Thursday, 6 March 2008

Slumach's Grave

I've heard it said that Slumach's body was buried at the Maple Ridge cemetery, but I doubt that is correct.

The oldest part of the Maple Ridge cemetery dates back to around 1865. In those early years, burials of First Nations people were not allowed here and it is unlikely that Council would have agreed to accomodated the hanged of New Westminster.

In the early 1900s the cemetery was extended to the east and the north. It is in this later, northern part where it is said, bodies of those executed in New Westminster were laid to rest until abolition of the death penalty in 1961. This in itself is an interesting story and worth investigating. But since Slumach died in 1891 before the extension of the cemetery he is not one of those buried there.

If he was not buried in Maple Ridge, where was he buried?

It is unlikely that Slumach's remains would have been returned to his people. I know of one similar case where the return of the body of a hanged young Maple Ridge man to the family was refused.

It is generally assumed that his remains would have been buried on the grounds of the provincial jail, later the T.J. Trapp Technical School,(now the site of John Robson Elementary at 120 Eighth Street) but it is, I think, more likely that he was buried somewhere in the "potters' field" at Eighth Street and Eighth Avenue in New Westminster (also known as the "Douglas Road" cemetery), now the site of New Westminster Secondary School. Here is where those who died in prison of natural causes, and whose bodies were not claimed by their family, were buried.

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