Kamloops Pioneer Cemetery
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Pioneer Cemetery is located north of Lorne Street at the northeast end of Kamloops. Set on flat terrain overlooking the Thompson River and surrounded by a screen of mature deciduous and coniferous trees, the Pioneer Cemetery was closed in approximately 1900 and now functions as a park. A number of original tombstones have been relocated to the southwest corner of the site.
The Pioneer Cemetery is valued as the oldest burial ground in Kamloops, adapted over time to suit changing community needs and demographics. Initially established in 1876 on land owned by rancher John Peterson (1825-1908), the cemetery provided a privately-owned space for the burial of early Kamloops residents. During the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the area from 1883 to 1885, and the subsequent population and economic boom, the Kamloops town site extended east, and Peterson’s land - including the title to the cemetery - was purchased by the New Town Syndicate in 1884. The syndicate charged a small fee for burial in what was, at the time, the only local cemetery. The City of Kamloops was incorporated in 1893, and five years later purchased land for the first public cemetery, which became the Pleasant Street Cemetery. The Pioneer Cemetery was used until approximately 1900. Over time, it fell into disrepair and the tombstones were vandalized. In 1962, the provincial government directed the City to look after the site, which was then converted into a park. The remaining tombstones were relocated to the southwest corner of the site, laid horizontally in concrete and surrounded by the remains of an historic wrought iron fence.
A physical testament to the strength and early beginnings of the Kamloops community, the cemetery embodies a collective memory and spirit. Many early residents were interred at the cemetery, including community members whose lives reflect the history, development, heroism and tragedies of the early history of Kamloops. The earliest remaining headstone is that of John Tannatt Ussher (1844-1879), noted as “Killed by the McLean Bros.” Other pioneers buried here include John Peterson and his wife, Margaret Alexandra (died 1898) Daniel Berkley Wiley (1832-1889), Peter J. Fraser (1869-1895), Reverend Freeman Harding (1842-1893) and members of the Edwards, Latremouille and Hancock families.
The cemetery also features many decorative and unique monuments and headstones, in materials such as sandstone, granite and marble, that are valued because they capture the fundamental nature of the cemetery's original design as a rustic Victorian park cemetery. These tombstones were generally vertical, monumental in style and inscribed with traditional Victorian symbols of death such as the scroll, column, tree trunk, clasped hands and star.
Source: City of Kamloops Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Pioneer Cemetery include its:
- location on historic Lorne Street with views of the Thompson River
- open expanse of lawn with a perimeter screen of mature deciduous trees
- variety of high quality gravestone materials such as carved granite, sandstone and marble
- variety of gravestone styles such as shouldered, domed and screened headstones, and flat plaque and slat-faced markers and column types such as sawed-off tree stumps, obelisks, and columns topped by spheres
- variety of Victorian gravestone symbols such as epitaphs, religious and plant/floral motifs, and body symbolism
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Philosophy and Spirituality
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Kamloops Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection