Oshawa’s pioneer Union Cemetary offering Saturday afternoon tours

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Published July 7, 2023 at 3:21 pm

If your idea of a good Saturday afternoon walk is one that takes you through an ancient burial ground, Oshawa’s Union Cemetery and the Oshawa Museum have just the tour for you.

Oshawa’s best kept resting place for the dead is offering monthly cemetery tours all summer, with a guided walk through Union Cemetery planned for Saturday.

The tours, in partnership with the Oshawa Museum, take place on the second Saturday of each month from May until August, with a different theme explored during each tour.

Oshawa Museum guides also share stories of well-known citizens and of everyday people who made Oshawa the community it is and the cemetery the city’s best kept secret, except for those who make it their home six feet under your feet.

It is also a popular place for lovers of the paranormal, with numerous experiences with ghosts and other apparitions at the site.

The tours, which operate rain or shine, begin at 2 pm at the front gates of Union Cemetery and run until 4 p.m. The cost is $5, with Oshawa Historical Society members free.

Union Cemetery’s history dates back nearly 190 years to Robert Thornton, a Secessionist Minister (United Presbyterian), who arrived in Oshawa as a missionary from Scotland in 1833 and had the first church in the township built four years later.

The oldest burial honours at the cemetery belongs to Alexander Armstrong, who died in 1837.

In 1922 the 30 acres of the cemetery had been acquired by George McLaughlin, who donated the property to the Town of Oshawa, along with a gift of $500 (big money in those days) to help bury WWI soldiers in the veterans’ section. The mausoleum would be added in 1926, and the office in 1934.

From these pioneer beginnings, Oshawa Union Cemetery has grown to be 32 acres in size with more than 25,000 burial locations. Many of the area’s pioneers and their children are buried in ‘Thornton’s Burying Ground,’ including the city’s most famous citizen, Col. Sam McLaughlin.

Also interred in the cemetery are early industrialists John Schofield (Schofield Works) and James Robson (Robson Tannery); Ontario Premier GD Conant; and artists Alexandra Luke, Isabel McLaughlin, and Florence McGillivray.

Union Cemetery, which has been designated as an historical site, is the only remaining cemetery in the city where burials still take place.

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