Memorial Gate Project 2022

Project Announcement

ROSS BAY CEMETERY GATE PROJECT

The executive of the Old Cemeteries Society is pleased and excited to announce our project for 2022.

Ross Bay Cemetery celebrates its 150 anniversary in March 1st 2023.
We have been working with the City of Victoria for a number of years on plans to erect a memorial gate at the Stannard Street entrance to Ross Bay Cemetery and are now ready to begin the build.

*Scroll down for updates on this project.

The cemetery currently has no formal entrance and no formal signage denoting the name, designation or use of this historic property. Our plans include brass plaques to show the cemeteries name and a brief history.

Plaque wording

Ross Bay Cemetery is on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen speaking Indigenous Nations. We honour and acknowledge their dedicated stewarding of these lands for thousands of years.

After the Douglas Treaties of 1850 the land was acquired by Isabella Ross and James Douglas. Ross sold part of her farm to Robert Burnaby. In 1872 he sold 13 acres of it to the City of Victoria for the cemetery which opened the following year. In 1900 part of the Douglas estate was added, on the west side, and in 1906 a part of the Ross estate was added, on the east side. The cemetery now comprises 27.5 acres and contains about 30,000 interments. It is owned by the City of Victoria, is a designated heritage site and is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Erected by the Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria, 2022

We have received a Heritage Alteration Permit and authorization from The City of Victoria Council for the proposed gate and are proceeding to work with the City of Victoria Parks Department on the final plans. We plan to begin construction in early September.

We are currently accepting donations and have a build and complete schedule of late Fall of 2022.

As of this date, there is no formal signage denoting the name, designation or use of this historic property


Sponsors

The Bossi Family

Parks and Recreation Foundation of Victoria


Project Updates

September 29, 2022: Today we finished all the cement pours and have prepped the site for new asphalt which is expected to be laid around November 5th. The granite cladding and gates can now be ordered and are expected in mid November. Keep an eye out for progress and don’t forget to donate.


Donate to the Gate!

You can donate to the gate project and receive a charitable donation receipt by mailing a cheque or e-transfer to oldcem@pacificcoast.net

To donate via e-transfer please use oldcem@pacificcoast.net



RBC Short History

Victoria’s Ross Bay Cemetery formally opened on March 1, 1873 to serve the burial needs of the growing city of Victoria, BC, Canada. Overlooking Ross Bay, it is now 11 hectares in size (27.5 acres) and has almost 30,000 interments.

After Fort Victoria was founded in 1843, a small graveyard was opened at what is now the southwest corner of Douglas St. and Johnson St. In 1855, a new cemetery was opened, the Quadra Street Cemetery, now known as the Old Burying Ground (or Pioneer Square).

As the Quadra Street Cemetery was filling up, the city looked for a good location for a new, larger cemetery. The original site the city chose for Victoria’s new cemetery was 47 acres just outside the city near Ogden Point. The land was given to Victoria’s Cemetery Trustees in 1872 and was to have 12 acres cleared for use right away. Many people opposed this site, including Dr. J.S. Helmcken. They said it was too valuable to use for a cemetery, and it was a health risk because it was on the city’s windward side. Taking the protests of the citizens to heart, the city sold some of the land and bought 13 acres of cleared land at Ross Bay from Robert Burnaby (the man for whom the municipality of Burnaby would be named) for $300 per acre. By October 1872, the site was being laid out and drained, and by the following March, plots were being offered for sale. The cemetery was named Ross Bay Cemetery because it is beside Ross Bay. The bay was named after Isabella Ross who had purchased the land in the 1860’s.

The cemetery was originally fenced with a formal wooden gate across from what is now “Ross Bay Villa”. This photo shows the formal gate as it was in 1921.


Statement of Significance

DESCRIPTION OF HISTORIC PLACE

Ross Bay Cemetery is a 27.5 acre graveyard located between Fairfield and Dallas Roads, bounded by Memorial Crescent on the west and the properties on St. Charles Street on the east.

HERITAGE VALUE

Ross Bay Cemetery is the most important heritage cemetery in British Columbia; its value lies in its historic monuments and largely intact historic landscape.

The over 20,000 graves of Ross Bay Cemetery – many of which are marked with magnificent locally carved head stones – provide a physical record of local, regional, and provincial culture and history. This cemetery is a museum of over one hundred years of the province’s most historical figures, such as Sir James Douglas, Matthew Baillie Begbie, and Emily Carr.

The cemetery remains largely true to its 1872 layout; the curving carriageways radiating from a central axis, variety of historic plantings, and arboreal landscape survive as physical reminders of the nineteenth century planning which intended the cemetery to be a romantic and peaceful oasis, well suited to quiet reflection and contemplation. Division of the cemetery into sections by religious denominations demonstrates the influence of local churches on the planning of the cemetery. The evolution of this landscape, as illustrated by such additions as the seawall (1911), plantings (1920s and 1930s), and the trees along Dallas Road represent later concerns to maintain the peaceful state of the environment in a growing residential suburb.

