Looking Back: Mr. Pope’s cemetery

Looking Back: Mr. Pope’s cemetery

Cemetery needs all the friends it can get.

In 1888, Edmund Pope arrived from England via Quebec and purchased a piece of land on River Road just east of the St. John the Divine Church.

He quickly endeared himself to his new community by pitching in for the ‘entertainments’ offered at fundraisers and holiday time at the Maple Ridge School. His fine baritone was a welcome addition.

Once his house was built, he brought his wife and daughter from England to join him. Eventually, his daughter would marry and Edmund left the house to her and her family as he moved to Hammond. When daughter Edith passed away, she left the family property to the church which has allowed it to be moved back off of the corner to where it sits today.

What we know of him occupationally was that he started as a farmer, but as was so common in that day, he soon added other activities that brought in a bit of cash.

His first role was as a “pathmaster,” or one in charge of repairs to a certain area of roads and tracks. He continued doing roadwork until the early 1900s, but along the way, in 1897, he added commissioner of the Maple Ridge Cemetery to his list.

The cemetery was created in 1878 on small parcels of land donated by pioneers William Nelson and George Howison.

Nelson had already been using the land to bury his wife’s Kanaka relatives.

By 1875, the original half acre was too small, so an additional half acre was purchased from each original donor and the cemetery remained at an acre and a half for the next 20 years.

There were no records of interments kept until Pope took on the task. He was also responsible for addressing the drainage issues on the new land as cemeteries are a health hazard if not properly drained.

His duties also included the selling of plots and doing the actual burials. In those early days, whole lots of eight graves sold for $8.

Pope would remain cemetery commissioner for more than 40 years.

Between 1905 and 1921, he also found time to be our first police constable, but the cemetery remained his primary enthusiasm.

In 1929, he wrote a lengthy piece about the cemetery for the local Gazette newspaper, about old friends and sad stories and the importance of memory.

It is in that spirit that the Maple Ridge Historical Society hosts a summer work bee at the cemetery each year to record details that are not yet recorded and to clean the headstones of accumulated grime.

It is a workshop on cleaning techniques where participants learn methods that are effective, but non-destructive. These techniques can then be applied anywhere the person has family headstones to care for.

We held our annual work bee this past weekend and, despite the heat, we had more than 20 people turn out to help.

For anyone who missed out and would like to participate next year, email us at mrmuseum@gmail.com and we will notify you in advance.

Our cemetery needs all the friends it can get.

Val Patenaude is director of the Maple Ridge Museum.