Since its opening in 1843, some 25,000 souls have been buried at Holy Cross, many of whom are of Irish descent and have made significant contributions to the life of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Canada. Public figures include:
- Merchants and businessmen were among those whose contributions to Halifax are memorialized in local street names, such as Tobin, Swaine and Kline.
- The remains of a number of archbishops, prelates, and senior clergy are located in “Bishop’s Row”, close to the cemetery’s chapel. One of these is Archbishop Walsh who organized the building of the Chapel.
- Another notable is Sir John Sparrow David Thompson, a lawyer and former Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia who served as the fourth Prime Minister of Canada from December 5, 1892 to December 12, 1894. Thompson, the first Roman Catholic to hold the office of Prime Minister, was a founder of Dalhousie University Law School and was the federal Minister of Justice who introduced Canada’s Criminal Code.
- The cemetery is also the final resting place for many decorated Halifax war heroes who bravely fought in various military campaigns and world wars since the mid-1850’s, including one Halifax native who was awarded the United States Medal of Honor.
More important than these public figures, though, is the record of a particular historical community, particularly with the seventeen thousand people buried in the nineteenth century. With this focus, the Holy Cross Historical Trust is starting a new phase of historical research and interpretative education. The mission of the Trust is to improve the understanding of the social practices, institutional organization, and religious and intellectual life of the people buried in Holy Cross Cemetery. The Trust will also act as a laboratory for the training of graduate students, and as a forum to communicate with established scholars and the broader community.
Although the Trust will build new relationships with the academic community, it maintains that the direction for scholarly inquiry will be driven by the Irish and the Catholic communities of Halifax and the friends of Holy Cross. The shared interests of the Irish, the Catholics, and the community of scholars will generate a narrative that will best express the collective life of Hibernian Halifax.