Mount Hope Cemetery

Mount Hope Cemetery is the only active Catholic cemetery within city limits. In earlier days, The part of the Burke Brook Ravine that ran through this cemetery was parklike and graced by the brook and two ponds; see 1910 map below. Arround 1960, the cemetery managemnet decided to reclaim this area in order to opened it up for burials. The stream was put in a storm sewer and the ravine filled in.

History of Mount Hope Cemetery

Mount Hope Cemetery was the second Catholic cemetery in Toronto not attached to any parish and now is the only active Catholic cemetery within city limits. Preceding it were: St. Paul’s parish cemetery which served the entire diocese for many years until it was closed in 1857, the crypt at St. Michael’s Cathedral, St. Mary’s {Parish at Adelaide and Bathurst streets, and St. Michael’s Cemetery, near St. Clair Avenue and Yonge Street.

St. Michael’s Cemetery, the first non-parish burial place, was opened in 1855, in response to the almost full capacity of St. Paul’s. It contains about 29,000 graves, many containing pioneers both the city and the church among which are the last of the old Irish Catholic elite. Nearly forty years of interments brought St. Michael’s very close to capacity, but cost of land in Deer Park made expansion there too expensive. In the late 1980s and the ’90s several attempts to were made to locate suitable property along Yonge Street north of the city without success until on July 16, 1897, Hon. Sir Frank Smith and Mr. Eugene O’Keefe purchased the site of Mount Hope Cemetery for $5,000, from C. D. Warren, a Toronto merchant. On December 4, they sold their interest the Property to the archdiocese for the same amount of money s had been arranged. That it was necessary to hide the identity of the real buyer and not breathe a word about the intended use as a cemetery shows that then Toronto Catholics still had some distance to travel before they were respected as equals by the local establishment. On July 9, 1898, in one of his last official acts Archbishop John Walsh blessed and named the graveyard “Mount Hope Cemetery.” The first burial was that of E. Sullivan on March 27, 1900.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, land in the northern portion of the cemetery was reclaimed and opened up for burials. The original northern limit of usable land was marked by a line of trees, which can still be seen today. It was the land beyond these trees which the cemetery added to its acreage. To date, there have been 76,000 burials in Mount Hope Cemetery. All spaces have been taken, but the cemetery plans to close several roads for future graves and to build a columbarium for cremated remains. A walking tour of Mount Hope will reveal a great variety of striking memorials. There are handsome and solid-looking mausoleums, beautiful Celtic crosses, no two of which are the same, and scores of touching tributes to the deceased.

Among those buried in Mount Hope Cemetery are prelates and priests, religious men and women, husbands and wives, judges and politicians, soldiers and sailors, the knighted and the bemedalled, Canadian Olympians, bankers and industrialists, philanthropists, writers, the old Irish Catholic elite even a few bank robbers and some ordinary people who lost their lives in tragic circumstances. Among the notables buried here are: Morley Callaghan, F. M. “King” Clancy, Francis Deck, Founder of Fran’s Restaurants, and Frederick Tilston VC. For more details on the history of this cemetery or for biographical sketches of some of those buried here read “A History of Mount Hope Cemetery Toronto Ontario 1898 to 1998” by Michael Power Published by Catholic Cemeteries Archdiocese of Toronto.