New sign unveiled for Weyburn Mental Hospital cemetery

A new steel sign was installed and unveiled on Thursday for the Saskatchewan Mental Hospital Cemetery, with representatives of the Weyburn Genealogy Society and the City of Weyburn on hand.

The cemetery, which has as many as 1,425 graves from the former Saskatchewan Mental Hospital/Souris Valley Extended Care Centre, is adjacent to Hillcrest Cemetery.

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The local genealogy chapter has been working for a number of years to have signage for the cemetery, as most of the graves there are unmarked. Around 50 of the graves have markers on them.

The Weyburn Credit Union provided a grant of $5,500 to cover the cost and manufacture of the steel sign, which was designed by committee members Harvey Johnson and Wes Lonoway. It was manufactured by M&R Machining, with painting done by Eastwey Auto Body, and A&B Concrete did the onsite placement of cement for the pilings.

Genealogy member Lorna Bossenberry made the grant application to the Credit Union. City parks crew members and parks coordinator Curtis Block prepared the site and helped install the sign on the site.

Block noted the sign will make it much more visible from the highway as people leave or come in to Weyburn on Highway 35.

“It’s such a major part of Weyburn’s history,” said Coun. Dick Michel, who was on hand for the unveiling of the sign from city council. “The mental hospital was a city within the city.”

Johnson noted that the former mental hospital was self-contained in many ways, with their own facilities and farm to feed the patients and staff at the sprawling structure, which was built in 1921.

He used to work at the Souris Valley facility, and said, “It’s not right that these people have no markers for their graves.”

“It’s been quite a few years to make a reality,” added Johnson’s wife Charmane. “We tried before to get a sign.”

She noted it was just over a year ago they sat down with city council to work on getting the cemetery marked, and the Credit Union approved the grant in December of 2018 to make it possible.

The genealogy society chapter is hoping that in the coming years they will be able to have name plates installed for the graves, markers which will be at ground level and can be mowed over, so they will not be forgotten.