Union Cemetery – Calgary: Part Four

I know, I know.  I can just imagine you looking at the blog post title, throwing up your arms in despair and saying, “She’s talking about graves. Again!’  But this is the last time, I promise. At least from Union Cemetery. (I still have to take the tours of Burnsland and St Mary’s cemeteries.)

VIEWAlthough not all of the people buried in Union Cemetery have grave markers, they all have a story. As a writer, here are a few of the stories I learned on the cemetery tour which – while not about the great and the good – really piqued my interest.

The first I found really touching – because I pass by this place every day when I walk my dog – was the story of a young engaged couple who were killed on the corner of Prospect Ave and 10th Street SW. Apparently he went to pick up his fiancée, who lived in a rooming house on Prospect Ave, to go for a walk one day. Mount Royal is – not surprisingly given its name – on a hill. When they were caught in a thunderstorm, a bolt of lightning ended their lives. Their grave is unmarked and their story leaves me with so many unanswered questions. What were their names? Where did they come from? What ages were they? What were their dreams? How soon did they plan to marry? What were their occupations? Such a tragic loss.

SMITHI love the story of Jimmy Smith who emigrated to Calgary from China. Determined to become ‘Canadian’, he dressed in western clothes and was known only by his ‘English’ name. A cook at the Grand Hotel in Calgary, he died of TB but left $1,500 to go towards the building of Calgary’s first hospital, the Calgary General Hospital. His marker was provided by both the Nurses Union of Alberta and the Chinese Community of Calgary. What was his ‘real Chinese name?’ someone on the tour asked. A couple who spoke Chinese looked at the  Chinese characters and smiled.  ‘Jimmy Smith,’ they  replied.

I’ve talked about Peter Prince – a lumber merchant from Quebec – before in my blog. His house can be found at Heritage Park and his office still serves as a restaurant – 1886 Cafe – in Eau Claire. After Prince’s first wife Marguerite died of diabetes (he is buried alongside her in St Mary’s Cemetery) he married three more times. Hmmm, I can hear you thinking. Sounds a bit dodgy. But remember, those were different times. You could not have a single woman in your home unless you were married to her. He married Emma – who had been a invalid for some time – who died in 1902. His third wife, Rosa, died of cancer in 1907. Emily, his fourth wife, outlived him by 19 years. Her grave is unmarked, but she is buried with Rosa and Emily in Union Cemetery.

There are so many other graves and so many stories: Sam Livingstone who brought fruit trees to Alberta and fed the NWMP through their first hard winter in Calgary; Maude Riley, who made a pact with God after she almost died in childbirth, brought in laws to protect children and is commemorated by Riley Park; Fred Collings, a runner for the telegraph office, who died when he and another boy were cleaning their revolvers. Thinking the chambers empty, they fought a ‘duel’.

What a rich and colourful tapestry.

TREEI learned other things about the symbols to be found in graveyards. We know that children are often represented by lambs or little shoes, but a grave marked by a tree stump also represents a life cut short.

What about an anchor? – The symbol of faith.

Or what about this grave? Given the name and lack of dates… what story does it conceal?

SHERLOCK

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Union Cemetery – Calgary: Part Three

I first moved to Calgary when the city was little more than one hundred years old. Coming from a country where a ‘new’ bridge built to replace an ‘old’ one could still be 500 years old, it didn’t seem to me that a place like Calgary could have much history.

What an arrogant attitude!

In the first place, the peoples of the First Nations had lived here for thousands of years with a history and traditions as old – if not older – than that of my home country.

Secondly.. we might think of history as being the realm of kings and queens, dukes and earls, generals and admirals, after all, they’re the ones who get their names in the history books. But REAL history is made by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And when you see a city transformed from a simple wooden fort to a shining metropolis in less than four generations… well that’s purely down to the ambition, hard work and vision of those ‘ordinary’ people.

Here are two of those people whose graves can be found in Union Cemetery.

MACLOEDCOLONEL JAMES FARQUHARSON MACLEOD: Born in Scotland in 1836, he trained in Ontario as a lawyer, before joining the NWMP. Macleod was part of the famous March West in 1874, its remit being to establish law and order, stop the illegal whiskey trade, protect Canada’s border from encroachment by the Americans, and open up preliminary negotiations with the First Nations. He founded the fort, named in his honour – Fort Macleod – in what is now Alberta on the US/Canada border.

