Stone Cuttings Newsletter

Our Newsletter is published every two months and is currently produced and edited by Russ Stewart.


In Memory of Fred Hook

Another founding member of the Old Cemeteries Society has passed away: Fred Hook died in his sleep on February 6 at his home in Cherryville, BC. Fred was a stalwart of the OCS from its time as a committee of the Historical Society (about 1985), through its establishment as a separate society and for many years after. Fred grew up on the island and attended the University of Victoria. He went to work for the City of Victoria’s Parks Department, working his way up to his final position as an environmental technician focusing on invasive species and naturalization areas of parks. You may have seen Fred quoted in articles in the local papers about everything from herons nesting in Beacon Hill Park to hogweed invading our local areas. He retired in 2012 after 28 years with the city. It was thanks to Fred, through his work for the Parks Department, that the OCS was able to move headstones from Pioneer Square (which were in danger of vandalism) into storage at the city’s Beacon Hill works yard. He was part of our work crew that dug out and transported the stones to the yard—in his truck. This was just one of the many activities Fred was involved in for the OCS. He and his wife, Jennifer Lort, were well known for their excellent tree tours of Ross Bay Cemetery, where they spoke not only about the botany but also about the folklore associated with trees in cemeteries. We still miss those tours! Fred was an early adopter of computer technology, and thanks to him, the OCS acquired its first computer, which Fred set up, maintained and updated over the years. He used this and later computers to set up the earliest databases for our records. Fred was also the audio-visual tech for members’ evenings and annual general meetings. He brought in his giant screen, projector and sound system to make sure we had the best equipment on hand. For over 15 years, Fred was the publisher of our former journal Stories in Stone, which came out a few times a year. As well, he and Jennifer looked after the mailing, which was no small task in the days when we didn’t receive anything electronically! He also served a term on the executive as secretary. Besides the OCS, Fred was a long-time member of the Victoria Rock and Alpine Garden Society, the Victoria Rhododendron Society and the Garry Oak Meadow Association. He was a well-respected horticulturalist and, with Jennifer, was a judge for several years at the Pacific Northwest Garden Show in Seattle. After his retirement from the Parks Department, Fred and Jennifer moved to Cherryville in the Interior. On their Sleeping Turtle Farm, they happily gardened, enjoyed the company of animals (horses, dogs, cats) and participated in the community. Each year Fred made a calendar of Jennifer’s nature photos that went out to friends. He was a man of many interests and talents, gone too soon. To Jennifer: The OCS is forever grateful for Fred’s and your contributions in helping us thrive. Our deepest sympathy goes out to you and all of Fred’s family and friends.

A Contribution from Fred Hook

Fred not only published our Stories in Stone journal (a publication now replaced by Stone Cuttings) for many years, he was also a contributor. The article below is a good example of Fred’s interest in, and knowledge of, botany. With all the trimming, replacing and removal of trees in the last 10 years in RBC, the chimera may no longer be there. We’ll have to wait for spring to find out.

There’s a Chimera in the Cemetery! By Fred Hook

No, not the fire-breathing monster of Greek legend with a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a serpent’s tail. Our chimera is a botanical specimen, the result of a strange kind of cross between plants of two different species in which one part of the plant appears identical to one parent; another part of the plant appears to be purely the other parent; and a third part of the plant becomes a combination of the two. The Ross Bay chimera is Laburnocytisus adamii. It is partly Laburnum anagryoides(Common Laburnum) and partly Cytisus purpureos (Purple Broom). At one time the Purple Broom was grafted onto the top of the stem of a Common Laburnum to produce a standard broom—in much the same way as ornamental cherries are “top worked” onto the trunks of more vigorous trees. In about 1825, at the Paris nursery of Mons. Adam, workers were producing such standards. In one case, the grafted broom-bud “took” and began to grow into the wood of the Laburnum. Then, by accident, the outer part of the bud was rubbed off and the wound healed over. The graft continued to grow under the bark of the Laburnum and, eventually, buds with the characteristics of the broom appeared at other points on the tree. In other places, buds appeared that were a mixture of the two plant types. What was produced was a “graft hybrid” or chimera, containing a mixture of the tissues of two genetically distinct parents. The core of the tree remains a Laburnum, while the outer shell is a broom. When the tree flowers, about the beginning of May, it has three types of blooms: the clear yellow blossoms of the Laburnum, the deep pink of the Purple Broom, and the coppery-pink intermediates. The foliage is also different. Those branches with yellow blossoms have Laburnum leaves, gray-green about 4 cm long; those with pink flowers have dark green leaves about half as long as the Laburnum; intermediate leaves are dark above and pale below. On the branches with Laburnum flowers, seeds form in large, gray pea-like pods, whereas the broom flowers do not seem to produce seeds. All parts of the plant, including the seeds, are poisonous. This small tree is more a curiosity than a beauty, but each year, when it comes into flower, it draws a crowd of admirers. In Ross Bay Cemetery, you can find it near the Stannard Street entrance. Stories in Stone, Fall 1995, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 13-14

