Have you been to old Kildonan
Seen the Red with gentle sweep
Guard the little rude, God's Acre
Where the Selkirk settlers sleep

- John Mackay
- Opening verse of Old Kildonan

The cemetery has four sections, the oldest of which extends north from the old stone wall past the Church, and the west to Main Street. Here are the headstones and markers of many of the Selkirk settlers and their descendants, the oldest of which still remain date from early 1854. Over 700 people responded to Lord Selkirk’s offer to bring settlers to the Hudson’s Bay Company territory in Red River after the Highland Clearances of the early 19th century. These hardy Scots were the founders of the Red River Settlement, which pre-dates, Winnipeg, Manitoba and the Dominion of Canada. Enduring floods, pestilence, and at times civil disorder, they created the agricultural community on which the present city of Winnipeg has been built.

The oldest marker still existing is for little Marion Munroe, who died on the 25th of January 1854, at the age of seven months and 21 days. A large number of settler families buried infants and children in the cemetery, reflecting the high mortality rates of the young at this time. Survival was challenging in this remote, isolated community where medical services were not readily available.