Precious Blood Cemetery

Precious Blood Cemetery in South Hadley was found in 1873 by the Precious Blood Church of Holyoke.  The first burial in the cemetery was not until 1875 when the fire victims of the church were buried here a couple of days after the May 27 fire.  The pauper section is adjacent to the mass grave for the fire victims.

Stops in Precious Blood Cemetery:

Stop 1 – Berneche Family Gravestone – Ovide Berneche and Hermine Giguere had 10 children in Chertsey Quebec and Holyoke.  Five of them died in infancy of childhood.  Four of them as the result of a lantern fire on the night of October 13 of 1900 in Holyoke. Only one child survived to adulthood.  All ten of the children plus their mother are buried near this spot.

stop 2 – Andre Dufresne Gravestone – This stone was once in the Precious Blood Churchyard that was located in front of the church.  Dufresne was the first priest of the Precious Blood Church and was pastor from 1869 to 1887.  This stone was moved when the Precious Blood Church was removed.

stop 3 – Precious Blood Fire Victims – This memorial was erected in 2002 to the victims of the fire in the wooden church of Precious Blood in Holyoke in 1875.  71 people lost their lives that day due to the fire.  All were people of Quebec ethnicity and most were females.  Most were girls or young women.  Most of the French Canadian workers in the 1870s in Holyoke were females.  There was a great rush for the exit doors and due to this rush there was a bottleneck at the front left door.  56 of the victims were buried in South Hadley in a single grave opening.  Each had their own coffin and each had a separate horse drawn carriage.  15 of the victims were buried elsewhere including 8 in Quebec and 2 in Holyoke.

stop 4 – Zitha Meunier – She has been named Etta, Ira, Isa, and Zitha in different contexts.  She is the only fire victim known to have her own gravestone.  The Francois S on the stone is her father.  She was like many of the victims a laborer in the mills.  On May 3 1913 a worker in this cemetery was digging a hole for a burial.  He placed his cigarette on the ground to dig the hole deeper.  The lit cigarette caught the grass on fire.  The entire cemetery caught on fire and 200 wooden crucifixes caught on fire too.  Many of the early burials are thus not known.

stop 6 – Anatole Dugas and Joseph Bonneville – Dugas and Bonneville joined Company D of the 2nd Masschusetts Regiment to fight in the Spanish- American War.  Dugas died of a wound and Bonneville died of malaria.  They were buried in Precious Blood Cemetery and now lay side by side.

Stops in Saint Rose Cemetery:

stop 1 – Arthur Bernier – The workshed behind you was for the workers in this cemetery.  Arthur Bernier built and designed it in 1935.  He was a home contractor that attended St Patrick’s Church.  His parents are buried 20 feet away on the other side of this entry road.  Arthur is buried with his wife west down this road.  He has a military stone since he fought in the US Army in the Coastal Artillery.

stop 2 – Patrick Hartnett – Patrick Hartnett was a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War.  He moved to Holyoke Massachusetts in 1864 and married to Ellen Shugrue at the Saint Jerome Church.  Nothing is known about his time in the war.  Notice the two marks at the base of his stone.  He is buried with his wife and children.

stop 3 – John Conlan gravestone – John died a month after his wife did.  He was a poor man with no family left.  The Bricklayers Union number 2 of Holyoke decided to expend some of their money on a nice gravestone for John and Mary Jane.  She might have been the first burial ever in Saint Rose Cemetery since they died that year of opening.

stop 4 – Robert Comeau – This is in the modern section of the cemetery.  He had 11 children and they are all listed on the back in order.  One of the children was deaf and hence the sign language symbol for “I Love You” is on the reverse.  St Rose bought the two large sections to the west of the old sections

stop 5 – John Conway – Father Conway was the priest that helped Sainte Anne Church in Chicopee become a parish.  From 1891 to 1912 it was a mission church of St Patrick’s Church of South Hadley.  In 1912 the church was built that is still there.  The former chapel remained just in back of the church until 1964 when it was razed and an addition added to the church.