Hidden Toronto – Unmarked Mass Graves
Downtown on the corner of Queen Street East and Power Street sits St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Basilica. It’s a busy city street corner and the church is lovely but nothing spectacular. Things don’t become interesting until you find out that under the unassuming parking lot is one of the larger unmarked mass graves in Canada.
In 1847 100,000 Irish emigrated to Canada fleeing poverty and famine in Ireland. Thousands didn’t survive the voyage across the Atlantic in what were called “coffin ships”, of those, thousands more didn’t survive the quarantine at Grosse Ile, Quebec. From Grosse Ile they traveled along the St. Lawrence by ship to ports along the seaway and Lake Ontario.
As a city of 20,000 people Toronto was ill equipped to accommodate the 40,000 souls that passed through it’s port during the typhus epidemic of 1847. Landing at the foot of Simcoe Street, near what is now Queens Quay, the healthy were rushed out of the city and the ill were housed in 12 “fever sheds” located at the corner of King and John Streets. 863 deceased are buried beside St. Paul’s Basilica.
In the late 1800s the cemetery was closed and the tombstones were either moved or destroyed and later the area was paved over and is now used as a parking lot for the basilica.
Read more about the fever sheds here