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A historic place of final rest

A historic place of final rest

Cataraqui Cemetry has been the final resting place of many principals, faculty, and friends of the University for more than 135 years.

"Though I am not a Queen’s man born, nor a Queen’s man bred,/Yet when I die, there’s a Queen’s man dead./“So works the magic of this place.”

So said William Everett McNeill, variously Vice-Principal, Acting Principal. Registrar, Head of English, and Secretary of the Board of Trustees on the ­occasion of the University’s centennial celebration in 1941. Dr. ­McNeill’s words were eerily prophetic because, upon his death in 1959, he was buried a Queen’s man in one of four cemetery lots owned by the University in Cataraqui Cemetery.

McNeill’s final resting place is also the burial ground of nine former Queen’s principals, many professors, some distinguished alumni, and other Queen’s notables – along with their spouses and children, in some cases.

The legendary trainer, assistant coach, and Tricolour booster extraordinaire Alfie Pierce was laid to rest in Cataraqui Cemetery on February 13, 1951.The legendary trainer, assistant coach, and Tricolour booster extraordinaire Alfie Pierce was laid to rest in Cataraqui Cemetery on February 13, 1951.


The minutes of a Trustees’ meeting following the death in office of Principal William Leitch in 1864 note: “It is highly desirable that the memory of the late Principal of this University … be perpetuated by some suitable monument.” This resolution may have been the impetus that set Queen’s on the path to acquire land on which to place the monument. Principal Leitch was buried in Cataraqui Cemetery, before this occurred.

In 1877, Queen’s College – as it was then known – purchased three cemetery lots at the then-relatively new Cataraqui Cemetery, which had been founded in 1850 as the area’s first non-denominational, garden-style burial ground. A portion of a fourth lot with more burial plots was purchased in 1937.

Among the many Queen’s notables of yesteryear who are buried in the University-owned plots (in addition to the former principals), are Dr. William Thomas MacClement, Professor of Biology, 1906-1935; Rev. John Mackerras, ­Professor of Classics 1864-1880; Caroline E. McNeill, first Dean of Women, 1911-1925; Professor William Goodwin, first Director of the School of Mining and Agriculture and first Dean of Applied Science, 1893-1919; and, Queen’s Herbarium developer Rev. James Fowler, Professor of Natural History, 1880-1907.

Cataraqui Cemetery is also the burial site of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Sir John A’.s Kingston ties are well known, but a lesser-known fact is that the young Macdonald played a role in the founding of Queen’s. As a 24-year-old lawyer in 1839, he attended a meeting at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where the men (several of whom would become trustees) discussed “the proposed college to be erected in this town.” Sir John A. moved or seconded several motions that resulted in the granting of a Royal Charter in 1841.

In recent years, space limitations have curtailed burials in the University’s lots. The individuals listed below are just a few of Queen’s founders, administrators, ­professors and benefactors who are buried elsewhere in Cataraqui Cemetery, several of them in the Church of England lot: Agnes Richardson Etherington (1880-1954), benefactor, and her husband Dr. Frederick Etherington (1878-1955), the Dean of Medicine 1929-43; George Chown (1861-1921), former Registrar and Treasurer; ­Alfie Pierce (1874-1951), ­legendary trainer, assistant coach, and Tricolour booster extraordinaire.

Located in the northwest corner of the city, with some 46,000 graves on its 91-acre site, Cataraqui Cemetery, was designated a National ­Historic site in September 2011. According to Prof. Emeritus (Geography) Rowland Tinline, who is Secretary of the Cemetery’s Board, “This designation was awarded in large part due to the Cemetery’s links to the rural reform movement of the early 19th century, which saw cities alleviating overcrowding in urban burial grounds by developing rural, park-like cemeteries.”

In addition to the lots described above, Queen’s also owns a section of Cataraqui Cemetery that is reserved for interring the cremated remains of those who bequeath their bodies to the School of Medicine for education and research. Every spring, medical students, faculty members, and donors’ families gather for a respectful burial ceremony.

Queen's Principals Bured at Cataraqui Cemetery
Rev. William Leitch (served 1859-1864)
Rev. George Monro Grant (1877-1902)
Rev. Daniel Miner Gordon (1902-1917)
Rev. Robert Bruce Taylor (1917-1930)
Robert Charles Wallace (1936-1951)
William Archibald Mackintosh (1951-1961)
James Alexander Corry (1961-1968)
John James Deutsch (1968-1974)
David Chadwick Smith (1984-1994)
[Queen's Alumni Review 2013-1 cover]