Walking The Graves at The Regina Cemetery September 27, 2016 · 10 min. read
Among the tombstones of the Regina Cemetery are little blue and white flags. In 1993 the Regina Ethnic Pioneers Cemetery Walking Tour put together their first tour, which focused on the city's founding fathers. In 1999 they then put together the second tour, which focused on the diversity of immigrants that live within the city. The blue flags mark the path of the first tour and the white flags mark those of the second.
The walking tours are self-guided, and can be purchased at the Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery for $2. Together, they offer over eighty different locations to visit.
For this project I teamed up with Patti Haus from I Heart Regina. She's another local blogger that has just broken into the scene and blogs about food, drinks and things to see around the Queen City. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She provided many of the pictures for this article.
Although the cemetery opened in 1883, the first burial happened a year earlier. This burial was for a two-year-old boy named David Lindsay. How he died is unknown as there was no proper record keeping at the time. This grave even predates the oldest building in Regina – the Chapel at the RCMP Depot. His grave is the oldest relic of our city's history.
The older (or more south-eastern) parts of the cemetery also show the frequent dangers of early childbirth, with many child graves. These are generally decorated with angels or lambs resting above the gravestones.
Francis Nicholson Darke is also buried in this cemetery, in the cemetery's only mausoleum. Built of Tyndall Stone, this monument is a testament to the hard work and community influence Darke had over the city at the start of the Twentieth Century. I've written about Darke many times in my blog as he is the creator of Darke Hall, the Regina College and Stone Hall Castle – a castle he made for his wife Annie. Darke's mausoleum is also popular with vandals and has the scars of many attempted break and enters.
Four victims of the devastating Regina Cyclone can also be found in the cemetery – Mary Shaw, James McDougall, Ida McDougall and Catherine Barb McDougall. Because Catherine McDougall would die from her injuries six months after the tornado swept through the city, she is not recognised as one of the twenty-eight victims. She was eight years old.
The cemetery also holds the graves of the two Regina Police officers killed in the line of duty. It is amazing that in the past 132 years of service, the Regina Police have only ever lost two officers and they both happened during the 1930s. Let's hope that doesn't change anytime soon!
The first officer that died in the line of duty was Constable George Anthony Lenhard. In 1933, near the now abandoned Canadian Liquid Air Plant, he noticed three men attempting to break into the building. As he approached the subjects, he was shot three times in his back. His murder devastated the city and led to a 100 officer strong, city-wide manhunt. The killers were never found.
The second officer perished in the Regina Riot of 1935. As 1,000 unemployed farmers rode the rails into Regina during the On-To-Ottawa Trek, their journey was halted by the RCMP at the request of the federal government. The farmers then set up a camp close to Regina's downtown area. As their numbers increased, the local authorities moved in to arrest the group leaders. This caused the camp to erupt into violence and bled into downtown. Windows were smashed, shops were looted and plain-clothed Detective Charles Rait Miller was clubbed to death. Detective Miller was a Scottish World War I veteran.
One rioter that was arrested was Nicholas John Schaack. He was in the camp when the police arrived. He, along with 149 other people, was arrested for rioting under the belief they were planning an "armed revolution". Nicholas was released from prison and excused from the rioting charge due to a "nervous condition". He would die three months later from a heart disorder and pneumonia. While the guide book claims his grave is a small wrought iron cross, it has since been replaced by a large black obelisk.
In the centre of the cemetery is the Soldier's Cemetery. The Cross of Sacrifice stands in the middle of the endless sea of small, white graves of humble men and women who risked their lives overseas. Take a moment while you're here to read over the gravestones and remember them. Visit this location – or its sister cenotaph in Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery – this November 11th as the cemetery is open on holidays.
West of the Soldier's Cemetery are the graves of John and Florea Alecxe, two Romanian immigrants that arrived in the early 1900s. While the name "John Alecxe" might not mean much to Regina residents today, his profession might: he is remembered as The Popcorn Man. He, and his two sons, operated a popcorn cart for over 50 years, from 1926 through until the 1970s. Alecxe sold popcorn at the World Grain Exhibition and Conference and established the Broadway Popcorn Stand in 1938. His popcorn is remembered fondly by many Reginan residents. His stand was donated to the Regina Plains Museum – now the Regina Civic Museum – which closed last year.
In 1918 the Spanish Flu arrived in Regina and killed over 330 people, and Tony Ashio was one of them. He was the first Japanese person to be buried in the cemetery, and one of the few Spanish Flu victims to have a marked grave. People were dying so quickly that Speers Funeral Home was forced to reduce funerals to 15 minutes to deal with all the bodies. I contacted Speers about where the bodies were buried, but my call was never returned. However, the guidebook says many of the victims ended up in the northern, marshy end of the cemetery in unmarked graves.
The last place I visited was the designated "Jewish Cemetery". Unlike the other cemetery which has plenty of space between the graves, the Jewish Cemetery does not. This cemetery is unique as the gravestones face the opposite away from where the bodies are buried, not over top of them.
This part of the cemetery is also home to 92 Jewish victims of the Spanish Flu.
When visiting the cemetery, it is best to walk with caution. Many of the graves have sunk or shifted over the past century, and some of the graves have sunken below the earth. Remember to keep an eye out for where you step when taking the tour.
Cemeteries are also a favourite for vandals, and this one is no different. While headstones can topple due to decay, or statues can break and crack due to the elements, there are also broken crosses, kicked over headstones and smashed "false crypts". This destruction is not done by nature, but by man. This desecration is common in the Jewish Cemetery, but is rampant throughout the whole cemetery. Even children's graves have been destroyed, so please walk with caution while in the cemetery and contact the police if you see any suspicious activity.
Would you be interested in taking a tour of the cemetery? Did you ever visit John Alecxe's popcorn stand? How was it? Let me know in the comments below!
Another big thank you to Patti Haus from I Heart Regina for taking some of the pictures for this article! Be sure to check out her blog for more things about the Queen City!
This article would not be possible without the research and hard-work done by the people over at the Regina Ethnic Pioneers Cemetery Walking Tours Inc, the Historical Society and Eileen Schuster. If you're interested in learning more about the cemetery, you can buy the guide books for $2 each at the Riverside Memorial Park Cemetery.
Don't forget to pin it!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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