The first burial at St. James Cemetery was recorded on November 16, 1904, when the remains of John Summers, age 53, were interred in Section D. Prior to the opening of St. James Cemetery, burials had taken place at the two St. Michael's Cemeteries. The original St. Michael's Cemetery opened in 1857 and operated to 1888 at the site of the current St. Michael the Archangel Church. In 1888, a new St. Michael's Cemetery was opened on Stanley Street, near the Grand Trunk Train Station. By 1904, space was running out in this rather small area and a Committee was formed to investigate extending and improving the existing Cemetery or purchasing a larger site elsewhere.
During their search for a larger site, it was determined that a large piece of suitable land adjoining the Protestant Cemetery (Belleville Cemetery) could be purchased for $2,500.00, and on August 7, 1904, the decision was made to purchase this land. On September 11, 1904, Archbishop Gauthier constituted that those who had undertaken this work become a permanent Cemetery Committee. Shortly after this, it was decided at Committee that the new Cemetery be called St. James Cemetery. From 1904 to January 1914, burials took place at both St. James Cemetery and St. Michael's Cemetery. After the last burial took place in St. Michael's Cemetery, it was gradually abandoned and became somewhat of an embarrassment. As the old tombstones crumbled, they were removed. In 1972, the final stones were removed and taken to St. James Cemetery. The site of the old St. Michael's Cemetery is maintained as a vacant field by St. James Cemetery.
The operation of St. James Cemetery fell to St. Michael's Church but, as St. Joseph Parish and Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Parish became established in the City of Belleville, a new Committee was established, with representation taken from each Parish. The current Board of Directors consists of the Parish Priest from each Church and two or three parishioners from each Parish. A Secretary/Treasurer maintains the finances and records of the Cemetery and ensures any directives from the Board are enacted. Care and Maintenance, Sales, and Interments at St. James Cemetery are contracted on a yearly basis to Belleville Cemetery.
St. James Cemetery offers a full array of products and services, outlined in accompanying pages.