District of Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen recently photographed the town’s original cemetery — now completely overgrown — among the trails behind the Vanderhoof Museum and Visitor Centre. (Gerry Thiessen photo)

District of Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen recently photographed the town’s original cemetery — now completely overgrown — among the trails behind the Vanderhoof Museum and Visitor Centre. (Gerry Thiessen photo)

Mayor, historical society examine ways to mark Vanderhoof’s original cemetery

“It is a part of our history and we don’t want that history to evaporate,” Thiessen said.

District of Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen is hoping to breathe some new life into the town’s first cemetery.

Located on the original road to Saik’uz First Nation among the trails behind the Vanderhoof Museum and Visitor Centre, the cemetry — now completely overgrown, however, still occupied by the dead — was used for a 20- to 25-year period from about 1915 to 1939.

While many of the graves were exhumed and taken to the current Vanderhoof Cemetery, roughly a dozen still remain, Thiessen said.

“It is a part of our history and we don’t want that history to evaporate,” Thiessen said. “To me, I’d like to fix it up, and have it marked up in some way so people know it’s still there.”

Thiessen plans to work with the Nechako Valley Historical Society in the spring to come up with a plan to clean up the area and install some form of fencing, or marking, to identify the location.

READ MORE: Two books about Vanderhoof nominated for awards

“This is part of our history we need to protect, as it is over 100 years old,” Thissen said, adding he was first informed of the graveyard by late community member Jim Simonsen roughly 12 years ago when he was elected as mayor. “I didn’t know anything about it at the time. Jim told me he had a brother who had passed away and he was buried there, and another friend of mine also said his grandfather was buried there.”

After learning of the cemetery, Thiessen took members of council and district staff for a walk up the road to show them the cemetery site.

He said there are no concrete or cement gravestones — only wooden markings that are now decaying.

“After Jim had showed it to me and I’d shown the area to people, a group of Katimavik students came to town and were doing some work,” he said.

“At that time we got them to go in and try to clear a way out from the gravesites — some of the deadfall and debris that was there — but it was never properly identified. It would just be really nice to have something there — nothing over the top fancy — just something simple.”



greg.sabatino@wltribune.com

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Gerry Thiessen photo

Gerry Thiessen photo

Gerry Thiessen photo

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