A Virtual Tour of the
Fraser
Cemetery, New Westminster, BC

This tour offers a walk through this historic cemetery

and presents a selection of gravesites of interest.

Please see the accompanying background history for contact information

This virtual tour of the Fraser Cemetery and the short background history of this cemetery that accompanies it have been created, researched, photographed, and written, by Archie and Dale Miller (A Sense of History Research Services Inc.), who are pleased to provide it to the New Westminster Public Library, for inclusion on their Heritage Website.

Copyright 2002 A Sense of History Research Services Inc.

#1 Acton Windeyer Sillitoe (d 1894) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

Sillitoe was prominent in the Church of England and was the First Bishop of New Westminster, taking that position on All Saints Day, 1879. He died June 8, 1894, at age 54. His Church connection in the City of New Westminster was with two prominent Anglican churches: Holy Trinity Cathedral and St. Mary the Virgin. His wife Violet (d July 1, 1934) is buried in this same circular plot along with other prominent members of the local Anglican clergy.

Photo looking past the tall Sillitoe marker from behind (the inscription is on the front face) looking east up the Fraser River. To the front of this marker is the old Church of England section.

#2 Group of stones in upper part of Masonic Section of Cemetery [view smaller image] [view larger image] 

This image clearly shows the separation between an old and new section of the Fraser Cemetery. The large gravestones in the foreground are for members of the Clute and Armstrong families that are located in the Masonic Section that includes graves from the early 1870s to the present day. Beyond these markers is a newer section, with all flat markers, with dates in the 1930s and up.

#3 David Robson  (1840 – 1907) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

In his time in New Westminster, David Robson was involved with the civic government as a member of City Council in the 1890s and as City Clerk, as well as being a principal member of the British Columbian newspaper. He was very active in the community and, as a member of the Robson family, holds a prominent place in British Columbia history. His brother, Ebenezer Robson, was a pioneer Methodist minister in BC. His brother, John Robson, was editor of the British Columbian newspaper, as well as being a member of City Council and Mayor of New Westminster in the 1860s, and Premier of the Province from 1889 to 1892.

#4 Francis Guest (1884) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This marker is an example of the white bronze grave “stones” in the Fraser Cemetery. These markers, while noted as being “white bronze” are actually made of zinc, and are very durable in all weather conditions. The markers were “assembled” from factories in Eastern Canada and US, from catalogues listing the various components, ornamentation, and format. Just above the word Guest you will note that the rectangular piece with a flower in its centre is held in place by four ornate corner bolts. This rectangle could have been replaced by another piece that named another member of the family buried here. When a person died, you could simply order another plaque and bolt it in place. While these markers were practical and economical, they were often viewed as not providing enough status for the ‘dearly departed’ and so they fell out of favour.

This marker is for Francis Guest who died in 1884 at Langley.

#5 Jonathan Morey  (d September 1, 1884) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

Jonathan Morey was a member of the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineers who were sent to the Colony of British Columbia in 1858/59. When the Detachment was disbanded in 1863, Morey, like many of the men of the Corps, stayed on in the young community and colony. Also, like many other men of the Corps, Morey had a wife and family with him, and they became proud citizens of the city. Morey worked in a number of capacities and was a Colonial Constable for a time. After BC became a Province of Canada (1871) the city could hire its own police officers and Jonathan Morey is recognized as the first such officer for the City of New Westminster.

The photo shows the original grave marker for Jonathan and his wife Francis (at right in the photo) and a new marker dedicated in 1998 commemorating his position in City history. A son, Henry, is also buried nearby.

#6 William Johnston  (d 1894) and J J Johnston (d 1966) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

The Johnston family has a long history in New Westminster and this marker, along with others in the same area, record many Johnston names, the most recent (2001) on this stone being Mona Johnston, daughter of JJ.