Annual General Meeting of old Cemeteries Society Gerry Buydens

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is usually held in the middle of February. Unfortunately due to the COVID Restrictions, it will have to be postponed until the restrictions are lifted. Under the rules of the Societies Act, it should be held within 6 months of the end of our year. The Government has extended that a further 6 months. The executive has discussed the issue and we are hoping things relax sufficiently so that it is safe to do so as an outdoor event in May or June. We will make a final decision nearer the date. Thank you for your patience and for your involvement with OCS.

2021 Tour Schedule — February to June*

Tours are either about or at Ross Bay Cemetery (RBC) unless otherwise indicated. NOTE:Owing to Covid restrictions, the first three tours will be available only on Zoom, not in person. The Zoom link for each tour will be sent to members only. To become a Page | 4 member, please visit the Old Cemeteries Society (OCS) website ( or call 250-598-8870 for information. In-person tours will resume only when Covid restrictions allow. For updates on the tours after March 7, please check the OCS website ( or Facebook (

Feb. 21. On Zoom only. City of the Dead.

Find out why RBC was founded in 1872 and how it was designed based on 19th century ideals of cemetery layout that originated with Napoleon. The winding carriageways lined with trees had symbolic significance; the styles of monuments and their epitaphs evoked Victorian values; the sloping site overlooking the ocean and the division by religious denomination reflected divisions in 19th century class and society.

Feb. 28. On Zoom only. Black History.

Each year in February, the OCS joins with the BC Black History Awareness Society to mark Black History Month by touring some of the many graves of Victoria’s Black pioneers buried at RBC. Escaping increasing discrimination in California, about 600 came here at the invitation of Gov. James Douglas. Douglas is included on the tour because of Black ancestry on his mother’s side.

March 7. On Zoom only. Funeral Oddities.

The Victorian ideal of a solemn cortege leading to the grave where the committal is reverently intoned was sometimes shattered by human and natural interference. John Adams has found some examples of funerals and burials that did not go according to plan, sometimes with humorous, bizarre, tragic or otherwise memorable results.

* Please check the OCS website ( or Facebook ( or call 250-598-8870 for information about attendance at the following tours. Depending on Covid restrictions, some or all may be available only on Zoom.

March 14. RBC. This Job Is Killing Me!

In the days before workplace safety mattered, jobs could be fatal. Yvonne Van Ruskenveld will visit the graves of some of those who died from their dangerous work. You may be surprised by some of the industries that Victoria once supported.

March 21. RBC. Murder Most Foul – Part 1.

Always a popular topic in our annual tour program. Join Michael Halleran as he visits graves of the victims of murder and even a few of the convicted murderers themselves. For murder mystery aficionados who want more, the theme will continue on Oct. 17 with a selection of different stories.

March 28. RBC. Stories Behind Our Street Names.

Some streets in the Victoria area are obviously named after early residents but others have less obvious sources. An OCS team will reveal the origins of the names of streets, roads and avenues you may know and have wondered about.

April 4. RBC. More than Angels and Obelisks.

Join Yvonne Van Ruskenveld in celebrating this Easter Sunday with a new symbolism tour highlighting grave markers old and new. From the Victorian period to modern times, symbols provide intriguing links to the stories of the individuals buried in this historic cemetery.

April 11. RBC. Victoria’s Militia Goes to War.

