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Kamloops History: The cemeteries of Kamloops and Tk'emlups

They reveal categorization by race, class, gender and religion, as well as sections for groups like the military. There are also two family cemeteries within the city.

Cemeteries in Kamloops span the history of settlement.

They reveal categorization by race, class, gender and religion, as well as sections for groups like the military. There are also two family cemeteries within the city.

The cemetery on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc, reserve known as Tk’emlups Pen Pen, in front of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, may be the oldest. It contains graves from the fur trade era before 1858, from the smallpox epidemic of 1862-1863 and from the period of St. Joseph’s Church florescence to the present. Chief Louis, who was chief from 1852 until he died in 1915, is buried there.

Before the churches were established in town, early Catholic settlers were buried at Mission Flats, where the Domtar pulp mill is located.

Chief Louis grave history cemeteries
Chief Louis’ grave at Tk’emlups Pen Pen. - Ken Favrholdt

St. Louis Mission, at what became known as Mission Flats, was established by the Oblates in 1878. Thomas Spelman, owner of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in early Kamloops, was buried there in 1884.  When the Church of the Sacred Heart was built at Battle Street and Second Avenue in 1887, burials were moved from Mission Flats.

Just east of Peterson Creek on Lorne Street, the Pioneer Cemetery was on part of the ranch of John Peterson, who provided a piece of land for what became the first burial ground for the town as a whole. The land was offered to government agent John Tannatt Ussher in 1876, who was killed by the McLean boys in 1879. Ussher is one of the first to be buried there. When the New Townsite Syndicate purchased Peterson’s property in 1884 as Kamloops expanded eastwards, title to the cemetery was included in the sale.

Pioneer Cemetery continued to be used for burials in existing family plots until 1901. Subscriptions were taken for the upkeep of the cemetery, but over the years it became overgrown, derelict and vandalized. Headstones were toppled.

The surviving headstones were moved to one corner, but then became disassociated from the graves. Thirty-three grave markers have been preserved. The area became used as a baseball park in 1949. In 1962, the city took over the site.

When Kamloops was incorporated in 1893, land for a new, large cemetery was purchased. That became the Pleasant Street Cemetery, established in 1898.

The cemetery is divided into two sections bisected by Ninth Avenue. The older half is on the west side, where George Hirst was the first internment in 1900. Buried there are many familiar Kamloops pioneers with large monuments, including William and Jane Fortune and James McIntosh and his widow, who remarried as Hermance Hope Worsnop.

People also moved loved ones from Pioneer to Pleasant Street Cemetery. Fees for grave lots were set at $7, with internment fees for adults set at $5 and for children under the age of 14 set at $3.

Many of the destitute who could not afford burial plots at Pleasant Street were interred in another cemetery created nearby.

Chinese cemetery
a marker at the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery reading, “In memory of the Chinese workers who helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia.” - Ken Favrholdt

Called the Old Men’s Provincial Cemetery, it was made for indigent men with no family and no resources who resided at the Old Men’s Provincial Home on Columbia Street, where Ponderosa Lodge is now located. The Old Men’s Home was started in 1894; the first death at the home was a John Dempsey in 1896. The last internment was in 1974.

The Old Men’s Cemetery, comprising four acres along Sixth Avenue, was established on the site of Ussher’s ranch. The original graves may have been situated where the present St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was built in 1958. There is mention of 146 burials being relocated from the church site to the grounds below, placed in trenches running along the west side of the cemetery.

As well, caskets of both men and women from the cemetery at the Tranquille Sanatorium were moved to the Old Men’s Cemetery and placed in the trenches. The main part of the cemetery consisted of five sections of 1,084 graves. Five monuments have been preserved fronting Sixth Avenue at the north end of the cemetery.

The Kamloops Chinese Heritage Cemetery on Hudson’s Bay Trail dates from the early days of Kamloops, which attracted many Chinese gold prospectors to the Tranquille River, followed by the construction of the Canadian Pacific railway, which employed several thousand Chinese labourers.

The cemetery was first mentioned in 1887, although there were definitely previous burials at the site. The last burial took place in the 1970s. The cemetery received provincial recognition in response to the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report and Recommendations.

Hillside is the most recent and main cemetery of the city. Established in 1951 on Notre Dame Drive, it was formerly the site of a golf course.

Two historical family cemeteries — the Cooney family and the Campbell family — are located at the far west and east extremities of the City.

Higher burial costs and a greater partiality for cremations may alter the course of cemeteries in Kamloops.

Ken Favrholdt is a freelance writer, historical geographer, and former curator/archivist of the Kamloops Museum and Archives.If you have comments or questions about the cemeteries of Kamloops, send an email to