtle was a child, there were no obvious markings for any graves, she told me. They had been worn away long before that, I guess.
It helps to date the graves that they are inside the boundary of the stone wall. Moses Pitcher was granted this land in 1785, and when he sold it to George Ross in 1787, for nineteen pounds and eight shillings and four pence, it was sold with improvements and the buildings erected thereon. In those days anyone who was granted land was expected to make improvements within a specified amount of time, or else they could lose their grant. One of the main improvements would have been clearing stones, and one way you cleared stones was to build walls out of them. (Another way was just to throw them into piles off to the side of a field for the time being. We have some of those, too.)
It was not uncommon in the Shelburne area to bury the dead on the land where they died. Cemeteries were few and far between in those days. And people were not so squeamish about death. It was more an integrated part of life back then than it is today.
So this small burial ground -- maybe containing one or two people -- is likely to date from sometime after Moses Pitcher made improvements to his fifty acres. After George Ross bought the property in 1787 this place was called Ross's Landing. Ross may have used it as a staging and storage place for supplies that were brought onto the island, and maybe as a fish-drying place. Ross was a Shelburne merchant and one of the few who stayed in business after the town went downhill. Just before his death in 1816 he sold this property to Dorcas Thomson, the wife of his business partner.
Neither George Ross nor Dorcas Thomson would have lived on McNutt's. Their business was conducted from town. But Andrew Lightbody did live here, from the late 1780s probably until his death in 1816. An 1823 deed says that Andrew Lightbody was "in possession" of the property before Thomas and Mary Barrow owned it.
Andrew may have been a disbanded soldier of the 42nd Highland Regiment of Foot, a Scot like Ross. It may have been Andrew and his wife Mary and young daughter Margaret who settled here in 1787 or thereabouts, to oversee the Ross concerns on the island and to continue to clear and improve this property as tenant farmers.
The building of the lighthouse began in 1788, a few months after Ross bought this property. The lighthouse was completed in late 1790. Andrew could well have been the man who made sure that supplies reached the lighthouse site from Ross's Landing. He received a substantial payment of over fifteen pounds on January 7, 1790 from its builders for having taken care of the lighthouse "to this day."
Andrew died in 1816, and sometime soon afterward Thomas and Mary Barrow became the property owners. They lived here as farmers until the early 1830s when Jonathan and Martha Perry came to live and raise their brood of children.
Until I'm able to do more research I can only guess that someone from the Lightbody or Barrow households is buried in that corner of the back orchard. I'm certain there will be another chapter to this story as I find out more. But for now, I'm so grateful to Myrtle for sharing this amazing piece of knowledge, which I never could have known about otherwise.