To the 200th Anniversary of Marshland Reclamation in St. Petersburg

The tomb of the family of Daniel Wheeler British Quaker, farmer and meliorator was reconstructed in Shushary, a part of St. Petersburg. It became possible thanks to the Grachya Pogosyan Charitable Foundation.

Only 200 years ago there were quagmires and thick forests full of cranberries and wild animals here. But now life is pulsing, multi-storey buildings are being built and thousands of people are coming here to settle down. But few people know thanks to whom it became possible to live on this land.

 Shushary in Pushkinsky district of St. Petersburg has its historical meaning in its name driven from Suosaari that means ‘an island amidst swamps’.

In 1817 Russian Tsar Alexander I invited Daniel Wheeler, British Quaker and farmer, to come to that “island”. As the British farmer was an experienced meliorator, he was invited to help complete the main aim that was to reclaim the marshes near St. Petersburg and make that land appropriate for agriculture. 

Daniel Wheeler had a big family: his wife Jane and their six children. Not afraid to live in a foreign country, they all together arrived in St. Petersburg. Daniel reclaimed the marshes in Ochta, in Volkov and in Shushary in 1826. All in all, he and his workers reclaimed 40 thousand hectares between 1818 and 1832. They started a farm on 200 hectares and it was considered to be the best and most progressive farming enterprises of those times in Russia.

In 1832 Daniel Wheeler had to return to London having left his family on the farm in Shushary. While Daniel was away, his wife and his little daughter got seriously ill and died. They were buried not far from their farm.

In recognition of the contribution to the marshland reclamation near St. Petersburg, Tsar Nikolay I, who reigned the country at that time, presented the Wheelers with a land plot that was officially named the Quaker cemetery in Russia: “this land plot owned by the Tsar near Tsarskoye Selo since now and for good will be called the Friends burial ground and will be used for this purpose only.”

This year marks 200 years since the beginning of the marshland reclamation near St. Petersburg. And we hear the name of Daniel Wheeler again. In honour of this event, the Head of the municipal entity Shushary Ruslan Tikhomirov decided to reconstruct the tomb of Daniel Wheeler’s family. Thanks to long friendly relationships with the philanthropist and the president of the Charitable Foundation Grachya Pogosyan, the finance question of the reconstruction works had quickly been solved.

- St. Petersburg has always been tolerant. I myself have lived in this wonderful city for so many years and have never been treated badly and observed only tolerant attitude to people of any nation who live here. And when I found out about the personality of Daniel Wheeler and his contribution to the development of St. Petersburg, and when I saw how poor the state of his family’s tomb was, I couldn’t stay indifferent, - Grachya Pogosyan said. I think we have to appreciate and remember those who contributed to the development of St. Petersburg. I would like to thank Ruslan Vladimirovich for his reverential attitude to the history of his district, it is quite rare today. And I am glad that my Charitable Foundation will leave a mark in history of Shushary. I am sure that this activity will be another stone to strengthen the relationships between our countries and nations. 

The reconstruction works turned out to be quite vast as for 200 years only the letters on the headstone had been renewed. For all these years all granite details were lop-sided and went to the earth, the fencing rusted. All this was put in order, the granite elements were polished, the letters are cleaned and covered with gold leaf and varnished for greater safety, the fencing was restored, the elements lacking in it were added.

The successfully completed work on the restoration of the tomb of Daniel Wheeler’s family was highly appreciated by the Administration of the city. Vice-Governor Sergey Movchan thanked the Grachya Pogosyan Charitable Foundation and wished further success in all the deals. And today we can see the tomb of the wife and daughter of the British Quaker who contributed to the development of the Northern Capital completely restored with golden letters and polished granite. It means that another page in the history of St. Petersburg is not abandoned anymore.