Remember This? The Emperor poet comes to Ottawa

The Beechwood Cemetery, located on Beechwood Avenue and Hemlock Road in Vanier, is the largest cemetery in Ottawa encompassing roughly 160 acres of wooded land.

It is the resting place for more than 85,000 persons from every walk of life. Leaders such as Sir Robert Borden, Canada’s prime minister from 1911 to 1920, and Ramon Hnatyshyn, Canada’s Governor General from 1990 to 1995 are buried there. Lumber barons, military heroes, sportsmen and poets also rest at the Beechwood Cemetery as do felons and at least one executed murderer. It shady walks provide a fascinating journey into Ottawa’s past as well as a peaceful sanctuary for reflection and contemplation.

Its story begins just a few years after Confederation. Ottawa’s Protestant and Roman Catholic cemeteries in Sandy Hill were fast filling up, and congregations began to look further afield for new burial grounds for their departed flocks. The Roman Catholic Church found a site to the east of Ottawa on the 'King’s Road', now known as Montreal Road. The fifty-acre site was purchased by the Church from a Mr. Bradley. Named Notre Dame Cemetery, the new Roman Catholic burial ground was consecrated at 5 p.m. on June 2 1872 by Bishop Guigues. An immense crowd, apparently in the thousands, attended the ceremony. Father Malloy preached in English, with “another reverend gentleman” speaking in French, according the Ottawa Daily Citizen.

It was more difficult to organize the Protestant congregations. Many meetings of church representatives were held in the Lecture Room of the Mechanics’ Institute to discuss the issue and vote on alternatives. A sub-committee was formed to visit suitable sites, of which there were many, including even a site across the Ottawa River in Hull. That site was quickly rejected as being vastly too expensive. On the Ottawa side, the sub-committee considered several farms, including the Baine, Blaisdell, and Bradley properties to the west of the city. All were rejected as unsuitable.

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