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Reinterment service commemorates Bytown’s earliest settlers

October 6, 2019
Announcements and Events

The City of Ottawa held a second Barrack Hill Cemetery Reinterment Service today in the Sacred Space, Beechwood Cemetery.

The reinterment service was private and honoured the human remains of seven children and 23 adults which were excavated at a small surface parking lot along Queen Street. A similar reinterment service was held in October 2017 to commemorate the lives of a minimum of 79 individuals discovered under Queen Street during Confederation Line LRT tunnel excavation in 2013 and 2014.

The discovery was made on the site of the former Barrack Hill Cemetery, Bytown’s first cemetery, which was mainly used by Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Presbyterians and operated from 1826 until 1845.

Attendees payed their respects to these individuals before they found their permanent resting place in the Barrack Hill Cemetery within Beechwood Cemetery.

The funeral service included music, poetry, hymns, prayers and a final committal blessing contemporary to the early 1800s in respect for the individuals being reinterred.


“The respectful reinternment of remains from Ottawa’s earliest settlers allows those who pioneered our city to rest in peace at the new Barrack Hill Cemetery within Beechwood Cemetery.” – Mayor Jim Watson

Key facts

  • Bytown’s earliest residents from all levels of society and of all ages were buried at Barrack Hill Cemetery. The cemetery was roughly located in an area bounded by current-day Sparks, Elgin, Albert and Metcalfe Streets.
  • When this cemetery was closed circa 1845 and subsequently moved as recently discovered, not all bodies had been removed. Reasons for this may include: living families not having enough money to reinter their deceased relatives; no people in the area to claim their buried relatives, or; no family members left to reinter their family members, as whole families died during the malaria and later cholera outbreaks of 1832 and 1834.
  • In accordance with a Site Disposition Agreement between the City of Ottawa and appointed representatives, including the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa, the Executive Archdeacon of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Ottawa, and the private landowner for the surface parking lot, the remains were disinterred with the utmost care and respect by archeologists from Paterson Group and moved to the Canadian Museum of History for analysis to determine the circumstances of death, patterns of disease, sex, stature and age at death.
  • It has been determined by scientific archeological research findings by experts at the Canadian Museum of History that the human remains were primarily from working-class individuals and their families buried in the early 1800s.
  • Forensic facial reconstruction using a model of the skull of one individual has been conducted and a 3D clay model will be on display at Beechwood Cemetery on the day of the reinterment service.
  • It is important that the City provide a final resting place to Bytown’s first settlers.
  • The Board of Directors for Beechwood Cemetery has agreed to create a new Barrack Hill Cemetery within their existing cemetery adjacent to the National Military Cemetery.

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