Sunday, July 1, 2012

Heritage Cemetery (Moose Jaw)

Garden of flowers & headstones
Old road down the Cemetery
I lived in Moose Jaw for a while and loved the history in the town. While I was there I discovered the Historic Heritage Cemetery. The cemetery was established in 1889 and in the middle of it there is an old chapel made of brick, stone & stucco-clad chapel that was built in 1911.

The heritage value of the Moose Jaw Cemetery lies in the architecture of the Milford Funeral Chapel. Built in 1911, the chapel was designed by local architect R.G. Bunyard who also designed many of Moose Jaw’s commercial, institutional and public buildings between 1906 and 1929. The chapel exhibits Gothic Revival elements such as buttresses and a steeply pitched gable roof. This roof overshadows a small, but prominent hip roof bell tower that surmounts the gable roof of a porch. Upper portions of the chapel feature mock half-timbering and stucco typical of the Tudor Revival style. The chapel also has basement racks and an internment door in the main-storey floor that allowed for internment services and storage of remains during an era when frozen ground prevented burials. 

One of the largest headstones

The heritage value of the Moose Jaw Cemetery also lies in its use as a mortuary site in which people of different racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds are buried side by side. It was the first permanent cemetery in the community and contains remains re-interred from a cemetery hastily created in 1883. Grave monuments, which often feature symbolism in their design, tangibly representing many lives that have contributed to the development of the community, including, First Nations, North West Mounted Police, early homesteaders, prominent business and arts people, leaders of the Chinese and other ethnic communities, veterans, and victims of the 1918-19 influenza epidemic. Since its establishment, the Moose Jaw Cemetery has stood as a local landmark and a link to the early history of Moose Jaw.

Source:  City of Moose Jaw Bylaw No. 5065, 1999

 I have been to countless graveyards in communities all over the province. Graveyards that are still used and some that have long since been abandoned. Most graveyards  I am fine walking through and taking pictures. After all, the people are already passed away when they are in the graveyard so why haunt it? Admittedly there are some graveyards that are very haunted but most in this province just have urban legends attached to them developed by local kids and passed along.

The Chapel
This graveyard however was something different. My first trip up to the graveyard by foot was certainly interesting. I was walking down the street towards the entrance gate and every street light would go out as I would approach it, right up until the gate. Was this the street lights on timers or something else wanting my attention or warning me?

This was just the beginning of my adventurous evening in the graveyard. What I was greeted by next was much worse and definitely put a chill into my night. I have returned multiple times to this graveyard despite what happened that day. I am still uneasy when approaching the chapel and now that I know about its history as a body storage area and mortuary site - it all makes sense.

So if you are ever in Moose Jaw, take a walk... a walk through a historic graveyard and see if you are greeted by the same thing I was that day.

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