William Johnston was a pioneer of the city who was very involved with the fire department, band, and his boot and shoe store. Johnston Shoes operated in New Westminster from 1859 to 1984. William was one of the group involved with establishing the local May Day spring festival in 1870, and had with him at this event, a babe in arms - his young son, John Joseph Johnston (JJ).

JJ Johnston, a mayor of the City and involved in the insurance business, remained thoroughly devoted to the May Day festivities and never missed the event throughout his life. Because of this devotion he became lovingly known as “Mr May Day” and he died in 1966 shortly after that year’s May Day was over. A large collection of photos and papers dealing with May Day are to be found at the New Westminster Museum and Archives that also features a May Day exhibit.

The brass plaque on the base of the stone, a tall red obelisk, is in recognition of William Johnston’s place in the history of the Provincial Grand Lodge of British Columbia, Loyal Orange Association, as its first Grand Master. Dedicated as part of the 100th Anniversary of the Association in 1991.

#7 Raymond Burr  (d 1993) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This Burr family marker shows one of the most well known “residents” of the Fraser Cemetery. Raymond Burr, born in New Westminster, spent his first years here before going to California with his family. As he grew up he developed a talent for acting and spent his entire life in all aspects of that profession. Widely known as Perry Mason and Ironside, among a wide and varied career of performances, he was a mainstay of television and movie drama for many years.

A theatre in New Westminster, the 1927 “Columbia Theatre”, has been redeveloped in the last few years into the Raymond Burr Performing Arts Centre.

#8 Arthur Timleck  (d 1901) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This marker, carved in the shape of a tree denoting a young life cut short, commemorates the life and military service of Arthur Timleck. He was a member of the contingent of young men who answered the call of the Boer War, was wounded and subsequently died in 1901 at age 21. The Museum of the Royal Westminster Regiment in New Westminster has a large, old plaque of dedication to Timleck.

#9 The Gilley family plot [view smaller image] [view larger image]

The Gilley family has a long association with the Province of BC through many aspects of community involvement, but most especially through their business, “Gilley Brothers”. Gilley Brothers were active in logging and lumber, shipbuilding, pile driving, bridge building, and were suppliers of rock, sand, gravel, and other such building materials. From the 1870s until well into the latter half of the 20th century, their name was synonymous with hard work and excellence of business.

There are many members of this family in the Fraser Cemetery particularly in this corner. The three large stones are all Gilley markers.

#10 A view across the Fraser Cemetery [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This view presents the Fraser Cemetery, looking north across the full Oddfellows section and taken from near its southern boundary. This is a large portion of the lower half of Fraser with the cemetery sloping down to the right, to the east.

#11 The Upper Fraser Cemetery [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This view presents the Fraser Cemetery, upper section, looking roughly south / southeast. This area, formally developed as a part of the Cemetery about 1912, includes a wide range of stones. The row of grave markers featured in this photo is mainly for Chinese and Japanese burials. A few of the markers in the facing row are for the Suzuki family, Hoshiko Sae, and Kumazo Kishimoto. (See also photo #12)

#12 The Upper Fraser Cemetery [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This view presents the Fraser Cemetery, upper section, looking roughly south / southeast. This view is taken at a wider angle than photo F012 and includes the multiple rows of cremation plots that are located in a long area along the back fence of the Cemetery. There are other cremation areas in the Cemetery as well.

#13 James Digby  (d 1860) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

James Digby was a Corporal with the Columbia Detachment of the Royal Engineers who were in the Colony from 1858 to 1863. He was accidentally killed in a hunting accident near the Royal Engineers Camp.

This is the oldest gravestone in the Fraser Cemetery but it was not always here. Fraser started in the period 1869/70 and this marker (and possibly Digby’s remains) was moved from its original site about 1908. Digby was buried in a small cemetery which was located near Dufferin Street and Agnes Street and used as a cemetery for only a couple of years. This cemetery was finally closed and “emptied” in 1908 and the land used for other purposes.

