THe People's Cemetery

In the beginning before we understand the making of the People's Cemetery, it is interesting and pertinent to look at the history of all cemeteries in the Charlottetown area, because the prior history of cemeteries in the area show the reason for the incorporation of the People's Cemetery in 1883.
The earliest cemetery for which records exist and locations are known is the Old Protestant Burying Ground on what is now University Avenue, but was formerly known as Elm Avenue, and even prior to that it was named Princetown Road. It was first used in the 1780s and closed by an Act of the Legislature on December 31st, 1873. Following this closure, Sherwood Cemetery opened on January 1st, 1874. Even today, we see Sherwood Cemetery being located well outside of the city of Charlottetown, so you can imagine how far out it seemed in the 1800s. Many burials required a funeral train to take the mourners to the cemetery. People were not happy with the inconvenience and expense of holding funerals in Sherwood. This created a movement to establish a cemetery closer to the city of Charlottetown.
In 1883, the People’s Cemetery was incorporated on application by William Dodd, Rowan Fitzgerald and John D. MacLeod. The first burial took place September 1st, 1884. This was for a Monument of Mr. John Dorseyman named Mr. John Dorsey (photo left), whose monument is located directly behind the receiving vault. The press of the day did not take much notice of this important event. Mr. Dorsey’s obituary did not mention where he was to be buried and the death notice in the Patriot of the Day noted the interment would be in the new Protestant Cemetery on St. Peter’s Road. Mr. Dorsey, by the way, was the head of the Dorsey and Goff and Company’s Shoe Factory. In May 1885, the Patriot noted the first monument has been erected in the People’s Cemetery by Carins and MacLean’s Marble Works, in memory of Mr. James Puncher.
For the first 60 years there were only two caretakers, Mr. Samuel Gregory and his son, Seymour, who earned their living by opening and closing graves and caring for plots which people paid them to maintain. This resulted in a patchwork of neatly maintained graves mixed in with overgrown areas.
Although, in 1913, the Act of Incorporation was amended to provide for selling plots with perpetual care, it seems the operation of the cemetery was left with the caretakers and as the original shareholders died, no meetings had been held, and organization floundered. When the last person holding shares died in 1943, here was a company that had not held a meeting for many years, had no officers and no funds. At this time, N. D. MacLean, along with Ed Nicholson and Percy Turner, selected a committee comprised of representatives of the different Protestant Congregations, who approached the government of the day to pass the necessary legislation to have the committee take over the cemetery and run it for the benefit of the plot holders. Mr. MacLean was appointed managing director, a position he held from 1943 to 1969 with no remuneration of any kind. Under his leadership, the board established the policy of selling plots with perpetual care and assuming responsibility for the care of the entire cemetery. During this period, there was an appeal for the funds to provide initial operating funds for necessary equipment and maintaining the cemetery. At this time, the cemetery was charted completely as possible, as early records were incomplete or non-existent, and for the most part were in the heads of the Gregorys.
The close association of the Protestant and Roman Catholic cemeteries must be a very early example of ecumenical activity, and it is of interest to note the history of the Catholic cemeteries, especially when the earliest Catholic Cemetery was located nearby on the other side of the St. Peter’s Road. This cemetery started in 1811, was in use until 1843, when the Catholic Cemetery on Longworth Ave was opened. The Longworth Ave. Cemetery remained in use until 1884, when the adjoining Roman Catholic Cemetery opened. In 1869, the earlier Catholic Cemetery on St. Peter’s Road was acquired by St. Peter’s Anglican Church and remains in use by that congregation today. The Patriot of June 25th, 1884 noted the preparation of the Catholic Cemetery is almost completed. The grounds had been tastefully laid out into 520 plots.

Notable people buried in the cemetery
Of special significance is the interment of six former premiers of the province of Prince Edward Momument for Premiers buried in The People's Cemetery CharlottetownIsland. (Monument to right) On the Protestant side, there is A. B. Warburton, premier from 1897 to 1898 in plot 62, Donald Farquharson, premier from 1899 to 1901 in plot 486, James Stewart, premier from 1923 to 1927 and 1931 to 1933 in plot 1030. Roman Catholic premiers were William Sullivan, 1879 to 1899, Albin Arsenault, premier from 1917 to 1919 and W. J. P. MacMillan, premier 1933 to 1935 and also Andrew A. MacDonald, a father of Confederation in plot 466.
A walk through the Cemeteries will reveal many other prominent and well known names interred over the last 125 years.
Theo J. Farquarson fallen firefighterAnother notable interment is the only Charlottetown fireman who died from injuries while fighting a fire. Theo J. Farquharson was injured while fighting a fire on August 30th, 1890 and died September 1st 1890, at age 35 years old. A monument was erected by the citizens and may be seen at plot 254. (monument photo to left)
More modern history of the cemetery saw a receiving vault constructed in 1993 with a capacity for 45 remains. In 2003, a thirty two niche columbarium was added.
The present day executive consists of Douglas MacDonald as Chair and Members: Neil MacDonald and Paul Livingston, Property Committee, J. Scott MacKenzie, Q.C., and Carl Hansen Finance, and James Walker.
It is well to remember those who have gone before and who have made this city and province what it is today. We must also be aware of how easy it is for cemeteries to become neglected and to suffer vandalism. In the past this cemetery had not been immune to neglect, and vandalism occurred at various times. Both cemeteries are now in excellent condition and are continually well cared for. Let us resolve to continue to honour and care for the sacred grounds where our ancestors are resting.