Vancouver Heritage Foundation Weekly: Mountain View’s First Headstone


Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity supporting the conservation of heritage buildings and structures in recognition of their contribution to the city’s economy, sustainability and culture.

crematorium small copy
The crematorium at Mountain View, photo taken 1937. Major Matthews Collection, CVA Bu N519.2

Mountain View Cemetery is the City of Vancouver’s official graveyard and definitely holds a lot of stories about our history. Since the very first burial of a young boy in 1887, around 145,000 additional people have found a final resting place here. Across this 43-hectare enclave, numerous significant events and people have been commemorated through burials and memorials. Historic events include the 1918 shipwreck of the Princess Sophia, the 1912 British Columbia Electric Railway disaster, the 1910 Rogers Pass avalanche, and both World Wars. There are also 14 Vancouver mayors buried here as well as city firemen, police officers, and other notable citizens.

Headstone for the first person buried in Mountain View Cemetery, photo taken 1939. Major Matthews Collection, CVA Port N137.4

One such notable citizen, who in many ways was a gatekeeper of the City’s early history, is Vancouver’s first archivist Major J. S. Matthews (1878-1970). A natural researcher and collector, Major Matthews arrived in Vancouver at the age of 20 and began acquiring countless photographs, documents and oral history interviews — these items became the foundation of the City’s archival holdings. Major Matthews was buried in Mountain View in 1970 after spending much of his life chronicling the city’s history — a legacy we continue to benefit from today.

In fact, within the Major Matthews collection at the City of Vancouver Archives, we can glimpse Mountain View’s first headstone, and can even imagine the impact of this death. Photos in the collection include images of the child’s mother visiting her son’s headstone in 1939. They are a poignant reminder that each marker in the cemetery, no matter how old, represents a sad loss for someone. Monuments can be a powerful part of remembering, memorializing, and paying tribute to those we care for.

A mother visits her son’s gravestone in Mountain View, taken 1939. Major Matthews Collection, CVA Port N137.6

Mountain View offers us a chance to learn more about Major Matthews and many of the other fascinating people who helped make this city what it is. Join us for the Mountain View Cemetery walk led by historian Maurice Guibord, August 13, 2016 at 10:00 AM. This event is tomorrow so don’t wait to reserve your spot. Click here!

Mountain View Cemetery is one of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 125 Places That Matter.