The history of Calgary's cemeteries began in 1876 and is closely tied to the establishment of Calgary as a city. The Calgary Heritage Authority deemed Burnsland Cemetery, St. Mary's Cemetery, the Chinese Cemetery and Union Cemetery to be historically significant cultural landscapes that played an important part in the settlement and establishment of Calgary as a city.
Funeral procession at Union Cemetery, June 4, 1911. Photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives
Calgary's cemetery history
In 1876, the Roman Catholic Mission established a burial ground at at Second Street & 23 Avenue S.W. In 1897 the cemetery was moved to the site of the new St. Mary's Cemetery on Erlton Street S.W. It is one of the city’s oldest Catholic cemeteries with 15,000 burials.
In 1884 city councillors saw the need for a new Protestant cemetery, as the only existing cemetery was for Roman Catholics. Non-Catholics were buried in unsanctified land set aside for that purpose. In 1885, the new cemetery was established at Shaganappi Point (where the Shaganappi Golf Course is currently located). Rocky soil conditions made digging graves very difficult and it was decided a new site was needed. In August of 1890, on a hill located at 28 Avenue and Spiller Road S.E., Union Cemetery was established. The Shaganappi Point Cemetery was then closed, and in 1892, the process of moving the 75 burials from Shaganappi Point to the new cemetery began. Today, Union Cemetery is home to 22,200 of Calgary’s early pioneers and city founders including: A.E. Cross, William Roper Hull and the Lougheed family.
In 1908 the Chinese Cemetery was established at Erlton Street and Macleod Trail S.W. It has over 1000 of Calgary’s early Chinese pioneers within its grounds, many whom emigrated over a hundred years ago from southern China.
In 1923, the existing Union Cemetery was running short of space, so new burial land was opened at 27 Avenue and Spiller Road S.E. This new location was called Burnsland Cemetery. Today, Burnsland Cemetery has 22,100 graves and is the location where most of Calgary’s World War I war veterans are buried.
The Queen’s Park Cemetery opened in 1940, so its history is relatively recent for a cemetery. It was built with two original sections: one for graves with monuments, and one with only markers (flat stones set flush to the ground) to reduce maintenance costs.
Still want more cemetery history?
If you are interested in finding out more about historical details on our cemeteries or about the people that are buried in them, join a historical walking tour of our cemeteries, call Calgary Cemeteries at 403-221-3660 or visit the sites for the below city cemeteries: