May 11th was our first field day in the Cemetery and it was awesome … and wet, it was awesome and wet!

On a quiet street, ringed almost entirely in large trees, and covered in grass, the cemetery is a beautiful space and I was so excited to be out for our first day of learning.

A picture of the cemetery on a sunny day. Now imagine grey sky and rain…that’s how it looked when we were there.  (taken from the Congregation Emanuel’s website, on their Cemetery and Funerals page)

Despite the rain, Amber joined us to walk through the cemetery with the class and share the stories that she has gathered through years of research and talking to family and community members. I really enjoyed the knowledge that Amber shared, she is so passionate about what she has learned and about sharing these stories.  Amongst the other stories, Amber pointed out some of the anomalies in the graveyard, such as the headstone for Samuel Davies Schultz (the first Jewish judge in Canada, amongst many other accomplishments) that isn’t placed where he is buried, an empty monument to the memory of a father and son, and the story of Morris Price, who died in 1861 and was the first person to be buried in the cemetery.

Morris Price leaves me with questions…

Morris Price was murdered in Cayoosh, BC in 1861 and it took three months for the necessary steps to take place for him to be transported to Victoria and buried in the Jewish Cemetery.  Price was a Free Mason, and Temple Lodge, No. 33 from Duncan, BC has included him in their Vancouver Island Masonic History Project.  Neither Amber or the Temple Lodge, No. 33’s account was able to give an inkling into why he was killed – he was killed in his shop and items of value such as gold bars were left behind, so not robbery.  Three native men were found guilty of the murder, and that makes me want to dig deeper into this story.  Three years previously there had been a war between the Natives living in the Fraser Canyon and the miners seeking their fortune along the river. I can only imagine that tensions from these events would still be felt at the time Price died.  I have questions as to who the men found guilty were, where they were from, if there are records of their testimonies – I want to know the reasons.

Amber and I spoke about this after her talk and she shared a bit more information with me about her struggles to find out where Morris Price came from.  She found that Morris was referred to as a Boston Man several times and tried searching for record of him in Boston.  Since then she has found that Boston Man was the term for American in the Chinook trade language. Correspondences from around the same time, outlined in a Globe and Mail article about the Canyon War of 1858, also use Boston’s to refer to the American’s who were fighting with the Natives… so he’s probably not actually from Boston.

I super appreciated Amber being there with us, I love local history and was so happy to learn more!

And class gets called…

After Amber’s amazing tour of the cemetery we regrouped to talk about our plan.  Though we had all been aware that we were expected to work through the weather, the weather was starting to try everyone’s resolve.  It was decided that we would do another walk through the cemetery so Erin could show us some of the specifics of what we would be recording in the coming weeks – what different monuments are referred to, what the edging around graves is called (fyi – it’s called kerbing), what granite looks like compared to concrete, those sorts of things.  There are so many new terms to learn while we do this!

After that, Erin did something she said she has never done, she called the class early due to the rain.  Being that we didn’t have enough umbrellas for everyone to keep their paper dry for recording, it was decided that we would come back together next week – with the understanding that rain won’t stop us again!

I can’t wait for Tuesday, I’m super excited to get back in and become more acquainted with the space and start doing the work that we are there to do.

(Also – for anyone interested in finding out more about the Canyon War in 1858, check out Canyon War: The Untold Story – it’s a fantastic film.)