The Union Cemetery

The Union Cemetery is one of the oldest graveyards in Calgary. Here you will find many of the founding fathers of Calgary and also the graves of many of the early NWMP officers. The Union Cemetery is very picturesque and has many interesting sights and stories.

When Union Cemetery was established in 1891, the cost of a single plot was five dollars and the cost for a double plot was ten dollars. Pretty cheap when you think about how expensive plots are these days! There were other fees associated with the burial of a body as well.

First, there was a two dollar charge for digging and filling the grave. This was necessary as all graves at this point in time were dug by hand. If it took an hour to dig a grave, was the grave digger making $2 an hour? If there were two did they split the cost? That is actually a lot of cash for this day and age. The average soldier during World War 1 made a whopping $1 a day.

Because the graves were dug by hand, they obviously couldn’t be dug during the winter months (in Calgary that seems like most of the year) when the ground was frozen. So, if the death occurred during the winter months, there was also a $2 storage-until-spring fee.

In all, the $9 fee for a plot and burial was a significant amount of cash for this period in time and this didn’t include the cost of the headstone and casket.

The cost for burial was especially expensive given the fact that the Union Cemetery was in a really inconvenient location. At the turn of the 20th century, Calgary was chiefly located in the Inglewood area, on the Northeast Side of the Elbow River.

Since no bridge existed and the Union cemetery was on the other side of the river, funeral carriages had to muck around on the steep banks of the Elbow River and work their way through fairly deep and hazardous water to cross. Mourners had to wait for the ferryman to row them over, a few at a time. It makes me wonder how many bodies were lost in the river or had to be fished out before burial.

This, of course, all changed as Calgary grew, and now the Cemetery is centrally located and overlooks both downtown and the stampede grounds. Across the street is the Burnsland Cemetery where other early Calgary settlers are also buried.

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