The location of the cemetery in Fairfield close to the Dallas Road shoreline is significant; originally considered to be well outside of the city, this once rural place was chosen after the citizens of James Bay had rejected the plan for it to be built in their neighbourhood. Notably, the land which comprises Ross Bay Cemetery was originally the farm of Isabella Ross, the widow of Charles Ross, a Fort Victoria founder. Surrounded by main transportation routes, local businesses, and a number of historic houses, Ross Bay Cemetery is a 19th century oasis in an area of modern suburban development.

Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

CHARACTER-DEFINING ELEMENTS

The character-defining elements of the Ross Bay Cemetery include:

  • the boundaries of the 27.5 acre site, in particular the seawall on Dallas Road, Fairfield Road, and Memorial Crescent;
  • the views of the ocean from the cemetery through the Dallas Road plantings;
  • elements of the historic landscape relevant to its 1872 design, such as curving carriageways and surviving plantings;
  • plantings and carriageways from the 1930s and 1940s;
  • all marked and unmarked graves;
  • the variety of carved headstones and grave markers, attributable to a number of historic local monument makers, and which distinguish graves of various religious denominations, ethnic groups, social classes, and occupations.

Ross Bay Cemetery First Burials

Pearse, Mary Liticia

December 28, 1872                 B83W29

Died at Fernwood, Victoria, British Columbia, Dec 25, 1872, Mary Laetitia, beloved Wife of Benjamin William Pearse, aged 32. Funeral from Christ Church cathedral. Mrs Pearse, who had been an invalid for some years, was supposed to be slowly regaining her health when the Dread Visitor crossed the threshold. Chief mourners were the bereaved husband and Judge Pemberton. The remains were interred in the New Cemetery [Ross Bay cemetery]. Amongst the man who followed the remains to the grave were His Excellency the Lieutenant-Gov, Sir James Douglas, Hon Dr Helmcken, Mr McCreight, Dr Tolmie, Donald Fraser, Roderick Finlayson, K McKenzie, several ladies.

Curtis, William Beauchamp (infant)

March 1 1873                     B82W30

No Obit    No Marker

O’Hara, Katie L

March 6, 1873         22yr                          B82E29

Died at Victoria, British Columbia, Mar 4, 1873, Mrs Katie L O’Hara, wd wife of late William B O’Hara, of Portland, Ore., aged 22. Funeral will take place from her late residence, corner Meares/Quadra Streets.

Mansell, Anne

March 6, 1873       8yr               B82E31

No Obit?   Marker

Watson, Isabell Florance

March 7, 1873    16yr                F37E19

Died at Victoria, British Columbia, Mar 4, 1873, Isabella Florence, 3rd Daughter of Adam/Mary Watson, aged 16

Marker

Kay, Nina Fannie

March 12, 1873   5yr             A29E30

Died at Victoria, British Columbia at St Ann’s Convent, Mar 10, 1873, Nina Fannie, only Child of William H Kay, aged 5. 

No Marker

Chinaman # 1

March 18, 1873   54yr         K1E6

No obit      No Marker

This grave was reused in 1958.

Silk, Owen Baron Guy 83 Died July 21, 1958

Anderson, Maggie 85 Died July 31, 1958

No Marker

Coulter, (still born)

April 2, 1873                        G71W27

This is not a good address Plot 71 would be in Block H, but clearly marked in the burial book.

Porter, Mary

April 2, 1873      48yr              A60E30 

Died in Esquimalt District, British Columbia, Mar 29, 1873, Mary, Wife of James Porter, aged 48, Native of Surrey, England. 

Marker

Pottinger, William

April 3, 1873        31yr            F19E16

No Obit   No Marker

Haiponi, Charles

April 3. 1873          38yr            A54E31

No Obit    No Marker

Hayward, Mabel

April 13, 1873     11Weeks       A78E30

Died at Victoria, British Columbia, Apr 1, 1873, Mabel, Daughter of Sarah/Charles Hayward, aged 11w. 

*Moved……now in M61W09  ???

There is still a Henry William Hayward buried at this location and two Haywards (Alice Edith, 16 and Edward, 14) buried in the next plot A77E30??

Marker

Miller, William Henry

April 21, 1873       58yr          A48E30

Died at Victoria, British Columbia, Apr 11, 1873, William H Miller, Native of Maryland, aged 58y, 11m, 11d. A black pioneer , who came here in the first rush of 1858 and for several years was in the employ of Wells-Fargo as porter. Died of consumption. He was at one time quite a prominent man among his race and very trustworthy. A 048 E 30 

No Marker

Jones, George

April 21, 1873           4yr               A34E30  

No Obit    No Marker

No Marker

Philardon, Louis

May 1, 1873 55yr C12W26

No Obit     No Marker

Gronow, David

May4, 1873 42yr F18E16

No Obit ? No Marker