#14 Flora Ross  (d 1897) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

Flora Ross is an important part of the history of hospitalization and treatment of those with mental illnesses. She was involved with the Asylum in Victoria prior to a new “Insane Asylum” being constructed in New Westminster and opened in 1878. When the patients from Victoria were transferred to the new hospital, she came with them as matron. She served the institution and her charges with care and compassion for many years and was highly respected for her service. When she became ill and retired from her position, the institution arranged for a place for her to stay and to comfortably live out her days. Her gravestone is marked “Matron of the Provincial Asylum for the Insane for 27 years.” This “asylum” changed its name a number of times over its history and, in its later years, was known as Woodlands School or Woodlands. The hospital (Woodlands) is now closed.

There are books written on this institution, both by Val Adolph, under the titles: In the Context of its Time and Memories of Woodlands.

#15 Captain William Irving  (d 1872) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

Captain William Irving was a pioneer steamboat captain in BC. He left his homeland, Scotland, at an early age, and took to the sea, in time finding himself on the west coast of North America. He captained ships on the coastal routes as well as being a frontrunner for the paddlewheel steamboat trade on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. After marrying Elizabeth Dixon of Portland, Oregon, he stayed on inland waters rather than the high seas, and in the late 1850s moved with his family to the Colony of BC, to engage in the steamboat trade in support of the Fraser River gold rush. He was involved with the construction of the first two sternwheelers to be built in “British Columbia”: the Governor Douglas and the Colonel Moody.

He and his family were very active in the community and their home (built 1864/65) is open to the public as an Historic Centre. The gravestone commemorates many family members, direct and by marriage, of the Irvings and the Briggs.

More information can be obtained from Irving House Historic Centre and the New Westminster Museum and Archives, and there is a booklet available on the family and the house.

#16 Arthur McBride (d 1909) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

The McBride name is prominent in the history of the Lower Mainland and in the Province and this family plot is a resting place for a number of McBrides. The family lived in the Sapperton section of New Westminster for many years, with Arthur being involved in law and order.  In 1878 he became the first warden of the newly constructed British Columbia Penitentiary. The BC Pen, as it was known, was a landmark feature in this community from 1878 to 1980 when it closed and reminders of the Pen still attract attention. The original Penitentiary building (1878) and the Gatehouse (circa 1930), along with some landscaping features and the Call In Bell, remain on site, and can be seen as parts of the residential complex that now occupies the former Pen’s hillside location.

The most famous of these McBrides is Sir Richard McBride, born and raised in New Westminster, and Premier of the Province from 1903 to 1915. Sir Richard is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, BC.

A book, Four Walls in the West by Jack Scott, is available on the history of the BC Pen.

#17 Alexander Ewen  (d 1907) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

From Scotland, Alexander Ewen was one of the prime members of a group of men who were instrumental in the development and evolution of the BC fishing industry. Along with others like James Laidlaw, M M English, James Syme, and Thomas Ladner, they were the power behind this endeavour. Ewen was involved with canneries on the New Westminster waterfront as well as a major cannery site just downstream from the city on Lion Island. 

#18 John “Gassy Jack” Deighton  (d 1875) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

The words on this stone seem to sum up the life of John Deighton. He spent time on the Fraser River as a pilot and also operated a saloon in New Westminster. When he decided to go to a new location at Granville on Burrard Inlet, he packed up his belongings, his wife, and dog, and paddled from the river to the inlet where he set up another saloon. Because he liked to talk a lot, “gassing”, he became known by the nickname of “Gassy Jack”. The area of his saloon, in a touristy heritage section of downtown Vancouver today, is known as Gastown. This gravesite was unmarked until the 100th anniversary of his death when the current marker was put in place.

#19 John Stilwell Clute (d 1924) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This gravestone is central to a cluster of Clute (and extended family) markers. It also provides an opportunity to comment upon the challenges that often arise in doing a family history. There are, you see, in this area, three John Stilwell Clutes, and their dates do little to help the researcher to keep their respective families and position in the families in order.

