Museum hosts Halloween walk through the cemetery

The Bulkley Valley Museum is taking a trip through time among the gravestones of the Smithers cemetery on Halloween.

The Bulkley Valley Museum is taking a trip through time among the gravestones of the Smithers cemetery on Halloween.

Starting at 1 p.m., people are invited to learn about some of the Bulkley Valley’s earliest residents. The idea came to museum curator Kira Westby from other similar tours in cemeteries across Canada.

Cemetery design will also be a topic covered during the tour.

“I’ll be placing the Smithers cemetery in sort of the broader context of cemetery design, because there has been a lot of study amongst archeologists and historians about how North American cemeteries have changed over the last couple hundred years,” explained Westby.

About six graves of early Smithereens will be visited. All the stories about how people came to the remote northern B.C. community are interesting, and some have a layer of mystery.

One such story is that of a young British soldier who was buried in November of 1918.

Leslie Sutcliffe fought in Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915 during the First World War. With a heightened interest from the 100th anniversary of the conflict, more information has been dug up about soldiers like Sutcliffe, but not all of it.

What Westby said we do know is that Sutcliffe was discharged from the war due to injury and medical issues. He then made his way in 1918 to Ellis Island in New York City.

“And then for some reason we haven’t yet determined, he made his way up to Smithers, and then died two weeks after he got here from Spanish Flu,” explained Westby.

“His name is actually on a war memorial in England, and there has been some interest on that side of the Atlantic. I’ve found a few articles and we’ve been contacted recently. Now that it’s the centenary of the First World War, people have been looking into this, trying to figure out where this guy ended up.

“He’s completely across the ocean from any family, from anybody. He’s sort of a forgotten soldier in a way,” said Westby.

“His health was weakened and he ended up getting the Spanish Flu probably because of that, so his death is related to the First World War, but he didn’t actually die in action.”

Westby has reached out to Sutcliffe’s prep school across the pond to try to find more information.

“They have suggested that the sort of more affluent families that attended that school, a lot of them ended up dispersing across the British empire. He may have had ties to B.C., maybe a family member had already come here, or something,” said Westby.

“So far we haven’t really been able to figure out why, especially when he lands in New York City, that’s a long journey to get up here. So why did he come here?

Admission is free with donations accepted to hear more on Sutcliffe and others who now make their home at the cemetery in Smithers.

 

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