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In 1847, when the Loyalist Burial Ground was about to be closed by the law, it became apparent that there was a need for a much larger Cemetery to serve the citizens of Saint John. The Church of England burial site near the Marsh Bridge was rapidly filling up. With these thoughts in mind, a group of public spirited citizens who felt the new Cemetery should serve all classes and denominations, approached a number of churches appealing to them to support their efforts to procure a larger Cemetery. All responded except the Methodists and the Roman Catholics since they had facilities of their own.

With the support of these churches, a committee was formed to select a site and place the scheme on a business basis. The first land acquired was a seventy acre site from James Peters, Jr. and a forty acre site from Henry Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert reserved an area in the Cemetery for his family which is behind the Chapel. It is a feature of the Cemetery.

One of the landmarks in the Cemetery is the familiar Rest House. It was restored in 1991. Streetcars made their first run to the Cemetery in 1914. A story told many times by people coming to our offices is that of their families making a day of visiting the Cemetery by taking the streetcar from town (3 miles away), getting off on Marsh Road, now on Rothesay Avenue, and walking up to their families' lots. They would pay their respects and tidy up the Lots if necessary. Then, at Rest House, they would have the lunch they brought and return home on the afternoon streetcar

The organization of the Cemetery continued and in 1848 it was incorporated as the SAINT JOHN RURAL CEMETERY. The first interment took place on March 8, 1848 and was that of Miss Georgeanna Campbell, a niece of one of the founders. In 1859, an office and residence was built in the centre of the Cemetery and was used until 1963 when the present facilities were constructed on the Westmorland Road. The cemetery continued to grow and expand under the direction of the prominent citizens of the day. In 1894, under the leadership of James R. Ruel, perpetual care was established. It was Mr. Ruel that donated a fountain in the centre of the Cemetery directly across from the Veterans' Lot. In 1899, the name of the Cemetery was changed to FERNHILL CEMETERY.

As one wanders through the Cemetery, many of the names are familiar and can be associated with numerous achievements in the progress of the community and the country. Two Fathers of Confederation, Sir Leonard Tilley and the Honorable William Henry Steeves rest within our grounds.

One of the features of the Cemetery is the private, serene and peaceful atmosphere one encounters once inside the grounds. The many trees and shrubs enhance this feeling. Some have commented that the Cemetery must be full but this is far from so. It is estimated that we have at least enough undeveloped land to provide full size graves well into the next century and beyond. With the increase in people selecting cremation as an option and the addition of more columbarium, Fernhill will be serving the needs of the community for the many generations to come.

Today its voluntary Board of 12 Directors under its President continues to provide non-profit services to the people of all denominations.

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Visit the Genealogical Research Centre (Please contact the office for directions )

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