In 1914, soldiers from Victoria’s artillery militia and newly formed infantry regiments joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) to fight in the First World War in Belgium and France. John Azar and guests will tell the stories of some who served and how they are commemorated in RBC and elsewhere.

April 18. RBC. Emily Carr Tour – Part 1.

Emily Carr’s grave is one of the most visited at RBC. Every year a team of OCS guides visits the graves of many people Emily knew. Emily herself (a.k.a. Molly Raher Newman) will delight us with readings about these people from Emily’s prolific writings. Another, different Emily Carr tour is scheduled on September 5.

April 25. Pioneer Square Gold Rush Tales.

The 1858 gold rush began in Victoria on Sunday, April 25, when the SS Commodore steamed into the harbour carrying hundreds of gold-hungry prospectors. Today’s tour will include some of the people who already lived here and many who came to seek their fortunes. Doctors, farmers, steamboat captains, fur traders, saloon keepers and other colourful characters will be included. Meet at the corner of Quadra and Meares Streets.

May 2. Chinese Cemetery Tour.

To mark Asian Heritage Month, Victoria Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe will conduct the OCS’s annual tour at the Chinese Cemetery, including a visit to her own grandfather’s grave. The cemetery, now a National Historic Site, began in 1903. Meet at the Chinese Cemetery gates, corner of Crescent and Penzance Roads. Access off King George Terrace.

May 9. RBC. The Lusitania Riots.

The Cunard liner Lusitania, carrying almost 2,000 passengers, including 14 Victorians, was sunk by a German submarine on May 7, 1915. The news triggered a weekend of anti-German riots and disrupted a half-century of Anglo-German harmony in Victoria. Historian Diana Pedersen will lead this tour on the 106th anniversary of the events.

May 16. RBC. Chinese at Ross Bay.

From 1873 to 1903, Victoria’s Chinese community buried its dead at RBC. They were relegated to an undesirable piece of ground near the beach where waves sometimes carried coffins out to sea. In keeping with Chinese tradition, many were exhumed and the bones shipped to China. After 1903, some were reburied at the Chinese Cemetery. John Adams, author of Chinese Victoria (soon to be released), will visit the former Chinese section of RBC and recount the stories of some who once were buried there and some who still are.

May 23. RBC. Empire Connections.

On this Victoria Day weekend, Michael Halleran will visit the graves of people from diverse and far-flung countries of the British Empire, who made their way to this distant outpost and contributed to Victoria’s civic life.

May 30. RBC. Civil War Stories.

From the Fraser River gold rush on, Victoria attracted thousands of Americans. On this U.S. Memorial Day weekend, Yvonne Van Ruskenveld will tell the stories of some of those who were involved in the U.S. Civil War.

June 6. RBC. Our Happy Home.

Today’s tour title is from a recent book about Ross Bay Villa, past, present and future. Built in 1865, even before RBC was established across the street, Ross Bay Villa still stands on Fairfield Road. By the early 1990s the house was neglected and hidden by undergrowth. Dedicated volunteers restored it and now the Ross Bay Villa Society owns and operates it. Society members will lead a tour at RBC to graves of people connected with the house; then at the Villa itself where refreshments will be served.

June 13. RBC. Victoria’s Multicultural Firsts.

May Q. Wong is the author of the recent book City in Colour about Victoria’s multicultural past with a focus on people of colour. The author will highlight the many firsts among this diversity of people buried at RBC. Hear about Victoria’s Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, First Nations, Metis and others of colour who were pioneers, trailblazers and community leaders. June 20. RBC. Métis Connections. Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Today’s tour leader, Fern Perkins, who is Métis, will demystify confusion about the term. Fern will

OCS Volunteer Opportunity

OCS members love history — they love hearing about it and talking about it. We’re looking for volunteers who can help us tell the stories that bring Victoria’s and BC’s history to life on our tours. We are planning several team tours this year and in the future, and we’d welcome volunteers who would like to be part of a tour, telling one or two stories. We will provide the stories and coaching, as needed. It’s a great way to learn more about our history and connect with other members. If you are interested, please contact the OCS office at

Muslim Burial Rituals and Cemeteries By Diane Persson

Islamic religious law (Sharia) requires a body be buried as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours of death. Prior to burial, the body is bathed and shrouded. Orthodox practice is to wash the body an odd number of times (at least once) with a cloth covering parts of the body that should be hidden according to Sharia (i.e. breasts and genitals). Bathing by adult members of the immediate family should occur as soon as possible after death and those bathing the body must be the same gender as the deceased. Shrouds should be simple and modest, with males using only 3 pieces of cloth and women 5 pieces of a white cotton or linen cloth. The body may be kept in this state for several hours, allowing well-wishers to pass on their respects and condolences.

