Vancouver Island Masonic History Project

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 Nealton Thain, a charter member of the first Masonic Lodge in British Columbia,, who is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.

James Nealton Thain was a charter member of the first Masonic Lodge in British Columbia, constituted on 28 August, 1860 by the Grand Lodge of England as Victoria Lodge, No. 1085. He was installed as the first treasurer of the Lodge. Following the formation of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia in 1871, Victoria Lodge, No. 1085 was reconstituted as Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No.1.

 He died on the same day as his brother, Captain John Mount Thain, and both are buried together in Ross Bay Cemetery.

Here is some biographical information on James Nealton Thain, taken from local newspaper reports and other contemporary sources:

“A highly respected and worthy family with numerous connections in this province are plunged in deep grief at the sudden death of two of its members within two days of each other. On Saturday morning Capt. John Mount Thain was found dead in his berth on board the barque Princess Royal, which was loading with spars at Burrard Inlet. The body was placed on board the little propeller Lenora and brought to Victoria Sunday for interment. On Saturday Mr. James N. Thain, a younger brother of the forenamed deceased, was struck with paralysis of the brain and died in hospital.

Capt. John M. Thain was a native of St. John, N.B., and formerly commanded seagoing vessels. He came to California in 1850 and to Victoria in 1858. Here, for many years, he bore a prominent part in business affairs and his active, burly figure was one of the most familiar features on Wharf Street in the younger days of this city.

Mr. James N. Thain was aged 59 years. He was a prominent business man of San Francisco in the pioneer days of that city and in 1858 came to Victoria as agent for the great mercantile house of Sam Price Company. He was foremost in the organization of the Victoria fire department, the Fraser River Navigation Company, which ran their boast through to Yale, and was a charter member of the first Masonic lodge instituted here. After 1862 he disappeared from the business circles but emerged occasionally from his retirement to contribute articles on stirring topics for the press and ‘J.N.T.’ were familiar initials at the foot of many excellent communications. The father and mother of the deceased gentleman attained to a great age and are both buried in the cemetery here.”

“A double funeral was held – the numerous funeral procession after leaving the late residence of John M. Thain, corner Blanshard and Fisgard, joined the other procession on Douglas, near Fort, and thence both hearses proceeded to the Reformed Episcopal Church. Here the cortege was joined by another large concourse of people who filled the sacred edifice to its utmost capacity.

Amid the solemn cadences of Chopin’s Funeral March which was played by the organist, Mr. Durny, with great feeling, the pallbearers removed the coffins back again to the hearse. More than 20 carriages filled with relatives and friends of the deceased and a number of people on foot proceeded to Ross Bay Cemetery where the brothers were interred side by side. Bishop Cridge was several times overcome with emotion while reading the solemn burial service, and all were more or less affected by the scene. The pallbearers for Capt. Thain were Messrs. Fell, Waitt and McQuade and Captains Walker, D. Morrison and Warren; for Mr. James N. Thain – Messrs. D. Adams, C. Bunting, C. McK. Smith, S. Robinson, R. Austin and F. Yeaton.”

(Source: British Daily Colonist, 22 Febuary 1881)

James Nealton Thain is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.

James Nealton Thain grave, Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
James Nealton Thain grave, Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.

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