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Northern Cemeteries and Graves

The Whitehorse Pioneer Cemetery

by Murray Lundberg

Pioneer Cemetery, Whitehorse, Yukon

The following description of the Pioneer Cemetery is from the 44-page booklet A Guide to Who Lies Beneath Whitehorse Cemeteries (pdf, 1.2MB), published in 2000 by the Old Log Church Museum and Yukon Tourism and Culture.

    Established in 1900, this quaint cemetery located in the city's downtown core was originally known as the 6th Avenue Cemetery. While the cemetery's tranquil setting nestled under the escarpment in a grove of trees seemed an ideal resting place for the dearly departed, it sparked controversy.

    A letter from H. M. Martin, Crown Timber and Land Agent, to the Territorial Commissioner, Fred T. Congdon, raised concern that the cemetery posed a potential health risk. He feared the decomposing bodies would seep through the soil into the water table and contaminate the well water. On January 6, 1908, a petition signed by 100 townspeople requested that the cemetery be moved to the outskirts of town near where the airport is now located. The petition was unsuccessful.

    During the 1960s, the cemetery suffered from neglect as the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon Government argued as to which political body was responsible for its upkeep. Eventually the issue was resolved and the city took responsibility only after the cemetery had fallen into serious disrepair. In the 1970s, a well meaning but misguided attempt to clean up the cemetery resulted in a number of worn grave markers being discarded. As a result the identities of many of the bodies interred here have been lost forever.

    The cemetery closed in 1965. It is estimated that 800 people are buried here.

    The first interment in the 6th Avenue Cemetery was James Brown, who died of pneumonia at the Windsor Hotel on October 11, 1900. A member of the firm Sinclair & Brown of Atlin, BC, he was 52 years old. There is no marker on his grave. In 1965, Grey Mountain Cemetery, located above Riverdale on Grey Mountain Road, was opened. Use of the 6th Avenue Cemetery ended, and in 1975, it was renamed the Pioneer Cemetery.

    The most complete inventory of headstones in this cemetery appears to be CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project, with 252 listings.

The following monuments and headstones have been photographed and posted here so far: