Forgotten Graveyard for Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge

House of Refuge - Kitchener
Photo Credit: Waterloo Region Record

Our neighbourhood had one of the first Houses of Industry and Refuge in Ontario. It was on Frederick Street directly in front where the A.R. Goudie long term care facility stands today (just behind the Frederick Street Mall).

The Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge provided room and board to people who were called “inmates” (the poor and other people without a place to live who needed its services).

Between 1869 and 1907 if someone died and wasn’t claimed by their family, they were buried in a field nearby. That is estimated to be more than 260 people. Some of them can be found in this online registry.

Victoria & Indiana
Photo Credit: Waterloo Region Record

One of those graveyards is in the area covered by the Central Frederick Neighbourhood Association. Researchers believe it was about where the block bordered by Dunham Avenue, Mansion, Indiana and Victoria streets now is. Many of those people buried in this graveyard are likely still there as the site was neglected and forgotten. A second graveyard is about behind where the Polish Legion is now on Wellington Street.

The Waterloo Region Record has published several pieces on this piece of neighbourhood history. See links below to learn more.

Memorial intitiative to remember those who died

There is already an initiative underway to build a memorial for the residents of the Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge in these unmarked graves. The location and other details are still being determined.

The CFNA Executive has voted to be supportive of this initiative and offer our assistance including possibly making a financial contribution to the memorial.

Interested in being involved? Please contact us and we’ll connect you with the process to remember those people who died.

Do you have any concerns?

We’re not aware of any questions or concerns from people living on or near the block which is about where the graves may be. But if you have any, if you would like our help please contact us so we can have your questions answered or concerns addressed by the right government staff.

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Media Coverage:

Searching for Kitchener’s lost graveyards

“For over a century, they’ve been buried underneath city streets, sidewalks and backyards — out of sight and long forgotten. And that bothers Darryl Bonk.

The local heritage advocate is behind a project to memorialize over 260 people who were interred in unmarked graves prior to 1907, in two lost graveyards near what’s now the intersection of Victoria Street and the Conestoga Parkway.”

Support grows for ‘lost’ graveyard memorial in Kitchener

“After spending decades forgotten by history, the people buried in Kitchener’s lost “poor house” graves may soon be getting some public recognition.

Region of Waterloo chair Ken Seiling and Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic support the idea of a permanent memorial for an estimated 260 residents of the old County of Waterloo’s House of Industry and Refuge, who died more than a century ago and were buried in unmarked pauper’s graves.”

D’Amato: Even in 1870, there were calls for a better burial ground for the poor

“There are calls — and rightly so — to build a memorial to recognize the hundreds of destitute people who died while in the Waterloo County poorhouse, and were buried in unmarked graves that have long since been built over.

But what was it like for the county’s poor, disabled and abandoned people to live in the House of Industry and Refuge?”

2 thoughts on “Forgotten Graveyard for Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge

  1. I am glad to see that momentum is growing on this issue. I submitted the following Letter to the Editor. An edited version appeared in the RECORD on Monday, Feb. 9, 2015:

    The call for Kitchener to create a “public, permanent memorial” for the poor who were buried in unmarked graves, is timely. (Searching for Kitchener’s lost graveyards – Greg Mercer, Jan. 24; …calls for a better burial ground for the poor – Luisa D’Amato, Jan. 29) I am reminded of the Holocaust Memorial in Israel, called Yad Vashem – giving “a place and a name” (quoting Isaiah 56:5) to all of those who died in the Holocaust. Last weekend, the Globe and Mail carried the story of a proposed monument in Ottawa to Victims of Communism , again giving a place and a name to victims.
    I applaud the work of the Kitchener Generations Project, seeking to name those who lived among us at the House of Industry and Refuge, and restore to them some semblance of human dignity. As a city we are measured by how we treat the least among us. In naming them we say that they lived, even though they were often overlooked in life and in death. Providing a permanent monument would also honour our heritage as a pioneer in Ontario, providing housing for those with nowhere else to turn. May this tradition continue!
    ~Keith Hagerman, Kitchener

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