July 22, 2021
By: Adam Reeson
For anyone who loves history as much as I do, cemeteries can seem like more of an outdoor museum than a creepy graveyard, as they are sometimes portrayed in movies.
Foremost of the ‘outdoor museums’ in the Queen City is located on the corner of 4th Avenue and Broad Street – Historic Regina Cemetery.
History of Regina Cemetery
Many are surprised to learn that even before Regina officially became a city in 1903, the community had established a cemetery. According to the City of Regina, Regina Cemetery was created in 1883 – making it one of Saskatchewan’s oldest urban cemeteries.
The hallowed grounds of Regina Cemetery are home to many prominent people who helped built our city. The lengthy list includes the likes of Saskatchewan Roughriders legend Neil J. “Piffles” Taylor (the namesake of Taylor Field) and former mayor/ entrepreneur, Francis Nicholson Darke (the namesake of Darke Hall).
Aside from public figures, Regina Cemetery is also the final resting place for victims of notable events in the city’s history. These include the north-west rebellion, Regina Cyclone, Spanish Influenza and Regina Riot in addition to Veterans of both World Wars.
Today, Regina Cemetery is mostly full. However, there are actually a few plots still for sale as well as cremation burials in family graves or the columbarium.
Monuments and Headstones at Regina Cemetery
As a self-described monument-nerd, Regina Cemetery is one of my favourite places to visit! With limited regulations in place initially, families could be as elaborate as they liked – resulting in some incredible monuments and headstones being installed.
The old-school craftsmanship is inspiring to me as a memorialist today – but also stands as a lasting tribute to the skilled artisans who built these memorials to stand the test of time many decades ago.
Today, whenever a customer inquires about creating a monument to be installed in the Old Regina Cemetery, I think of these pioneers of the local monument industry (including my Great-Grandfather) and do my best to live up the the high standards they set back then.
For many folks, the idea of exploring the old cemetery is intriguing, but where do you start?
That’s where guided cemetery tours come in. In the 1990s, my Father, Dave Reeson, was involved in organizing the first tours, including the creation of a booklet for self-guided tours. Fast-forward a couple decades and a man I’m proud to call my friend, Kenton de Jong, launched his own take on the tours.
Kenton’s efforts were largely made to help raise money to pay for the creation of a Spanish Flu monument for the cemetery to honour the over 300 Regina citizens who perished due to the pandemic.
The modern tours were interesting, entertaining and believe it or not – drew huge crowds, even when they took place at the same time as a Roughrider game! Not resting on his laurels, de Jong then created a Regina Cemetery tours video game, to help a younger audience learn about this special place.
Regardless if you’re a historian, video game enthusiast, or monument nerd such as myself – the historic Regina Cemetery is a little pocket of the Queen City that absolutely must be explored! Hope to see you there.
For Frontier Monuments, I’m Adam Reeson.