As part of our Vancouver Island Masonic History Project, with its sections on Vancouver Island Cemeteries – Masonic Interments and Deceased Brethren, here is a page on James McArthur (died 1897, aged 47), who is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
We currently know very little about Brother James McArthur. He was a member of Vancouver & Quadra Lodge, No.2 in Victoria. According to the inscription on his grave, he was a native of South Queensferry, Scotland.
His obituary in the Daily Colonist on 21 February 1897 indicates that he collapsed at the intersection of Johnson and Broad Streets in downtown Victoria and died of an apparent heart attack.
He worked as an engineer for the Canadian Pacific Navigation Company, one of whose principle shareholders was Robert P. Rithet, who, like James McArthur, was a member of the Vancouver & Quadra Lodge, No. 2 in Victoria.
James McArthur’s obituary reveals some interesting, as well as some curious, facts. It says James McArthur was “quite an elderly man.” Actually he was 47 at the time of his death, hardly an age we would consider elderly today. The obituary also says that the Victoria police put James McArthur’s body in a cart and delivered it to the family home. One can only imagine the reaction of a 21st century family if the local police delivered the body of a deceased family member to the family residence in the back of a horse drawn cart. Things were obviously done differently in 1897.
We will post more details on Brother James McArthur as we uncover them with additional research.
Here is a brief biographical sketch of Brother James McArthur taken from contemporary newspaper reports:
Engineer McArthur, of the C.P.N. Co. Service, Expires On Johnson Street
A startling discovery was made late last night, near the corner of Broad and Johnson streets, in the finding of the dead body of James McArthur, a well known steamboat engineer. The deceased when discovered was lying flat on his back, and was at first mistaken for an unknown drunk. Close observation soon made known the contrary. Jailer Mitten, at the city police station, being informed of the matter at 11 o’clock, at once communicated with Dr. Fraser, the city health officer. Responding to the summons, the latter came to the conclusion that Fraser [sic] had dropped dead from heart disease and he ordered the removal of the body to the family residence on John street, Victoria West. Thither officer Palmer at once went to break the sad intelligence to the family while the remains followed in charge of Sergeant Hawton and officer Abel.
Mr. McArthur, who was quite an elderly man, has been concerned with the C.P.N. Co. ever since its organization. Last summer he had charge of the steamer Rithet’s engine-room, but more latterly has worked on the Rainbow. He leaves a wife and either two or three children.”
(Source: Daily Colonist, 21 February 1897, page 8, under heading “Sudden Death”)
James McArthur is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
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