Cemetery Road Trip – Visiting Asylum Point Cemetery

Today on the blog, I wanted to share a cemetery road trip from Autumn 2022. I have been thinking about this place a lot lately and wanted to share my experience. Visiting the Asylum Point Cemetery was high on my to-do list when my fiancé and I visited Penetanguishene for our haunted holiday. I talked Chris’s ear off on the drive up about what I could remember of its history. My interest in the place was even more peaked when we got to our Airbnb. On one of the white boards in the main entranceway, someone had written in red marker; “Visit the Asylum Cemetery!”

Asylum Point Cemetery is located on the grounds of what is known today as the Regional Division of the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.1 Over the years it has seen many different forms. It began as a Reformatory for Boys in 1859 and operated for 44 years.2 In 1904 it saw new life as the Asylum for the Insane.3 1933 saw the addition of Oak Ridge, also referred to at the time as the Criminally Insane building.4 All the buildings are fairly close together, creating a small campus. As we toured the campus in search of the cemetery, I noticed a few white houses lining the road to the cemetery. One was directly across from it. I’m not sure what these buildings had once been used for, but now they looked abandoned and boarded up.

Many of the original buildings are no longer standing, as the center has modernized its facilities. But, there are still some remnants from the Asylum’s past that can be found; like the cemetery, and the original Oak Ridge gates. The gates now open to an empty road, that leads I’m not sure where. I didn’t have much time to explore the grounds on our visit, aside from the cemetery, but I did get a chance to stop and admire the entrance gates, which are said to have been built by the patients themselves.

The original Oak Ridge gates, Penetanguishene ON ©2022

According to the inscription on the gate of Asylum Point Cemetery, the cemetery was in operation from 1904 to 1970 and is the final resting place of over 300 long-term patients. Commemorative stones were erected at the cemetery detailing its history in 2004, the 100th anniversary of the Psychiatric Hospital and its cemetery. 

It was a grey and dreary day when I visited the cemetery, but I didn’t let that deter me. When I walked through the gates, after stopping to read the inscription, I was a little surprised by what I found. The cemetery seemed to be just a sprawling green lawn, with no markers aside from the stone at the entrance that bares the cemetery name. There is a large weeping willow tree on the right side of the cemetery, so I walked underneath it to stay out of the drizzling rain. I scanned the grass for anything that might resemble a grave marker. I had read that the grave markers in this cemetery, in the early years, had been created by the patients using wood and brass stamps to mark the names and dates.5 I was about to start making my way back to the car when I noticed a small slab of cement covered in leaves and debris. It wasn’t an empty green space after all. After I spotted one, I was able to spot them more clearly and found more and more small rectangular grave markers dotting the lawn. The rain had darkened the cement making them blend in with the autumn leaves. Many markers were becoming overgrown with moss, while others were slowly being swallowed up by the earth. 

Asylum Point Cemetery, Penetanguishene ON ©2022

This was my first time visiting an Asylum cemetery, and I was very touched by the handmade markers. I tried to put myself in the place of the patients that would have been making these gravestones. I was very mindful as I made my way back to the car. 

I have only briefly touched on the history of Oak Ridge here, but if you are interested in some further reading, there is a great resource curated by Jennifer L. Bazar. It’s called the Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit. It features in-depth looks at the history and timeline of Oak Ridge, and includes photos. I would highly recommend checking it out if you are interested in this side of Canadian history.

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Origins | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit
  2. Reformatory for Boys | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit
  3. Asylum for the Insane | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit
  4. Establishing Oak Ridge | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit
  5. Asylum Point Cemetery | Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit

25 Cemeteries in the City of Greater Sudbury

A couple of weekends ago I was able to cross something off my cemetery bucket list—visiting all 25 cemeteries in the care of the City of Greater Sudbury. For today’s blog post, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of these cemeteries. 

