I scrambled over Moss rocks to locate this vista, and was instantly surprised by all of the trees in the cemetery and how much the view has changed from this hand tinted postcard dated 1907. Sometimes it is hard to imagine all of the deforestation that took place in Victoria to create farmsteads. The HBC knew that being south of the 49th parallel meant that more British inhabitants would protect it from its American neighbour and so they encouraged farmers to buy vast amounts of land to work and produce food on. The 1907 photograph is a stark contrast to the leafy Fairfield neighbourhood that we know and love today.
Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, BC Canada, opened in 1873 with over 27 acres of cleared land and 28,000 interments. The eastern part of the property was bought from Isabella Ross, BC's first woman to be a registered land owner under colonial law. Her plight was even more incredible considering she was of Anishinaage and French Metis descent. If you would like to know more about Ross's life, check out this fantastic website, "Studies in Death- Isabella Mainville Ross".
The cemetery remained bare until the 1930's when the city planted a large collection of diverse trees and shrubs to contend with the erosion from winter storms in the bay. This includes the widest range of pine trees in Victoria, as well as, Spanish Fir, Rocky Mountain White Fir, Cork-Bark Elm, Holly, Boxwood and Lilac.
Today, Ross Bay Cemetery is a beautiful location for a walk and historical tour. Those with spidey senses may bump into the many ghosts that inhabit the property. Some may include Victoria's earliest pioneers who had their remains moved to the property in the 1870's from the Pioneer Square Cemetery (next to Christ Church Cathedral). That was sure to create some confusion in the spirit world. You could also do a Ghost Tour during Halloween to make you a believer.
Famous residents include; Sir James Douglas (considered "the Father of BC"), and his wife Lady Amelia Connolly Douglas, Robert Dunsmuir (the coal baron who built Craigdarroch Castle), Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie (the Hanging Judge), Emily Carr (writer, painter), Billy Barker (the gold prospector who lost his fortune), Amor de Cosmos (writer, agitator, BC Premier) and Billy Muir, to name a few. I will get to many of these colourful characters in future articles.