Since Muslims believe there will be a physical resurrection of the body on Judgement Day, the faith prohibits cremation. Similarly, autopsies are strongly discouraged since they delay burial and are considered a desecration of the body. Also, Muslims prefer not to move the body away from the site of death, making an autopsy even more unsettling for them. Embalming, considered yet another desecration of the body, is performed only if required by law.

Once the body is prepared, with hands placed as if in prayer, adult male Muslims gather to offer their collective prayers for the forgiveness of the dead. Since burials take place as soon as possible after death, there is no viewing, wake or visitation. Then the body is transported to the location of the funeral, a mosque. There is rarely an open casket at an Islamic funeral.

The funeral is typically held outside the mosque, in a location such as a prayer room, community square, or courtyard, where members of the community may gather. The body and all attendees are all turned to face Mecca, which is the holy center of Islam. Funeral prayers are led by the Imam, the holy leader. Attendees form at least three lines: men, then children, and women in the back. After prayers, the body is taken to the burial site in a silent procession. Some Muslim communities allow women and children to attend the burial, but traditionally it’s just men. Orthodoxy expects those present to symbolically pour three handfuls of soil into the grave while reciting a Quranic verse meaning, “We created you from it, and return you into it, and from it we will raise you a second time.”

In Middle Eastern Muslim cultures, women are generally discouraged from participating in the funeral procession. The reason for this is that in pre-Islamic Arabia it was customary for grieving women to wail loudly. Wealthy families often even hired moirologists (professional or paid mourners) to attend the funerals of their deceased relative. Wailing at funerals is not permitted according to the Hadith (a collection of traditions containing sayings of the Prophet Muhammad).

Finally, tradition dictates that flowers are to be sent to the family’s home after the burial of the deceased. There is a 40-day mourning period, during which time not only flowers but also food is appreciated. Mourners at an Islamic funeral may express grief, but only within certain standards of decorum and traditional Muslim funeral etiquette forbids mourners from taking pictures or in any other way recording any part of the funeral prayer service. After the prayer service and the burial, mourners may gather at the home of the immediate family to offer their condolences to the family. Traditionally, visitors plan to stay the entire day and a meal is served.

Page | 8 While the customs and style of the grave may vary by regional custom, the grave must be perpendicular to the direction of Mecca. Generally, the body is placed in the grave without a coffin, with the body lying on its right facing Mecca. Grave markers should be raised, not more than about 30 cm above the ground, so that the grave will neither be walked nor sat on. Grave markers are simple, as outwardly lavish displays are discouraged in Islam and are frequently marked only with a simple wreath, if at all. However, it is becoming more common for family members to erect grave monuments.

In Canada, embalming is not a legal requirement and since Muslims are buried as soon as possible after death, it is generally not done. Some cemeteries allow burial without a casket, for example in a shroud. There is a growing recognition of the need for Muslim cemeteries as there are currently only three. The Calgary Muslim Cemetery established 4 decades ago is in the Cochrane area and operated by the Muslim Council of Calgary The Toronto Muslim Cemetery had its first burial in May 2012 and the Ottawa Muslim Cemetery began in January 2012. Like the historical layout of Ross Bay Cemetery with denominational sections, Muslim burials may be in a specific area of a larger cemetery. For example, Britain’s Muslim Cemetery was established in 1884 in a section of the country’s largest cemetery, Brookwood . The Muhammadan Cemetery, as it was known, recorded its first burial waited in 1895: Sheikh Nubie, an Indian juggler who died while on tour in London. Another burial ground, the Woking Muslim War Cemetery , was opened in 1917 during WWI for British Muslim soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice in service of king and country.