In 1875, he ordered Inspector Brisbois and 50 men from ‘F’ tropp to establish a post on the Bow River. Initially called Fort Brisbois, the name was changed to Calgary (after a village in Scotland) on the suggestion of Colonel Macleod.

Trusted by the First Nations as an honourable man, he was one of the signatories to Treaty Number 7 with the mainly Blackfoot First Nations.

Despite being Commissioner of the NWMP and working as a magistrate and judge, he died in 1894 a poor man, leaving a wife, five children and just $8.

WAREJOHN WARE: Born into slavery in South Carolina in 1845, he moved west at the end of the American Civil War, finding work on a ranch in Texas where he became a skilled horseman. In 1882 he came to Canada on one of the great cattle drives north. He worked on various ranches (including the famous Bar U) before buying his own homestead in 1890 and then creating a ranch east of Brooks. Over time, he owned 1,000 head of cattle and 100 horses under his 9999 (The Four Nine) brand.

Tragically, for a man of whom it was said, “The horse is not running on the prairie that John Ware can’t ride,” he died on September 12th, 1905 when his horse stumbled on a gopher hole and fell on him. He was killed instantly.

John Ware‘s name is remembered in Calgary by John Ware Junior High School and the John Ware Building at the Southern Alberta Insititute of Technology. He is also commemorated in Mount Ware and Ware Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

Union Cemetery – Calgary. Part 1

ENTRANCEIf you ever find yourself at a loss for something to do on a Sunday afternoon (May-October) and fancy learning more about Calgary’s history, pull on a pair of walking shoes, grab a bottle of water and a can of bug spray, and head down to Union Cemetery, established in 1891 (just off Macleod Trail and Spiller Road SE) to enjoy a volunteer-led tour of the cemetery.

Here you’ll learn about the great, the good, the characters, philanthropists, mounties, soldiers, ex-slave, politicians, ex-husband of a mistress of The Prince of Wales, survivors of the Titanic disaster – and many more – who have added to the richness of this beautiful city.

CAPPYFirst up is JAMES ‘CAPPY’ SMITH, a Scot who arrived in Calgary on October 19th, 1883 to a city of ‘nothing but a village of tents’. He worked in a sawmill before signing up with Calgary’s young fire department. He was appointed chief in 1898 and remained in that position until 1933. He was a blunt spoken man who led by example and should the crowds get too close to a fire and refuse to listen to his orders to get back, he would simply turn that fire hose on them! He led the Stampede Parade for many years, owned 3 bears, an alligator, a monkey and a parrot!

DENNYNext is SIR CECIL EDWARD DENNY. Born in England, Denny emigrated to the US when he was nineteen, before moving north to Canada. He joined the North West Mounted Police for the famous March West in 1874, traveling north from Fort Macleod in the fall of 1875 to build Fort Calgary. He was one of the signatories at Treaty Number 7 but forced to resign from the NWMP when he had an affair with a colleague’s wife. Denny then became an Indian Agent and archivist and can truly be called one of Calgary’s founding fathers.

Now comes my personal favourite. WILLIAM DUDLEY WARD. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan and watched the 2013 Christmas Special, or if you know anything of the goings-on of the Prince of Wales at the beginning of the 20th century, you should recognize the name, because his wife Freda Dudley-Ward was the long-time mistress of Edward Prince of Wales before Wallis Simpson came into the picture.

WARD1    WARD2

WARD3 I have to admit, finding his grave raised more questions than answers. Why did a man, born into great wealth and privilege, educated at Eton and Cambridge, a possible spy and British MP who divorced his wife in 1931, end up in Calgary where he died at aged 69 following an operation? Hmmmm.  I’m going to be down at the library this week checking that out!

BETNLEYBut perhaps one of the most moving memorials in the cemetery is that of the Bentley family. An ordinary young couple, it is a sobering reminder that life is fragile and to be treasured. On May 7, 1918, Orlie Bentley gave birth to a daughter, Helena. Four days later, the infant died of exhaustion due to an inability to ‘latch on’ and feed. Within three weeks, Orlie herself was dead from ‘childbed fever’, all-too-common amongst women before the mid-20th century. Tragically, only six months later, James died from the Spanish flu which struck Calgary in October 1918.  He was only twenty-eight.

I’ll continue with more stories from Union Cemetery in my Wednesday post.