A look at the History of St. Gregory’s

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Oshawa has one Catholic cemetery, St. Gregory’s, which is today located along Simcoe Street North, just north of Beatrice Street. It was originally located beside St. Gregory’s Church, around Simcoe St. N. and Adelaide (then Louisa), but was moved to its present location around 1893 to facilitate expansion of the Church.

The original St. Gregory’s Church, to the left, the cemetery can be seen; from the Oshawa Museum Archival collection

Samuel Pedlar and Dr. Kaiser both trace the origins of this parish to the 1840s when the first church was constructed, but prior to this, Catholics in the area had their religious services in McGrigor’s School House or with travelling priests in parishioners’ homes. Funds for constructing the first church were supported by community members, such as Patrick Wall, Daniel Leonard, Denis Duella, Michael Curtin, Sir Arthur Santry, Richard Supple, John O’Regan Sr., and Captain Dunn. Throughout the years, the parish grew, and improvements took place, such as church enlargements, building of a separate school, presbytery, and stable and driving house, and aesthetic improvements.

Nearly 50 years after the construction of the first church building, the parish saw the need to expand once again and began fundraising. The cornerstone was laid in 1894, and the new building was dedicated in June 1895. It was noted that two men, James Daley and Patrick Wall, were at the dedication of both churches, half a century apart. 

From the Oshawa Museum archival collection

The windows of the church were made by McCausland & Sons, the plans for the structure were made by Post & Homes, and much of the interior oak woodwork, like the altar, pews, pulpit, and organ, were made by Oshawa’s RS Williams. It was made in the French Romanesque style and can accommodate 500-600 worshippers.

St. Gregory The Great, 2021

To facilitate the building expansion, the cemetery was removed to its present location, first acquired by Father JJ McCann in 1876, comprising of approximately four acres. New trees were planted at this cemetery in 1878, a gift from W. Glen, MP. In 1893, Father MJ Jeffcott contacted family of those laid to rest at the original cemetery and co-ordinated the removal of bodies and headstones to the ‘new’ cemetery. The last of the bodies and headstones from the original cemetery were moved in 1927.

St. Gregory’s Cemetery, 2021

St. Gregory’s would remain the only Catholic Church in Oshawa until Holy Cross was constructed in the 1930s. The growing communities in Ontario County also necessitated the opening of a new cemetery, and Resurrection Cemetery was opened in north Whitby in 1964. St. Gregory’s Cemetery and Resurrection are both administered by the Toronto Catholic Cemetery Association, and records for St. Gregory’s are located at Resurrection.


References

Samuel Pedlar, Samuel Pedlar Manuscript (unpublished manuscript, 1904), made available online through the Oshawa Public Library, accessed from: https://news.ourontario.ca/oshawa/3578787/data

D.S. Hoig, Reminiscences and Recollections : an interesting pen picture of early days, characters and events in Oshawa, made available online through the University of Toronto, accessed from https://archive.org/details/localhistory_2IW

“St. Gregory’s,” Whitby Chronicle, 28 Jun 1895, p. 8

Souvenir Booklet of Church of St. Gregory The Great, Oshawa Ontario, June 1988

“Holy Cross celebrates 40 years in Oshawa Sunday,” Oshawa This Week, 23 Jun 1979, p. 31