Calgary’s Potter’s Field — the Final Resting Place for the Unwanted

Have you ever wondered what happens to the homeless or the destitute when they die? Well, I have, and I still don’t really know what the answer is to that question because no one talks about it. But, I have found some answers that may shed light on the question.

In many cities, there is what is called “Potter’s Field.” The term Potters Field comes from the book of Matthew in the bible: (Matthew 27:7-10) So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” In other words: A piece of ground appropriated as a burial ground for the destitute and the unknown.

In Calgary, you can find the historic Potter’s Field in the southernmost point of Union Cemetery, nestled between the R section and the X section. In 1904 the first burial occurred in the field and rumour has it that there are about a thousand of Calgary’s early homeless, unwanted, and destitute.

When I looked at Potter’s Field I couldn’t help but think: it’s really small. They must have worked hard to cram a thousand people into a field roughly the size of a large house. The area has also been overrun by gophers who have no doubt gotten a good glimpse at what lies below the surface of the ground. I felt kind of sad when I saw two flower holders, both rusted, and unused.

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Not all buried in Potter’s Field are unknown. In the summer you can go on a tour that focuses on the heroes and villains of Calgary’s early history. During the tour, you are told the tale of the notorious criminal Ernest Cashel who escaped custody twice before finally being executed and buried in Potter’s Field.

I don’t know what happens to today’s Calgary homeless when they pass away. If anyone knows the answer to this, leave a comment below.

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4 comments on “Calgary’s Potter’s Field — the Final Resting Place for the UnwantedAdd yours →

  1. I’m from Calgary and the New York Times article is based on a database I provided the Times. I believe my grandfather’s cremains were interred in Potter’s Field Calgary in the early 1950s.

  2. Maybe some organization could be started to identify those and bring them to their final resting place

  3. Does anyone know if there is a record of who is buried there, if their name was known? Looking for a cousins grandmothers that passed in 1913

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