In Canada, Islam is the second largest religion in Canada, after Christianity. The current 3% of Muslim Canadians is expected to more than double in the coming decade, and the need for appropriate burial services is increasing. In Victoria, 108 spaces are reserved for Muslim burials in Royal Oak Burial Park.

The Old Cemeteries Society welcomes members of all faiths. To enquire about membership, email

Victoria Pioneer Rifle Company

In 1859, when Governor Sir James Douglas became concerned about potential war between the United States and Canada over ownership of the San Juan Islands, recently arrived Black pioneers offered to form a militia unit. Douglas accepted.

Consisting of one captain, three other officers and forty-four privates, the VRPC drilled twice a week. The company is said to have had the first military band on Vancouver Island. It consisted of nine instruments and was led by a white bandmaster who was hired to teach them music. The drill house soon became a gathering place and social centre for the Black community. In the beginning, their weapons were antique flintlocks supplied by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Sir James Douglas ordered better weapons from England but none reached the Black Militia.

Through its existence the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps was in need of financial support. For the most part the Blacks raised funds through subscriptions or other projects from within the Black community itself. Financial support from the government was minimal and at times requests for monetary assistance went unheeded.

Despite the early reception of the Black Militia, the corps seemed to have met less than enthusiastic recognition from Governor James Douglas. Appeals for rifles and funding were still unavailable to them and the unit was inactive during 1863.

In 1864 when Sir James Douglas retired as Governor, the Victoria Pioneer Rifles were not allowed to officially attend his farewell banquet, causing a great outcry.

When the new Governor, Arthur Kennedy, was sworn in, the corps was refused entry to the ceremonies, ostensibly because the other volunteer fire brigades would not march behind them.

Shortly after the new governor’s arrival, the Black volunteers marched to the Legislative Buildings to present an address of loyalty to the governor in which they made reference to the discrimination against them. Kennedy informed them he would try to breach the rift between whites and blacks, but nothing was done.

By the Spring of 1865, the unit had virtually disbanded in disgust. One of its former Captains, R.H. Johnson, wrote a letter to the Editor of the Colonist newspaper, stating, “…their enthusiasm and ardour as far as this colony is concerned have evaporated. This mean and scandalous manner in which they were treated upon the advent of Governor Kennedy is still fresh in their minds. Having as much human nature under their dark skins as others of a paler hue, they cannot forget the snubbing they received on that occasion…”

Cemetery Tourist By Wilf Bruch

DeForest Pioneer Cemetery has about 75 headstones and is located west of Burlington Ontario, and just off the Guelph Line road before you get to the 401. The cemetery was originally a family plot named after Abraham DeForest. In the early 1800’s, Abraham and his father Issac had been imprisoned as Loyalists in New York State. In an escape attempt, Issac was shot but Abraham was able to flee across the Canadian border. He made his new home on the 200-acre parcel of land where the cemetery is now located. His grave stone is one of the earliest, dating to 1842. The cemetery grew to include other families from the surrounding area.

I took these pictures in 2009. In 2013 the Southern Ontario Paranormal Society visited the cemetery and found evidence of the paranormal and a ghost sighting. As a result of that visit, this organization took on the task of fund raising and the clean-up of the cemetery as well some restoration of grave markers. I must return one day to see if their efforts have made a lasting difference. As a footnote to this cemetery story, consider the following facts provided by “Roadside Thoughts”. Within a two mile radius of this cemetery, there are 34 communities and 27 cemeteries. Hard to believe? Here are a couple of photos:

On Burying the Hermit By Douglas Porteous

I’m visiting monasteries and hermitages on Mount Athos in Greek Macedonia. No women are allowed on Athos, except saints; I’m currently in the skiti of Aghia Anna [St Anne] on a steep cliff facing west. Hereabouts, at the southern end of the holy peninsula, are many hermitages, with walled-off caves and stone huts perched on ledges down precipitous cliffs. A hermit has been found dead, clad in his habit and gumboots. I go to his solemn funeral in the katholikon. He’s been dead for ten days, they say. He’s well wrapped up in a mantle of industrial-strength plastic tied with cords. No coffin required.

