The oldest post-contact cemetery in Langley is well attested in the written record.
After the Hudson's Bay Company established its first fort in 1827, in what is now Derby Reach Regional Park, at least two employees died and were buried nearby.
The fort was moved a decade later, after persistent flooding drove the traders to head to the present site of Fort Langley.
The old cemetery was left behind. Over the next 60 years, the land there would be left to go wild, re-settled, sold, and flooded. In that time, the exact location of the small cemetery was lost.
Langley historian Warren Sommer said Jason Allard, of the family that settled the area much later, said the old cemetery site was on a knoll that today causes a kink in Allard Crescent.
"That's only one of several potential grave sites in the area," said Sommer.
Another possible location is closer to the Huston family farm. But there were also private burials by members of the family at that site much later.
Then there was another site suggested by a member of the Trattle family, closer to the river, near a pond. That site is currently overgrown with blackberries.
The two men known for certain to be buried in the old cemetery were John Kennedy and Pierre Therrien, both HBC employees, although Sommer speculates that children of employees and their Kwantlen wives might have been buried as well. High infant mortality rates meant that many children died before they turned five years old.
Kennedy died apparently of heart failure, possibly exacerbated by a bad cold, tuberculosis, or heart disease.
Therrien suffered one of the strangest and most ignominious ends possible.
The HBC ship Cadboro was leaving the fort after dropping off supplies, and it fired a shot from its cannon as a ceremonial salute.
The cannon was loaded, or wadded, with a knot of hard rope. For some reason the gun was fired towards shore, and the rope hit Therrien in the groin. He was fatally injured.
The graves of Kennedy and Therrien were never moved after the HBC relocated the fort. Presumably, if they haven't been undermined and eroded by the river, they are still somewhere near the parking lot for the park.
The two men likely had wooden grave markers, which would have long since rotted away, Sommer noted. Much of British Columbia and Langley's early history is lost because structures built of wood vanished in a very short time.
The only two ways to be sure where the cemetery lies would be to dig, or to use ground penetrating radar on the site, said Sommer.
A ground penetrating radar search would be able to locate graves by finding disturbances under the soil. It could also roughly distinguish between adult and child graves based on size.
However, that would be both expensive and difficult to accomplish, especially in areas where brush would need to be cleared first.
There are a large number of small, forgotten cemeteries around Langley. Early farm families often buried their loved ones on their own property. Sommer recently learned of a Port Kells cemetery from a descendent of the one of the pioneering families. The graves are now likely several feet underneath asphalt near 96th Avenue.
@ Copyright 2013