Until this tour, I had always seen Yale as a historic blip on the route to somewhere else.
I have long been familiar with some of its history, but had never bothered to stop in and visit anything, other than the weekend outdoor market (great bannock there, b.t.w), that happens to be alongside the highway.
Truth be told, I didn’t even know where the historic Pioneer Cemetery was, though I knew it existed.
Yale was one of the most important places on the gold rush route – often referred to as the ‘beginning’. Gold was found in the creek, running adjacent to the cemetery, in the mid 1800’s.
There is no ‘rhyme or reason’ to the burial order of those interned within the Yale cemetery. One row stands – four graves that had to be relocated from the creek, by the miners for excavation purposes. All others are buried where they please.
Some by the railway tracks, some hidden in the bush. A few stand totally alone away from the other plots.
The cemetery was established in 1858.
Unsurprisingly, there are many tragic gold rush tales associated with the grounds. From travelthecanyon.com;
“…although the Cemetery is a beautiful resting spot for many settlers, some of the history involving those that rest here is horrid. Locals tell the legends of tragedy and greed, a powerful poison during the gold rush. Many gold rushers were murdered, and their spirits left to rest along the gold banks of the mighty Fraser. Many say because of some tragic deaths the cemetery is haunted. The Pioneer Cemetery is open to the public, although it is recommended daytime visiting, those who dare can tour the cemetery at night a choice not recommended by locals.”
I can definitely see the cemetery being a different experience at night! In the sunny daylight, as it were, I actually found it to be quite a peaceful and enchanting spot.
My husband stood puzzled for a moment at the above pictured tree;
“Why would this guy choose to have himself buried facing so close to a tree? You can barely read his headstone!”
No, no husband – that guy was buried so long ago, that the tree his loved ones planted atop him has now grown to an astounding size (very tall!).
Many of the headstones were quite unusual, even some wooden. Cared for and restored by a local family, and people from the Yale Museum and Historical Society. A number of young people are buried here, small children included.
One, a six year old named ‘Daisy Sumner’ whose headstone reads;
“She faltered by the wayside and the Angels took her home.”
Though she died in 1883, and would have been dead by now had she lived to be over 100 years old, I felt a little sad for Daisy and her parents. She rests in a lone location under a tree.
Charles Evans was an important resident of Yale. By aged 32, he had already spent 8 years living in the young town.
According to bcheritage.ca;
“Mr. Evans had a special interest in Colonial affairs; and was a delegate for Yale when the Confederation League held a convention there in May, 1868. This was a time of considerable controversy as to whether or not the Colony of British Columbia should join with the other provinces of Canada. (Confederation took place on the 20th of July. 1871.)”
It is unclear whether the current is his original head‘stone‘ (wood) – found and restored – or if this is a new replica. Either way, Charles now has a predominant spot in the Yale cemetery.
Through August, the Pioneer cemetery has Saturday night guided lantern tours, hosted by the Yale Museum staff (they also hold town walking tours). Certainly we will be attending this August!
Many more photos of historic Yale Cemetery at the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.
Additional photos in the slideshow.