Nothing beats a graveyard stroll

GENEALOGY: Rediscovering those misplaced stories and reworking them into the tapestry of our community

Genealogy is not so much concerned with names and dates as it is with the stories that go along with them. But sometimes the stories get lost.

That’s where the Campbell River Genealogical Society (CRGS) comes in. Its dedicated members do more sleuthing than Sherlock Holmes, rediscovering those misplaced stories and reworking them into the tapestry of our community. In this column I shall share some of their discoveries.

Graveyards intrigue me.

Perhaps that’s why they’ve had starring roles in four of my novels. There is nothing I like better than to stroll among the markers, soaking up the serenity and wondering about the lives of those buried there.

Though First Nations people have fished the Campbell River for hundreds of years, and Europeans appeared on the scene as far back as the 18th century, Campbell River had no cemetery until 1931. Prior to that, people who died were buried on Quadra Island or in Courtenay.

All that changed when Mr. &  Mrs. David Vanstone donated a piece of property for the creation of a cemetery. A dance was held to cover costs, and led by organizers, Mr. & Mrs. Cecil Fitzgerald, the land was cleared and made ready for use. Initially a committee of locals, including Charles Thulin, Campbell River’s founding father, ran the cemetery. Plots could be purchased for $5. An additional $5 paid for the digging of the graves. Markers cost $2.

The cemetery was enlarged twice – in 1935 and 1952. Then in 1957 the Village of Campbell River took over the cemetery’s operation. But with the opening of the new burial grounds on Highway 28 in the late 1980s, the original Campbell River Cemetery pretty much ceased operation. These days, the only new burials are additions to pre-existing plots. Later this spring or during the summer, CRGS will host a walking tour of the cemetery. Sign me up. I can’t wait to hear all the stories.

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