The City of Greater Sudbury is centrally located in Northeastern Ontario. It sits on the Canadian Shield in the Great Lakes Basin and is composed of a combination of urban, suburban, rural, and wilderness environments. Greater Sudbury is 3,627 square kilometers in area, making it the largest municipality in Ontario, geographically.1 Making up this municipality are many small communities that over time, have been amalgamated into the City of Greater Sudbury. Almost all of these little communities have their own cemeteries, that now fall under the care of the city.2

Each of these cemeteries has their own charm and has been very interesting to visit. Some are newer cemeteries with very modern stones, that are still very active, like Valley East and Park Lawn cemeteries. Some of them have tombstones marking persons who are still living. Those always make me think—do the owners visit their gravestones? Other cemeteries are pioneer cemeteries, like Ruff Pioneer Cemetery. Those types of cemeteries hold a lot of history. I wrote about my visit to the Ruff Pioneer Cemetery, you can read it here

Two of the oldest of these cemeteries, I believe, are the Eyre and Anglican cemeteries. They are directly beside each other, and there is no distinct line to separate the two. The earliest grave is from 1890.3 Both of these cemeteries can tell you a lot about our city. You can find the namesakes for the Gatchell and Lockerby areas of town, as well as the grave of Frederick J. Eyre, who discovered one of the first mines for the Canadian Copper Company.3 Sudbury, at its roots is a mining and railroad town.

Some of these cemeteries were a challenge to find and can be hard to access. Ruff Pioneer Cemetery would be more easily accessible with a four-wheeler. Make sure you have plenty of water with you for that adventure in the woods. The Coniston Cemetery is a little bit more accessible now, as a cemetery trail has been created, linking it to the Jean Tellier hiking trail. The first time I visited that one, we searched for a while before deciding to ask for directions from some locals at a convenience store. They were more than happy to help and even drew me a map. They also shared some stories from their childhood, of how they would play in the cemetery and nearby woods. Coniston Cemetery is particularly interesting because there are no more headstones. There may have originally been wooden markers or fieldstones there that have since deteriorated or have been moved. It was an active cemetery from 1914 to 1926, when the parish that was taking care of the cemetery announced they could no longer do so.4 In 1997 a memorial plaque was installed honoring the deceased known to have been buried there. Another hard-to-find cemetery is the Wahnapitae Public Cemetery. This one is located on a hillside with seemingly hidden access. I tried to find it again recently, but with no luck. 

There are a few cemeteries on this list that I have visited many times, either due to their size or proximity to me. Lasalle Cemetery for instance is one of the largest cemeteries in the area. So large in fact that every time I have visited I have focused on a different section to photograph. Another large one, that just so happens to be down the street from me, is Civic Cemetery. This is an active cemetery, and I think has changed the most over time. It has a large columbarium, as well as some lovely winding paths. It’s a lovely rural cemetery. I have many friends of the family that are buried here.

I have enjoyed seeking out all these cemeteries. I feel like I can now say that I have truly explored my city. All these cemeteries hold small threads, connections, that all lead to the creation and growth of my hometown. I have learned a lot about the history of Sudbury, like the stories of some of its founders, the history behind street names, and much more. I would love to spend more time in some of them, to fully explore the grounds, look for specific graves and to see what else I can learn. 

Thanks for joining me, as I look back on this bucket list milestone. Do you have a bucket list? What’s on your list? I would love to read about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 


The full list of Greater Sudbury cemeteries:
  1. Anglican Cemetery
  2. Beaver Lake Cemetery
  3. Blezard Valley Cemetery
  4. Capreol Cemetery
  5. Chelmsford Protestant Cemetery
  6. Civic Memorial
  7. Coniston Cemetery
  8. Eyre Cemetery
  9. Good Shepherd Cemetery
  10. Grassy Lake Road Cemetery
  11. Lasalle Cemetery
  12. Long Lake Cemetery
  13. Maplecrest Cemetery
  14. McFarlane Cemetery
  15. Ruff Pioneer Cemetery
  16. St. Jacques Cemetery
  17. St. John’s Cemetery
  18. St. Joseph Cemetery
  19. St. Stanislaus Cemetery
  20. Valley East Cemetery
  21. Wahnapitae Catholic Cemetery
  22. Wahnapitae Public Cemetery
  23. Waters Cemetery
  24. Whitefish Catholic Cemetery
  25. Whitefish Public Cemetery

References:

  1. Greatersudbury.ca
  2. Cemeteries | Greatersudbury.ca
  3. Tales of lives lived | Sudbury.com
  4. Historical mystery: Just how many people were buried at the old Coniston cemetery? | Sudbury.com