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Home Social History Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone But Not Forgotten:
Sandon's Hidden Cemetery

Located approximately 1.7 kilometres outside Sandon, the cemetery is now hidden under the shelter of trees, on the hillside above the road into town. Plotted on early government maps, there were no known burials ...

Located approximately 1.7 kilometres outside Sandon, the cemetery is now hidden under the shelter of trees, on the hillside above the road into town. Plotted on early government maps, there were no known burials in the Sandon cemetery until 1898. Most of the more affluent and "respectable" citizens chose to be buried in New Denver or Kaslo's cemetery, often because their family lived there. In other cases, bodies were shipped even further afield, "back east", or even to Europe. At first, many of the miners were simply buried near where they were killed, high on the mountain slopes, in graves long since forgotten. Many of these men were killed in rockslides or avalanches, and in some cases no body was ever recovered.

 

cemetery

 

A great many of the wooden grave markers in the cemetery bear the "WF of M" inscription, indicating the burial of a union member. In most cases, this was because the miner was young, with no known family, sometimes illiterate or foreign-born, and there was no one else to arrange for the funeral but the dead man's fellow miners. In cases where there was a family left behind, it was general practice for the other miners to all contribute a day's pay to the dead man's family, and for the union to offer to pay for the burial.

Miners continued to be killed on the job, or by snowslides on the way to and from work. Joseph Tresh, killed in a mining blast on October 1, 1901, lies in the cemetery, remembered simply with his name, date of death, and the "WF of M" inscription- in many cases, the age of the miner was not even certain. Alexander McFarland and Fred T. Shepherd, killed in an avalanche on their way home from the "graveyard shift" at 4:00 a.m., are buried there as well.

There were also children buried in the Sandon cemetery, often with small wooden markers that have not survived over the years. A couple still exist, although such details as names have been lost to time. Other markers do not bear the "WF of M" inscription, and may have been church burials. Records for the Sandon Cemetery are fragmented and incomplete, unfortunately. A couple of maps of the graveyard exist, although they are undated and contradictory in some instances. There do not appear to be any burials of Caucasians after 1922, however.

It remains unclear whether any Japanese-Canadian internees were ever buried in the cemetery during their time in Sandon in the 1940s. It is known that there was a Buddhist temple located in the abandoned Methodist church, and a concrete marker with a Japanese name has been located near the cemetery grounds, but no records of any internee burials have ever been found.

The cemetery lay abandoned and forgotten for many years, except for occasional visitors. Trees grew up, leaving the old graveyard hidden beneath their sheltering branches. In more recent years, members of the Sandon Historical Society have cleared the site of undergrowth and deadfall, erected an interpretive sign and sturdy new fence around the cemetery's perimeter, and repainted as many of the old grave markers as could be identified. The location of the cemetery has never been indicated, however, as some markers have been removed by souvenir-hunters in the past.

For a number of years, the old markers were dutifully moved indoors every winter to protect them from the harsher weather, then replaced in the cemetery in the spring. Recently, however, they have become too fragile to risk placing in the elements, and presently they remain in the Sandon Historical Society Museum. The long-term goal of the Society is to create replicas of as many of these markers as possible, and place them in the cemetery, while preserving the originals in the Museum.

 
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