By Isabel Healy-Morrow.

On the afternoon of  Sunday, October 18, Bishop Lincoln visited the historic Nicola Pioneer Cemetery to re-dedicate this sacred place of burial after a major restoration project. This spot is located at the western end of Nicola Lake, near the former village of Nicola and the Nicola Ranch.

Over the years, the cemetery had become tired looking; the graves needed attention and the fencing had become shabby.  This cemetery was first utilized as a place of burial in 1899 (sadly for a four month old little boy) and was officially dedicated in 1905.  At that time, the cemetery was part of the Diocese of New Westminster, as the Diocese of Cariboo had not yet been established.

There are over 150 people resting there, including 11 veterans (four of which fought in World War I) and 15 children.  Many of the names on the headstones will be familiar to residents of the Nicola Valley, as the early pioneer families whose names grace the streets of Merritt are well represented:  Abbott, Armstrong, Clapperton, Bent, Garcia, Pooley, and many others.  Two of Merritt’s early doctors – Dr. George Tutill and his son Dr. George William Douglas Tutill, who died sadly at age 28 after contracting tuberculosis, are buried there as well.

Thanks to generous donations from the Petrie Family (whose ancestors donated the land for the cemetery back in 1899) and the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #96 – Merritt, and the hard work of St. Michael’s parishioners, community volunteers, and Legion members, the cemetery was renewed and restored. Vigorous work has resulted in many loads of old fencing, branches, and assorted debris being hauled away.

Volunteers wielded paint brushes and gave the archway, gates, and fencing a new coat of white weather-resistant paint.  New signs over the archway and by the highway were commissioned and created by Funk Signs of Kamloops and installed.  A flagpole bearing the Canadian flag and the Anglican Church of Canada flag was erected. Gradually, the old forgotten cemetery was being restored to a place of order and dignity.