In 1825 the first European settlers who were predominantly Irish, arrived in this area. Following a Catholic tradition that extends back more than 1700 years, they established burial grounds for their beloved dead. Three small cemeteries were developed by the pioneers: one on the River Road in South Ops, another across the Scugog River in West Ops and one northeast of Reaboro; none of these are designated.
In 1860, the year after the core of the present St. Mary’s Church was built, Father James Farrelly opened a new cemetery at the corner of Mary and Angeline Streets. At this time the interred remains were removed from the other three cemeteries and reburied in the new parish cemetery. As well, monuments were transferred to this burial ground. Our present cemetery on Lindsay Street South occupies some sixteen acres on the west bank of the Scugog River and dates back to 1897. Msgr. P. D. Laurent, pastor of the parish and vicar general of the diocese, oversaw the purchase of the new grounds, and the transfer of remains and monuments to the new site. Some monuments, made in Port Hope or Newcastle, date as far back as 1829.
The new cemetery was located in the western acreage of the property and was divided into four sections – St. Bridget, St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Patrick. In 1987 a new section St. George was set out and approved by the government. Bishop Doyle of Peterborough blessed the new section, when Fr. Bollo was the parish priest of St. Mary’s. The handsome Memorial Cross, which dominates the centre of the cemetery was erected in 1924 and was dedicated by Bishop O’Brien of Peterborough. Dean Whibbs was parish priest at that time. Subsequently, a granite tablet was erected on the south side of the cross with a listing of all Parish Priests since 1897, cemetery trustees who have served, and caretakers who have always maintained our cemetery in prime condition.
In 1897 our cemetery was well landscaped with spruce, pine and hardwood trees which still bear witness to the foresight of the first trustees. Originally, St. Patrick’s section was divided and magnificent flowerbeds of peonies, lilies and other perennials were in abundance. Flowering shrubs were interspersed among the trees and walks.
Sturdy stone and granite pillars, donated by the Catholic Women’s’ League in 1963, form a fitting entrance from the highway and are situated on a triangle of land given to us when the highway was widened and forced a new entrance to be made. The Catholic Women’s’ League has also donated benches and allow us an annual contribution for cemetery upkeep. The Knights of Columbus donated the chain link fence and gates at the interior entrance to cemetery. The Knights of Columbus have replaced the marble tablet (eastern) with granite one. The Royal Canadian Legion has been generous with donation of the granite flag base for use of our flags on ceremonial occasions. Sir Sandford Fleming College donated the spruce trees along the laneway as well as specimens of oak, catalupa and species of maple. The Knights of Columbus and the St. Vincent de Paul Society now present trees annually. The Lindsay and District Horticultural Society have given us plantings on two occasions also.
Almost every native Canadian tree, evergreen and hardwood, has been planted in our cemetery so that it will become a veritable arboretum:
The substantial white brick vault was erected in 1897 as well as the Cemetery House.
Every year we have a Memorial Sunday at our cemetery when a service of gratitude, thanksgiving and prayer is conducted – everyone is welcome.