Burials within the city limits, forbidden


July 15, 1849


Photo Credit: City of St. John’s Archives: Sketch of Long’s Hill, St. John’s, 1831 by Major John Oldfield

On July 15, 1849 a Proclamation was issued by Governor, Sir J, Gaspard LeMarchant  of Newfoundland“forbidding any more burials  within  the city limits  of St. John’s. The Governor was responding to the fears of town residents that epidemics such as cholera were resulting from the internment of the dead in the town.  The argument was that as bodies of the newly interred decomposed in the town cemeteries, their diseases were seeping into the wells that were the source of the water supply for the town.

Governor, Sir J.Gaspard LeMarchant  argued:

 “as a very obvious method of improving the sanitary conditions of this town, (St. John’s) I recommend having an act passed prohibiting  any internments in the limits of this town….”

Discontent about the state of cemeteries within the boundaries of the town of St. John’sbegan to surface after the Great Fire of June 1846.  One of the results of the fire of 1846 was that all of the fences in the city were burnt, allowing all animals to roam the town.

The Journal of the House of Assembly on July 14, 1846 stated:

Troops of starving dogs, infesting the town have become dangerous  as well as to the living as to the dead, they have commenced desecrating the tombs  of the cemetery …. And may be seen gnawing the bones of those who have been buried …. Pigs and goats infest in great numbers …. And the gravestones and monuments of the deceased are daily violated.”

Prior to the proclamation of the new law three cemeteries in St. John’s  were in use by the different religious denominations.  They were the Church of England Cemetery in the church yard of the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist which borders on Duckworth Street, Church Hill, Cathedral Street and Gower Street. It is estimated that there are about 6000 people buried there.

The two other cemeteries serving the town were the Roman Catholic Cemetery on Long’s Hill, that served as a cemetery from 1811-1849   and the Wesleyan Cemetery on the corner of Gower and Queen’s Road.

Today, there is little evidence to show  the locations of these sacred grounds where many of our ancestors were interred.

It appears that in 1849 that the churches had some notice that the cemeteries in the town would be closed and that internments would have to take place on “the outskirts of the town.” A few months before the proclamation was signed the Catholic Church purchased a large tract on land, far out on the outskirts of the town on Kennas Hill near Quidi Vidi Lake now known as Mount Carmel Cemetery.

The Catholics also began to use a parcel of land “out in the country” on what is now Newtown Road and Empire Avenue now known as Belvedere Cemetery.

The Church of England or Anglican Church opted for a parcel of land also on the outskirts of the town, on Quidi Vidi Lake,  in the shadow of Her Majesty Penitentiary that was still in the process of construction in 1859.

The Wesleyan  (now United Church)  for their cemetery had property in the country on Waterford Bridge Road.

The city has grown!

Recommended  Archival Collection:  All of the churches have established archives that hold detailed  records that will help you locate the grave site of a loved one buried in the cemeteries in this province.  Unfortunately the archives for the Long’s Hill cemetery  were lost in the fire of 1846.

2017 St. John’s Cemetery  Mass and or Flower Schedule

Mount Pleasant Monday, July 3rd 7:00 pm

Kilbride Tuesday, July 4th 7:00 pm

Mount Carmel Tuesday, July 11th 7:00 pm

Kenmount Road Wednesday, July 12th 7:00 pm

General Protestant Monday, July 17th 7:00 pm

Belvedere Tuesday, July 18th 7:00 pm

Presentation (Goulds) Tuesday, July 18th 7:00 pm

St. Matthew’s (Goulds) Tuesday, July 18th 7:45 pm

St. Joseph’s (Petty Hr) Wednesday, July 19th 7:00 pm

Forest Road Wednesday, July 19th 7:00 pm

Holy Sepulchre Tuesday, July 25th 7:00 pm

St. Kevin’s (Goulds) Thursday, July 27th 7:00 pm

St. George’s (Petty Hr) Sunday, July 30th 2:30 pm

Salvation Army Sunday, August 6th 3:00 pm

Chinese Community Sunday, August 6th 1:00 pm

Holy Trinity (Bay Bulls) Sunday, August 13th 2:00 pm