The Clutes, in general, were very involved in local business and the community in such roles as Inspector of Customs, druggist, dry goods, general merchandise, lawyer, Port Inspector, and local politician on school board and council – the J S Clute who died in 1929 was also Mayor of the City. Other Clute affiliations were with the Masonic Order and the Westminster Club (a prominent business club).

Also see photo #2.

#20 Samuel McCleery  (d 1882) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This wonderful old stone with symbolic dove carrying a flower to heaven commemorates Samuel McCleery, who was a pioneer of New Westminster, Richmond, and Vancouver. Family and friends called his property along the North Arm of the Fraser overlooking the area now known as Richmond, the “Garden of Eden”. McCleery was active in logging, land clearing, and farming, with other family members taking on similar activities. The two gravestones visible beyond McCleery’s, McMyn and Kidd, also mark Richmond pioneers and former close associates of Samuel. The old homestead in Vancouver is now the site of the McCleery Golf Course.

#21 View to upper Fraser [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This view looks across St Peter’s Catholic Cemetery towards the upper Fraser Cemetery in the trees in the distance. A close look at the photo will show a line of carefully sculpted bell or conical shaped trees going left to right across the middle of the photo. This line of trees separates St Peter’s from Fraser.

A separate virtual tour of St Peter’s Catholic Cemetery will be produced, as this cemetery is not part of the New Westminster Fraser Cemetery.

#22 A view up through the Masonic Section of the Fraser Cemetery [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This photo is taken in the lower portion of the Cemetery across the former Masonic section looking uphill in a westerly direction. While there are no longer iron fences surrounding grave plots, the trees and shrubs that would have stood at the enclosures’ corners are still in evidence. The monkey-puzzle tree that dominates this area of the cemetery was a deliberate planting within a former iron fenced plot (Powers / Hogan). The large stone to Captain William Irving and family is visible to the left of the monkey- puzzle tree. See photo #15 for Irving.

#23 View in the Masonic Cemetery [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This closer view, taken from the same spot as photo F024, shows a cluster of markers in the centre of the former Masonic Cemetery. Some of the large markers visible are to Edmonds, Black, Webster, Grant and Ladner. A newspaper comment in 1870 stated that the Masonic Cemetery was fenced, had a gate, and was a true addition to the city.

#24 Cy Peck  (d 1956) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

There are two stories that can be told of these stones: one about the wonderful genealogical information on the markers, and another of the main burial of Cyrus Peck.

Cy Peck has a history that includes the military and politics. In the military, Cy Peck was a Victoria Cross winner for action at the battle of Arras in 1918, in which he fought through extensive firing to eliminate a tank. He was a much-decorated member of the Canadian Scottish Regiment and he served overall with distinction.

In politics he also stands out as he ran for office in 1917 while a soldier overseas, and won to become the Member of Parliament for Skeena. He is noted as the only member of the British Empire Forces to earn a VC in World War I while a Member of Parliament. He also served as a Provincial MLA for the Islands.

He died at Sidney on Vancouver Island and the heritage Post Office building there has a plaque of dedication to him. There was also a ferry in the BC Ferries fleet named after him.

#25 Beth Wood (d 1994) and Jack Wood (d 1997) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

The Wood family has strong connections in the City with extensive involvement in all aspects of community life.

Beth Wood holds a couple of major distinctions in this community. While strongly involved with local politics and a member of the School Board, she was the first woman to be elected to City Council (1949) and the first woman Mayor of New Westminster (1959-1964).

Jack Wood worked for years for the City but was best known for his athletic endeavours where he excelled in many but especially in lacrosse. He won Olympic gold with the Canadian Olympic Lacrosse team in 1928 and was elected a member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

#26 Paul Okamura  (1937) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

Paul Okamura was a photographer and artist whose work is highly regarded for its depth and clarity. He was closely associated with the Catholic Church of this city and his paintings of Oblate fathers are purported to have lined the halls of many Catholic buildings. His photographs of people and local places have a wonderful quality. His studio was in his home at the corner of Royal Ave and 4th St where the St Peter’s Catholic Church stands today. Albeit a Catholic, Paul Okamura is not buried in the Catholic Cemetery but rather in the upper Fraser section.  Misao Okamura, his wife, is buried nearby in a separate grave.

