History of Calgary Cemeteries
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.
In 1876, the Roman Catholic Mission established a burial ground at Second Street and 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. Many of Calgary’s early pioneers and founders are buried there, including: Pat Burns, John Glenn, and Peter Prince.
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, Union Cemetery was established on a hill located at 28 Avenue and Spiller Road S.E. 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 21,200 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 1,000 of Calgary’s early Chinese pioneers within its grounds, many of whom emigrated over 100years 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 veterans are buried.
The Queen’s Park Cemetery opened in 1940, so its history is relatively recent for a cemetery. It was originally built with sections for graves with monuments only but has since opened sections for markers (flat stones set flush to the ground) to reduce maintenance costs.
Prairie Sky Cemetery, which opened in June 2021, is the first new cemetery in Calgary since Queen’s Park opened in 1940. Prairie Sky is located in the city’s southeast in a rolling, natural prairie setting with beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Calgary city skyline to the northwest. Among more traditional burial and cremation options, Prairie Sky Cemetery also offers Calgary’s first green burial section, designed to reduce environmental impacts.
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:
- visit each cemetery location page,
- join a historical walking tour of our cemeteries, or
- contact Calgary Cemeteries at 403-221-3660.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-221-3660. Queen's Park Cemetery administration building office hours are Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Prairie Sky Cemetery administration building office hours are by appointment only.