Woodlawn Cemetery History
Woodlawn cemetery was established in 1906.
Until 1904, the Nutana (Pioneer) Cemetery south of the river in the original 1883 Temperance Colony settlement, was Saskatoon's only burial grounds. That year, the Summerdale Cemetery opened west of Saskatoon in Smithville, and some burials were done there, as well as at the St. Paul's Roman Catholic Cemetery, which was established by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatchewan in 1905.
By then, it was clear that Saskatoon needed a cemetery north of the river, where most of the people now lived. For one thing, since there was no traffic bridge yet, simply getting to Nutana was difficult. As well, Nutana and Saskatoon -- the present-day downtown -- were separate towns.
A petition submitted to Council in 1905 states:
- "Whereas the Town of Saskatoon has no Cemetery and is obliged to inter its dead in the cemetery situated in Nutana or the cemetery situated at Smithville.
- And whereas the cemetery at Smithville is situated about six miles West from Saskatoon and is too far from Saskatoon to be convenient for its Citizens.
- And whereas the roads leading to the Nutana Cemetery are very poor and unsafe to use a hearse thereon.
- And whereas many people are prevented from attending funerals of their friends at the Nutana cemetry on account of the said roads and at the Smithville cemetery on account of the distance.
- And whereas it is desirable that the Town of Saskatoon should have a cemetery of its own.
- Wherefore your petitioners pray that the Council of the Town of Saskatoon shall provide a suitable cemetery for the said town and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray."
The site selected was next to the Roman Catholic cemetery, which was transferred to the City in 1918. Although the last burial in the Nutana (Pioneer) Cemetery was in 1948, Woodlawn was the official cemetery from the time it opened. The first recorded burial was that of an infant, on January 5, 1906. Some unidentified burials are known to have occurred while the Catholic Cemetery was in exclusive use of the site.
Based on current usage, Woodlawn Cemetery is expected to continue as Saskatoon's municipal cemetery for at least another 30 years.
"That mark our place..." These words, from the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae, a medical officer in the 1st World War, have helped to create a symbol of remembrance for Canada and the world. Another symbol of remembrance, a marker of a different sort but with the same love and respect, was created and still exists in Saskatoon.
A Special Memorial
On June 23, 1923 the Next-Of-Kin Memorial Avenue of Trees was dedicated at Woodlawn Cemetery to commemorate those killed during the Great War of 1914-1918.
It came out of the efforts of two Saskatoon women, Mrs. A.H. Hanson and Mrs. J.W.A. Jarvis, who proposed that a tree planted along a road through the cemetery, along with a plaque, for each individual killed in the war. Both women served on the Education Committee of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, (IODE), which was in full support of the idea. With support from various groups in Saskatoon as well as City Council, the idea became a reality.
Larger Than One War
On that June day in 1923, the Next-Of-Kin Memorial Avenue of Trees was officially consecrated. The ceremony that day was to be the first annual memorial service. Since that time, the yearly event and scope of the Avenue has been expanded to memorialize the family members who died in both world wars, as well as the Korean War, and trees have been planted in many of their memories. Each year, a ceremony is held at a stone cairn in the Woodlawn Cemetery. At that first ceremony in 1923, 265 trees were dedicated. In the years since, the number has grown to over 1,200. The ceremony and the Memorial Avenue have continued to be a focus of remembrance and gratitude to those who gave their lives in the conflicts that the nation has been involved in.
Times have changed since Mrs. Hanson and Mrs. Jarvis came up with the idea for the Avenue. The organization of the decoration day ceremony was originally the responsibility of the Military Chapter of the IODE. When that chapter disbanded, the duties moved to the Golden West Chapter of the IODE. Now the City of Saskatoon plays the largest part, with the assistance of various veteran's organizations. As well, the scope of the project has widened to include veterans who died after the wars, as well as veterans from other countries.
A Once Popular Memorial
Memorial avenues were once a popular means of remembrance. They appeared as a change from the types of memorials that were usually erected to the fallen, such as statuary and practical memorials such as buildings. A report in the Daily Phoenix in Saskatoon thought that an avenue of living trees would symbolize the victory of life over death, and be uplifting to both the eye and soul. Coming after the First World War, one of the images that they tried to reflect were the tree lined avenues of France, where so much of the imagery reflecting the First World War springs from. As well, the imagery of a living memorial to the fallen dead was important. To quote a letter, itself quoted in the Agenda Paper of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, from the Saskatoon IODE branch that began the project:
A tree is a living memorial often more enduring than marble or bronze; a tree is a thing of beauty and of inspiration -- a living token of the wonder and glory of nature-- a symbol of service-- for the life of a tree is a life of service, even the end of life is not the end of a tree's service; to the contrary, the end of a life opens new fields of service which add immeasurably to our civilization, our culture, and our happiness; therefore, is not a tree a fitting symbol for those valiant men who gave their lives for the service of their country and who died that humanity might continue to live in civilization, in culture, and in happiness?
Memorial avenues of this type became popular in Canada, the United States and England. A number of these avenues were developed and promoted in Canada. The first is thought to have been in Victoria, B.C. Others were developed in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Calgary, Alberta; Montreal, Quebec; and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Saskatoon's is the only one to remain intact.
A New Designation
In 1991, Jim Hall, an Executive Committee member of the Royal Canadian Legion, contacted the Historic Sites and Monuments Board with the proposal that the Memorial Avenue be declared a National Historic Site. Gordon Fulton, along with Fern Graham, both of the Parks Service Architectural History Branch, researched roads of remembrance in Canada and prepared a report for the Historic Monuments Board.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada met in November of 1992. At this meeting, they considered Mr. Hall's proposal and recommended to the Federal Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Jean Charest, that the proposal be approved. Having the approval of the Minister, after lengthy discussion, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recommended that:
Saskatoon's Next-of-Kin Memorial Avenue, an excellent example of the "Roads to Remembrance" phenomenon which developed to honour First World War dead, and the only such boulevard in Canada to have retained its integrity, is of national historic and architectural significance and should be commemorated by means of a plaque.
A plaque was unveiled in a special ceremony that took place during the annual Decoration Day Memorial Service at the Soldiers' Cairn in Woodlawn Cemetery on Sunday, August 28, 1994. Saskatoon's Next-of-Kin Memorial Avenue has been officially recognized as a site of national historic significance.
Community Leaders Buried at Woodlawn
The following are biographies of noteworthy individuals of various types who have helped make Saskatoon the place it is today, and who are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Politicians and Founders
Anderson, James Thomas Milton
Sutherland, William Charles
Wilson, James Robert
Wright, Clfford Emerson, O.C.
Young, Alexander M.
The Arts and Education
Many pioneers were buried at the Nutana Cemetery or the Smithville Cemetery before the creation of St. Paul's Catholic Cemetery in 1905 and Woodlawn's creation in 1906. The following are some of those buried at Woodlawn Cemetery who are recorded in public records as having been pioneers to Saskatoon:
Business and Labour
Other Noteworthy Burials