As soon as my Hubby and I entered the cemetery, we felt its hush. It was as if a ghostly gatekeeper whispered, “Shhhh, there are people sleeping here,” and it all became still. The usual city noises disappeared, the winds died down and the only sounds were the rustling of the leaves beneath my feet.
We were at the Ross Bay Cemetery; Victoria’s oldest surviving Victorian-era burial grounds.
Many of these grave sites were for people who had lived in this city – just like I do now. These people had loved and grieved – just like me. They had overcome struggles, endured hardships; they had found moments of joy and happiness – just like me. What connects us is having lived here. What binds us is our humanity.
We saw our share of elaborate mausoleums, stately pillars and simple stone markers. There were numerous sites – much like where the buck in the picture is resting – grass covered with a poured curb. The names have eroded to the point of illegibility on a countless number of them. I wondered who these early settlers were.
Fort Victoria began as a fur trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). In 1849, the crown Colony of Vancouver Island was established and the HBC was granted exclusive proprietary rights over Vancouver Island. They were given five years to establish a settlement, or see their grant revoked. By 1853 the population had grown to 50.
HBC used agents to recruit laborers and settlers from as far away as Scotland. They were promised their own 25 acres of land in exchange for five years of service with the company and its new operation, Craigflower farm.
Many came and settled and no doubt their graves were among the ones I stopped by that day.
Charli Mills’ October 21st Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge double-dog dared us to join her with our own cemetery day. We went last Sunday when the Victoria’s Old Cemetery’s Society hosted a Ghost Walk. There was quite a crowd, but our time was limited, so my Hubby and I decided to explore the place on our own.
The writing assignment was: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a final resting place. You can take any perspective that appeals to you from the historic to the horrific. Just don’t scare me too greatly. You can also choose to write about those buried before they came to their final rest. An extra challenge is to discover a story or character from a local cemetery.
As I strolled through the grounds, I came across at least two markers with the name Annie on them. So my story is about someone named Annie, who responded to the HBC call in 1853, five or more years prior to the British Columbia gold rushes.
Annie’s Letter Home: January 1853
We have landed in Fort Victoria, Vancouver Island. Last night we were huddled into a dirty store house. John made us beds from boards that were lying around. I kept my spirits up til everyone was asleep and then quietly gave way with a flood of tears.
This morning John was taken away to work at the Craigflower farm. I am living at the fort with a Mrs. Edwards and will help her sew for the ladies here.
Be comforted my dearest sister. Tonight I feel a renewed determination to work hard and help John earn our promised land.