The two-wheel pushcart bier trundles him off to the very small graveyard, where the grave in the almost vertical hillside seems little more than a metre deep. In goes the hermit in his plastic wrapping. And in, after him, leaps a lively young monk with a fearsomely long sharp knife. With this blade he cuts the binding cords and then slices the plastic from end to end and pulls it away, revealing the hermit in his shroud. The stink is beyond belief. Even the monks standing above the grave, though prepared for it, start back. One runs to the cliff edge and spits in a great arc down the precipice to the sea, spitting and crying: ptui ptui ptui ptui

I have seen well-prepared bodies lying in their coffins at wakes, but never before encountered such an olfactory insult. The grave is filled in, the prayers said. Several years on, the hermit will be disinterred and, if fortunate, will by then be a skeleton. His bones will be added to the neat stacks in the ossuary, ulna to ulna, femur to femur, skull to skull. The skull will be numbered and placed on the shelf with all the preceding skulls, ready for the resurrection of the body.

History of the Anchor on the Schultz Family Gravesite

The gravesite is in Ross Bay Cemetery, Block F/K Plot 7 & 8 W of 9. A Danish naval ship’s anchor, cast in the dockyards at Refshaleoen, Copenhagen, Denmark in 1898. It represents a longstanding family naval tradition linking seven generations. Brought to Montreal aboard a Canadian National Steamship freighter in the closing years of their Carribean run by Theodor Schultz from his birthplace,the then Danish island of St.Thomas, Virgin Islands. Placed in Ross Bay Cemetery in 1991 by his son David and wife Joan, in memory of their daughter, Amy Elizabeth, and gravesite of their granddaughter Stephanie. A family plot for present and future generations.

Tombstone Oddities Thanks to Diane Persson

Ontario physician Samuel Bean cemented his reputation as an eccentric when he had an enigmatic headstone carved in the 1860s to commemorate his two wives. His first wife, Henrietta, died in 1865 just seven months after the two were married. Shortly after, he married his second wife, Susanna, who also met her untimely end after only a few months of marriage. Both women were buried side by side in Rushes Cemetery in the little town of Wellesley outside of Waterloo. He commissioned a marble headstone with both women’s names and a 225-character grid that appeared to be a nonsense jumble of words and letters. The tombstone is etched below the inscinscription with the words “Reader, meet us in Heaven.”

Nobody could coax answers from Dr. Bean about the puzzle’s meaning and then, during a 1904 vacation to Cuba, Bean fell off the side of a boat and drowned. The secret to his gravestone cipher perished with Dr. Bean.The epitaph drew curious visitors attempting to break the code and so many people came to make rubbings of the headstone that by the 1980s it was entirely illegible and had to be replaced with a replica. The cemetery groundskeeper claimed he had cracked it in the 1940s, but never revealed the answer.

In the 1970s a 94-year-old woman solved the code and told what Dr. Bean had written for his two wives (read no farther if you would rather solve the code yourself.) To solve the puzzle, start at the seventh column from the left and at the seventh letter from the top and read in a zig-zag way. If solved correctly, it should read



However, the puzzle appears to have a few errors. There is a single letter-discrepancy between the two stones. In line 7, column 8, the original’s “D” became an “E” on the replica — as it should be. However, there remains one seeming error: in line 8, column 14, each stone shows “B” but this has no place in the puzzle. If made an “O” it completes the word “SO” in the puzzle’s final phrase. Some think that Dr. Bean had these false letters engraved into the original marble to have the last laugh on his neighbours.

P.T. Barnum 1810-1891

Circus entrepreneur: “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Gardens?”

Membership Renewal Form

It’s time to renew your OCS membership for 2021. Please circle type of membership:

Individual $30 Family $45 Student $20

Donations are greatly appreciated $________ OCS is a registered charity. Income tax receipts issued for donations greater than $10.

NAME:___________________________________________________________ ADDRESS:_______________________________________________________

PHONE #:________________________________________________________


Make cheques payable to The Old Cemeteries Society and mail to P.O. Box 50004, RPO Fairfield Plaza, Victoria BC, V8S 5L8

Membership cards are issued only if requested.

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