#27 The Trapp Stone [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This is a wonderful marker, filled on both sides, with the names of Trapp family members. The visible side offers the stone’s tragic highlight, the three sons of Mr and Mrs T J Trapp who were killed in action in World War I: Flight Lieutenant Stan Trapp, 1916; Flight Sub Lieutenant George Trapp, 1917; and Lieutenant Donavon Trapp, 1918. Another son was invalided home.

The other side of the marker lists among the family members, Dr Ethlyn Trapp (d 1972), a daughter of TJ Trapp, who was at the forefront of medical research in Canada. She pioneered the first radiotherapy treatment for cancer in Canada and launched the first clinical research project on breast cancer. Along with the many recognitions for her work and dedication, she was the first woman president of the BC Medical Association.

#28 Sadie Buchanan (d 1939) Samuel Bentley Buchanan (d 1947) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This tall obelisk is simply marked Buchanan but it has a separate stone at its front. Samuel was in real estate and was prominent in the area. When his wife, to whom he was truly devoted, died, he donated land and his home to be developed into a home for the care of older women as they lived out their lives. The home, operated for many years by the Salvation Army and known as Sunset Lodge, still is in operation but in a new modern edifice on the original site in Sapperton.

#29 A Wells Gray  (d 1944) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

Wells Gray, as he was known, was a well-liked, very active, citizen of New Westminster. He followed his father into the lumber industry, then moved into insurance and real estate, but his true calling came when he got his first taste of politics in about 1907. He served on council and two terms as Mayor. He was MLA from 1927 to 1941, and Minister of Lands and Minister of Municipal Affairs. Wells Gray Provincial Park is named after him.

The grave is unmarked by request of Mr Gray. His and other family members’ graves are in the circle at the left in the foreground. A tall tree dominates the grassed circle that affords a wonderful view up the Fraser River.

#30 Terry Hughes  (d 1959) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This grave of Terry Hughes gives no indication that it denotes an act of selfless courage in going to the aid of a fellow human being. In November of 1959, some children got into trouble playing near the Fraser River and ended up in the river. Terry went to the rescue, but while the children were ultimately saved, Terry lost his life.

A park at McBride Blvd and 8th Ave is named for Terry Hughes and a plaque commemorates his life and bravery.

#31 Emma Augusta (Debeck) Rand  (d 1909) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

Emma was born to the pioneer farming Debeck family of Richmond and Sea Island in 1871 and is noted as being the first white baby in those communities.

The Debecks were prominent in the early farming, logging and lumbering history of the Province and a number of members of the family are buried in Fraser Cemetery. In New Westminster they established the Brunette Sawmills after acquiring an unused mill on Vancouver Island, floating it to the Fraser, and setting it up near the mouth of the Brunette River.

#32 A view in the Oddfellows Section [view smaller image] [view larger image]

The Fraser Cemetery presents many opportunities for views such as this one featuring a collection of gravestones from old to new, from simple to ornate, from large to small.

#33 A view across a newer section towards the Masonic Section [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This view in the lower area of the Cemetery, looks towards the Masonic Section with its many trees. Clearly visible are the shrubs that mark family plots and the tall monkey-puzzle tree in another. See also photo #22.

#34 A close up view from the previous view [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This photo provides a close up view that mixes the backdrop of trees with the shrubs of family plots and some of the larger stones of interest. The McBride family plot is at the right. See also photo #16.

#35 Rina Insley  (d 1898) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

On September 10 and 11, 1898, the City of New Westminster suffered a calamitous fire that destroyed much of the City’s downtown core. While Rina Insley did not die as a result of the blaze, her story is nevertheless, closely tied to it.

