Gravesite Restoration Project

In the summer 2023, BCBHAS began a project to preserve some grave markers of Black settlers and restore them as much as possible to their original condition. The scope of the work was PRESERVATION – to maintain and stabilize the existing form, material, and integrity of the gravesites and CONSERVATION – to retain the original memorials, grave markers, tombstones and plot curbing.

scaffolding on board with suspended concrete block rope around hanging from a crane

Project Overview
Ross Bay Cemetery is an important resource that BC Black History Awareness Society uses to educate residents and visitors on the history of the Black presence in the area and to preserve the history of the group invited by Sir James Douglas that influenced the development of the area and British Columbia. The BCBHAS annual tour of the cemetery during Black History Month is particularly important.

More than 50 Black settlers and their descendants are buried at Ross Bay Cemetery. Some graves are not marked, and the markers of others have deteriorated. Through volunteers, the Old Cemeteries Society cleans, restores, and preserves markers. This can be a daunting task – the cemetery is 27.5 acres with an estimated 30,000 interments.

To successfully do this work required that we obtain support of Ross Bay Cemetery and Old Cemeteries Society, find a restorer, identify which graves could be candidates for preservation, prepare a budget, obtain permission from the City of Victoria as owner of the cemetery, put together a project team, and secure a grant through BC Heritage Foundation.

Project Team: The Project Manager was Door Gibson. She is Captain, Retired; Member of the Order of Military Merit; recipient of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration; and a BCBHAS member. We hired an expert in conservation, Shawn Thibault, Ravenstone Masonry & Conservation Inc. to do the professional restoration work. The project team members were Wilf Bruch, Ross Bay Cemetery, John Adams and Gerry Buydens, Old Cemeteries Society; and from BCBHAS: Paul Schachter, JD, Board Treasurer, and Fran Morrison, Board Secretary.

At the beginning of July 2023 Heritage BC informed us that we had received the grant from the Heritage Legacy Fund!

For some grave markers, the work to preserve and conserve was extensive. At the cemetery, equipment was brought in to excavate, remove, and level the base for the column for Nathan and Sarah Pointer and their son William. The column was removed from the base and taken to the shop for conservation work.

By preserving these 8 grave markers, the lives of 20 historically important people are being acknowledged and honoured.

Willis and Martha Bond G32 E12

The grave marker is a white marble tablet, with the top broken and a missing corner. It was re-erected in a concrete sleeve some years ago. Lead lettering needed cleaning, the marker needed to be straightened. The missing top is a reproduction by Shawn.   


white marble tablet on concrete base with carved winged angel on top

Samuel and Julia Ann Booth, and oldest son Hiram. G50-E9, G51-E9.  It is a white marble tablet with no curbing, needed to be cleaned.  Hiram pre-deceased his parents.  He was 20 years old. The text in part reads: SACRED TO THE MEMORY of HIRAM JOHN THE BELOVED SON of JULIA ANN and SAMUEL JOHN BOOTH.   


White marble tablet on concrete base

Andrew Booth, the younger son of Julia and Samuel Booth and his 5 children (grandchildren of Julia and Samuel). G50/51-W-10

It is a white marble column on a concrete base.  The base needed to be straightened and the column cleaned.  The inscription for Andrew, on the side that is circled,  is facing west towards his parents. The inscriptions for the first-born, twins Hiram and Clarence, and the 3rd child/son Andrew Victor are on the north side. Inscriptions for daughter Rita Louise and 5th child/4th son Alfred Samuel are on the south side. All five children tragically died in infancy. 


In cemetery, dark tarnished marble tablet with curved top on mossy concrete base

Adele Charity G43, E18  It is a white marble tablet marker that had deteriorated and needed to be cleaned, the curbing was also cracked.  She was born in Chatham Ontario. She was just 20 years old. Her father, Cornelius, is buried beside her.

white marble tablet

In cemetery, dark tarnished marble tablet with angled top on mossy concrete baseCornelius Charity G42 E18.  This was also a deteriorated white tablet marker with cracked and damaged curbing. Cornelius was a boot and shoemaker. The family lived in Chatham, Ontario until 1861. Cornelius died, May 31, 1885 in Victoria, predeceasing his wife and other daughter Eleanor.

white marble tablet

In cemetery, Large plot with stained, damaged curbing; brown, weedy, mossy grass covers the plot; stained marble head stone and flat plaque, surrounded/covered with dead grass

John Robert Giscome R77 E0  One heritage marker, with curbing; one white marble plaque.   The white marble tablet, plaque and granite curbing and ledger needed cleaning.  Some preservation work took place in May 1988 by the Victoria Black People’s Society and they installed the plaque.  

Large white marble curbed plot, plot is paved, bright white marble head stone and flat plaque at top right

In cemetery, off-centre and leaning, stained, tarnished marble column on double concrete base with visible moss at the baseNathan and Sarah Pointer and their son William (shown) G45-46 E12. Inscriptions are on three sides. The column was removed, the base was excavated and leveled. At  Shawn's workshop the lead lettering was redone.  Also, for William,  the carving of the clasped hands (shown) was  refurbished.

white marble tablet with flush lead lettering

In cemetery, very stained, darkened tarnished marble column, inscription is mostly obscuredClarissa Richards; her sister Sophia and brother-in law George Everton F12-13 E20.  One white marble tablet, that was badly mended; recently re-erected in a concrete sleeve. No curbing; needed cleaning and straightening.  The Richards arrived with other families who had moved to California from Florida and then later to Vancouver Island. Sophia and George Everton were both seniors when they were married.

white marble column on granite base

Project Report – this 18-page pdf provides project details, features each restoration with before and after photos, and some biographical information.
report cover page for Gravesite Restoration project with logo, graphic and images
Acknowledgements, Photo Credits, and Additional Sources

This project would not have been completed without the dedicated, passionate, devoted restoration; artistic perfection of Shawn Thibault of Revenstone Masonry and Conservation” Door Gibson
Thank you Ross Bay Cemetery and the Old Cemeteries Society. For decades they have supported, promoted, and been an advocate of our work. We look forward to a continued mutually supportive and committed partnership.

Photographers: John Adams, Door Gibson, Tracy Guinchard, Fran Morrison, Shawn Thibault
All photos are ©BC Black History Awareness Society. All rights reserved.
Additional Sources: Sherry Edmunds-Flett, Crawford Killian, Old Cemeteries Society, Royal BC Museum and Archives – Genealogy database, City of Victoria Archives

Old Cemeteries Society
Ross Bay Cemetery
Ravenstone Masonry and Conservation
Heritage BC: Heritage Legacy Fund
Project Report

Our work to preserve and conserve grave markers is not finished – there are other grave markers and plots we would like to preserve and conserve. We are very appreciative of supporters who help fund projects like this one. Thank you!

BCBHAS Call to action for donations with info about receipts