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Community’s roots plotted throughout cemetery

Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery part of Doors Open tour across city

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Richard Graydon, clerk of session for the Kildonan Community Church, next to a grave for the well-known McBeth family in Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery.

MATT PREPROST Enlarge Image

Richard Graydon, clerk of session for the Kildonan Community Church, next to a grave for the well-known McBeth family in Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery. Photo Store

The headstone has marbled from more than 100 years of Manitoba weather, its engraving faded but still faintly seen: Marion Munroe, died Jan. 25, 1854, aged seven months.

Munroe’s grave is one of the oldest, if not the first, at the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery nestled near the Red River just off Main Street.

It’s also one of more than a dozen gravesites that will be highlighted as part of a historical tour de force at the cemetery during Doors Open Winnipeg taking place May 25 and 26.

"I just love this place," said Richard Graydon, clerk of session for the Kildonan Community Church, which oversees the cemetery.

"It’s unknown. It’s off the beaten track, but it’s still just off Main Street."

The cemetery is one of the oldest in Manitoba, set up in 1854 by the Reverend John Black for the Selkirk Settlers, a predominantly Presbyterian bunch who, up until that time, had been served by the Anglican church, according to Graydon.

From Hudson’s Bay Company officials to military heroes to academics and clergymen, the cemetery represents a "significant chunk of our history," Graydon said.

Included in the tour are Chief Factor Rob Campbell of the Hudson’s Bay Company — one of Canada’s original explorers, Graydon said — who discovered the Pelly-Yukon River and reportedly walked 3,000 miles by snowshoe on his way home to marry his wife, Graydon said. Campbell died in 1894.

Visitors can also find the grave of John M. King, dated March 1899, the first principal of Manitoba College, which later became the University of Winnipeg, and after which John M. King School in the West End is named for.

Donald Murray, also interred at the cemetery, founded Manitoba College in his house in 1871, only a stone’s throw away from the cemetery, and his great-great granddaughter remains a part of the church’s congregation, Graydon said.

Other famous graves include Alexander MacDonald, whose grocery company in the early 1900s eventually became Canada Safeway, and was a founding director of both the Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Tribune; William James Sisler, who revolutionized a hands-on language and skills teaching model for the province’s burgeoning European immigration boom in 1916; and, of course, John Black, the priest tasked with building the church located in the cemetery.

"It’s pre-Canada, pre-Manitoba, pre-Winnipeg. It’s the earliest days of our province," said Graydon.

"There’s half the street names in Winnipeg here. You got Munroes, Polsons, Bannatynes, Hendersons.

"It’s quite fascinating," he said.

Tours of the cemetery will take place at 2 p.m. on May 25 and 26, and can accommodate 50 people per tour. The cemetery is located at 2373 Main St., just off John Black Avenue immediately north of the Chief Peguis Trail.

More than 75 buildings will open for free tours this year as part of Doors Open Winnipeg on May 25 and 26. Eight locations in north Winnipeg will take part, including Bishop Velychkovsky Martyr’s Shrine, Bleak House, the Cathedral Church of St. John and the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir & Olga.

For full details and times, visit www.doorsopenwinnipeg.ca

matt.preprost@canstarnews.com

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Twitter: @timesWPG

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