The Insley family owned and operated a major hotel in the City and it was lost along with many other buildings. They lost all their belongings and, like others, they looked upon their prospects with more than a little concern. But, with an important Provincial Exhibition upcoming, and hotels at a premium due to the fire, the Insleys set about to construct a new facility which they did in just two weeks. This new hotel served the exhibition needs and remained in solid service for many years. The family suffered greatly due to the fire but it was the loss, just under two weeks later, on September 22, 1898, of their baby daughter, Rina, to whooping cough, that hurt them the most. This small marker is part of the large Insley family plot.

#36 The Deas children:  R.L. (d 1868) Margaret (d 1877) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

R.L. and Margaret were the children of John Sullivan Deas and Fanny Deas, a black family who moved north to find a life of freedom. The children both died very young at 2 years, 7 months, and 2 months, respectively.

John Deas was a talented tinsmith who found steady employment in his trade especially in the fishing industry with the canning of salmon. He worked with others in this business but then developed his own cannery site on what became known as Deas Island. After a number of years of success, he moved to Portland, Oregon, after some problems with the fishing business, some of it racially motivated, and worked in that city until his death.

The interesting story of the Deas family can be found in materials about the history of blacks in British Columbia. Deas Island, on the Fraser River, is open to the public as a park in the Greater Vancouver Regional District parks system and a commemorative marker there recounts his involvement.

#37 The Military Section [view smaller image] [view larger image]

There are burials of people who served in the military throughout the Fraser Cemetery. Cemetery walking tours have chronicled the stories of those involved with conflicts including the Crimea, Boer War, U.S. Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, and others. The section shown in this view is specifically for the military and includes individuals with a multitude of military affiliations.

#38 Larry Ashley  (d 1995) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This is the marker on the grave of Larry Ashley, long time trainer and valued staff member of the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League. Of note is the symbol on the stone. Grave markers frequently have “artwork” on them and some of this holds special meaning for the person or family involved. In Fraser Cemetery there are examples of flowers, foliage, animals, scenes, specific symbols, interesting graphics, and many others and the Ashley stone offers one other, very specific symbol – an old team logo for the Canucks.

#39 Frederick Dickinson  (d 1869) [view smaller image] [view larger image]

Often in strolling through a cemetery our attention is drawn to the larger, significant looking stones, but we should always look carefully at those that lie tucked in corners or partially overgrown, “hidden” behind the others. This small marker is to Frederick, young son of Robert and Caroline Dickinson, who lie right next to him. Frederick was only 1 year, 4 months old when he died, and his father and mother were prominent in the city. The family ran a successful butcher shop in town and Robert served 22 years on Council and as Mayor.

#40 An interesting set of gravestones [view smaller image] [view larger image]

This cross is one of the more interestingly designed stones in the cemetery and in conjunction with the others of this group, offers a photogenic scene of the lower area of Fraser Cemetery.  Left to right the markers are for: William Moresby (d 1896), damaged slate marker – not readable, Jacquita Alicia Annie Saunders (d 1870), Annie Saunders (flat on ground), Charlotte Haines (d 1872).

#41 The Montgomery stones [view smaller image] [view larger image]

These stones are on the Montgomery family plot and as can be seen on the visible side of the marker, they draw connections to the Province of Quebec. On the other side in the shadows, the name of W F Montgomery is noted along with a notation that states that he was killed at New Westminster in 1889 and that the monument had been “erected by his fellow trainmen as a tribute of respect”.  Of interest, the marker shows a death date of November 2, and the burial registry shows the same date, but research has shown that he died one month earlier than this, killed in a train incident, and was buried then as well. There is always something to learn during cemetery research.

We hope you enjoyed this look at Fraser Cemetery, New Westminster, BC

Be sure to watch for future cemetery tours and information

from Archie and Dale Miller of

A Sense of History Research Services