Nutana Cemetery (Pioneer Cemetery)
The City of Saskatoon began its life as a Temperance Colony, and was first settled in 1883. The first recorded death occurred in 1884 when Robert Clark, who caught pneumonia while fighting a prairie fire, died. He was buried near the South Saskatchewan River. As the colony grew, this site became the colony's "unofficial" cemetery.
In 1888, a committee was formed to maintain the cemetery, and in 1889, "Nutana Cemetery" was officially recognized by the Provincial Government. In 1903, the Nutana Cemetery Company was formed, which took over the cemetery in 1905.
The City of Saskatoon took over the cemetery in 1910, after which the only burials that were allowed were those of people who already owned a plot, and members of the Nutana Cemetery Company and their relatives. The last burial took place in 1948.
While the Nutana Cemetery is in a beautiful, peaceful location overlooking the river, it has been subject to water erosion caused by the river. The hillside collapsed in 1904, 1969 and 1984, causing damage to many of the graves. Some had to be moved to other locations in the cemetery, or to Woodlawn Cemetery, which was established in 1906 on the west side of Saskatoon.
There were 162 known burials in the Nutana Cemetery between 1884 and 1948, however, only 144 of the graves have been positively identified due to inaccurate early records and grave markers that have disappeared. Of the 41 burials that are known to have taken place between 1889 and 1903, only 29 are registered in the cemetery records. Information regarding the remaining burials comes from resources such as the Saskatoon Phoenix.
It is obvious just how difficult life on the prairies was for the pioneers. Of the 144 identified graves at the Nutana Cemetery, at least 51 are babies, and 14 are children under 16 years of age.
Help us preserve this piece of pioneer history:
- When you visit the Nutana Cemetery, please do not touch or lean on the markers.
- If you notice signs of recent vandalism, or areas requiring maintenance, contact the City of Saskatoon, Cemetery Superintendent at 975-3308.
- The Nutana Cemetery is located high on a bank overlooking the South Saskatchewan River. It is a beautiful site, surrounded by trees.
- When it was chosen to be the site of the city's first cemetery, it was fairly isolated, yet easily accessible. While still on the "edge" of the city due to its location on the riverbank, the cemetery is now well within the city, at the intersection of Ruth Street and St. Henry Avenue, right across from the Exhibition grounds.
- Its location has been somewhat protected by the creation of Diefenbaker Park, located adjacent to it.
Monument and Plaque
A plaque, commemorating the establishment of Nutana Cemetery by the pioneers of Saskatoon, was erected by the City of Saskatoon and the Meewasin Valley Authority. It reads:
Saskatoon's first cemetery was established in 1884, a year after the community was established. It remained in use until 1909 and thereafter only for those who had already established plots. Among the gravestones still standing are those commemorating:
Robert Clark, whose death in 1884 from exhaustion while fighting a prairie fire was the first in the community;
Grace Fletcher, Saskatoon's first business woman and a campaigner for women's rights;
Edward Meeres, who lost his life in 1888 in a blizzard in what is now the centre of Nutana.
Members from many of Saskatoon's notable pioneer families are buried here. In 1969, a number of graves were moved to Woodlawn Cemetery because of riverbank slumping."(1)
(1) This appears to be in error as the records at Woodlawn Cemetery indicate that these graves were moved within Nutana Cemetery, not moved to Woodlawn. This monument was created to replace a metal sign, which was attached to a post, that had the same wording, but was subject to vandalism. The cemetery officials have been made aware of this inaccuracy.
This image shows the current physical layout of the Nutana Cemetery.
Image of original cemetery layout
Simple map of the original plan for the cemetery (taken from an old map of the original layout)
- The outer (river) edge of the cemetery currently contains only up to Block 11.
- The burials that took place in Blocks 12 to 14 have, over the years, been moved due to riverbank slumping.
- The largest number of burials moved occurred in 1969-70. These burials were moved within Nutana Cemetery to Block 1.
The information on this page was primarily taken from a report prepared by the City of Saskatoon Leisure Services Department. Credit goes to the Leisure Services Department and particularly to Arlean McPherson, author of a report submitted to the Nutana (Pioneer) Cemetery Management Committee, and Jacqueline Hutchings, Arts/Heritage Consultant, for making the material available.
Except where otherwise noted, all photographs and articles © J.M. Wood & K. Hodgson 1996-2001.