November 29th, 2021

Tour gives history lesson at St. Patrick’s Cemetery

By Dale Woodard on October 21, 2021.

A history lesson via a tour of headstones took place Saturday night.
As the sun started to set over the coulees, a small group of visitors gathered at St. Patrick’s Cemetery to learn about residents from yesteryear who shaped Lethbridge’s past and are now laid to rest at the cemetery established in December of 1886.
“We’ve done cemetery tours for years,” said Rebecca Wilde, museum educator at the Galt Museum. “It’s a way for people in our community to connect with our history through the cemetery. I’m talking about some of the individuals who established our community and who have had an impact and talk about how that fits in with the whole narrative of our growing city.”
The cemetery was referred to as the Miners’ Cemetery and the Pioneer Cemetery in the early days and was divided into three sections, a Roman Catholic section on the west, a Protestant section on the east and a Chinese section on the south east.
Wilde said the tours took place in the summer and sometimes are carried into the fall.
“I also do them with school groups, especially the Grade 4 curriculum, that’s a really good connecting point about local history. It’s really engaging for the students and it’s been great,” she said. “St. Patrick’s, in particular, is an older cemetery, so some of the early miners. A lot of them are just regular people, but their stories are pretty representative of a variety of individuals.”
Among the stops on the tour was the resting place of Way Leong and Florence Way, owners of both the Wing Wah Chong and Bow On Tong buildings.
Another stop on the tour featured a younger subject, Peachie Cox, who was killed in an accident as an 11-year-old. 
“There’s so much tragedy,” said Wilde. “This cemetery in particular, there are so many infants and young children dying of illness or accidents, just the situation in those early days.”
The cemetery also includes the final resting places of miners who were killed in accidents or died of lung infections, as well as Harry Kamose Taylor.
“He had the honour of being the first whisky trader arrested by the Northwest Mounted Police,” said Wilde. “He’s an interesting character. He went on to run a hotel in Fort Macleod.”
The interment records for St. Patrick’s Cemetery were destroyed in a church fire in the early 1950’s. 
Today interment records are provided by the Alberta Genealogical Society Lethbridge Branch based solely on headstones already in place before the fire.
The records are incomplete because in many cases families could not always afford to place a monument.
Still, Wilde noted the importance of the tours in linking people to Lethbridge’s past.
“I think it’s a really accessible connecting point for people, just the circle of life, people who have come here and been and gone, the lives they lived and how they contributed,” she said. “I think with all of us going through this pandemic together it makes you confront these things about ‘What will be my legacy?’. So I think that has maybe been a little bit more on people’s minds.”

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