Pleasant Valley Cemetery
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Set in a rolling hillside sloping up from Pleasant Valley Road, Pleasant Valley Cemetery is Vernon’s second burial ground. The site includes the city’s burials since 1902, and also houses some of the graves and headstones moved from the earlier cemetery on the old Kamloops Road.
Pleasant Valley Cemetery is valued as Vernon’s burial ground for over a hundred years, reflecting the settlement patterns and shifting social values over that time. The cemetery was established after the first cemetery at the west end of 35th Avenue became full. Surrounding land was considered too rocky and a new site was chosen further from downtown. R.S. Pelly surveyed the land for the new cemetery in 1902. The Vernon News, October 31 1901, commented on the new site: 'The proposed site for the new cemetery is in every way suitable. It is just about the right distance from the heart of the city, and is beautifully located. Water can be easily brought to it, and its natural beauties may be easily multiplied without much cost or trouble.'
The site comprised 17 acres of rolling land rising to a plateau. The initial layout comprised a central roadway rising from Pleasant Valley Road and seven double tiers of plots separated by driveways. The roadways were named after trees and planted with ornamentals. Separate areas were established for Chinese burials, for the Oddfellows, and for infants. After World War 1, a section was reserved for members of the Great War Veterans Association.
By 1911, the cemetery was filling up. A report found many unauthorized graves and poor maintenance. Council authorized a referendum to improve the site and to buy additional land. In 1912, an additional 13 acres was purchased and funds were approved to allow the cemetery to make Vernon the 'City Beautiful', as the Secretary of the Cemetery Commission stated. The reference is to the City Beautiful Movement, an early 20th century American planning philosophy that sought to create landscaped parks within urban areas. The cemetery‘s layout, with its roadways and ornamental trees evoking a landscaped subdivision or urban park, is in the spirit of the City Beautiful Movement, which, through the work of such landscape architects as Frederick Law Olmstead, brought its principles to cemetery design, as well as parks. Most of the cemetery property has now been plotted out. In 1975, Mount Pleasant Memorial Chapel was constructed on Pleasant Valley Road near the entrance to the cemetery.
The cemetery is notable for its association with significant individuals and events in Vernon’s history. One of the first burials was that of a daughter of Price Ellison. Perhaps the most significant event memorialized here was the 1909 Okanagan Hotel fire, which claimed 11 lives. There is a memorial to Archie Hickling, who died in the fire while saving other escapees, and a stone commemorating the victims. There are a number of family plots of early citizens, including the Ellisons, Crowells, Irvines, Fultons, and Beairstos.
The cemetery is also valued for the decoration and design of the stone monuments and gravestones that mark graves. Many were the work of William Inkster, a Scottish stonecutter who came to Vernon in 1903. He formed the Vernon Granite and Marble Company. Granite came from a quarry on the Lefroy property located next to Okanagan Lake and later from one owned by Price Ellison. When Inkster retired in 1930 his step-son Arnold Russell, another Scottish stoneworker, ran the business until he closed the quarry in 1959. The gravestones are mostly vertical stones carved with a variety of primarily Christian symbols and religious inscriptions. The more recent cremation section contains smaller horizontal markers. The old Chinese section includes markers with Chinese writing on them.
Source: City of Vernon Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Park School include its:
- location to the east of Pleasant Valley Road, comprising a hillside rising gently to the east
- layout of plots and roadways, including the historic sections for different social groups, the historic names of roads, and ornamental trees lining the roads
- native pines scattered throughout the site
- carved stone grave markers, including important historical memorials
- family plots and markers
- front entrance gates
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Philosophy and Spirituality
- Building Social and Community Life
- Community Organizations
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vernon Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection