As part of our Vancouver Island Masonic History Project series, which includes pages on Vancouver Island Cemeteries – Masonic Interments, here is some information on John Swanson (died October 1872), who is buried in Pioneer Square, Victoria, B.C.

John Swanson was a ship captain employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company and, according to his obituary below, was a very prominent and well regarded local citizen at the time of his death in 1872.

John Swanson’s grave marker was among those removed from Pioneer Square by the City of Victoria so we don’t know the actual location of his grave. All the grave markers removed from Pioneer Square are now in the custody of the Old cemeteries Society.

Here is a brief biography of Captain John Swanson, taken from the reports of his death and funeral in the local newspaper of the day, the British Colonist:

“Death of Capt. Swanson

It is once more our painful duty to chronicle the death of a prominent citizen. Captain John Swanson, so well known and so much thought of by everyone who knew him, has gone to his long home. A week ago to-day he was at his post as usual and took the steamer Enterprise up to New Westminster, returning with her on Wednesday. On Thursday last a renewal of his former illness came on and the doctors were of opinion that the attack would prove fatal. On Friday evening he was not expected to last the night out, but not till yesterday morning at 1:30 o’clock did he succumb. Captain Swanson (who was aged about 45) was a native of Rupert’s Land. He joined the Hudson Bay Co.’s service at the age of 14 and two years after came out as apprentice in the H.B. Co.’s ship Cadboro. He assisted in clearing away the brush on the ground where Victoria now stands to build the old Hudson Bay Co.’s fort and stockade. He subsequently commanded other of the Company’s vessels, notably the steamships Labouchere and Otter, and succeeded the late Captain Mouat in command of the Enterprise in 1866. In him the Company have lost an honest and faithful servant and one whom they will not easily replace. Had he been as good to himself as to his employers it is more than likely that it would now be our painful duty to record his death, and that he would have been in very good circumstances. But such was his nature that instead of considering his own good he always studied the happiness and comfort of those around him at his own expense. The flags of the Government Buildings, City Council Chambers and those of many private citizens were flying at half-mast yesterday out of respect to his memory. The funeral will take place on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. under the auspices of the Masonic fraternity.

(Source: British Daily Colonist, 22 October 1872, page 3, column 1)

“Funeral of the late Captain Swanson

The remains of the late Captain Swanson were conveyed to their last resting place at the Cemetery yesterday afternoon. The body lay in state at Masonic Hall, Government street, which was open to the public from 10:30 a.m. till 3 p.m. At about 3:45 the cortege started from the Masonic building, headed by some 60 members of the Masonic Order, headed by a band. Next came the corpse with Messrs. Jadson Young, J.W. McKay, D. McKay, Elliott, Moffatt and Captains McNeil, Mitchell and Pamphlet as pall-bearers. Captain Lewis and a son of the deceased were chief mourners, and next came most of the gentlemen composing the H.B. Co.’s staff in this city as well as a large number of citizens who followed out of respect to the memory of the deceased. The procession went from Government street to the Pandora Street Church, where the service was performed by the Rev. F.B. Gribbell. The procession then continued its course to the cemetery, at the gates of which the Masons opened ranks and received the corpse, which was then placed in the grave. The usual service being concluded, Mr. John Winger read the Masonic Funeral Service in a very impressive manner. Many a tear was shed by those standing around the grave of one who was so lately moving among them in the full enjoyment of life and vigor. At the conclusion of the service the procession wended its way back to the Masonic Hall where it disbanded. Few funerals have been so largely attended as that of yesterday, showing the high estimation in which the deceased was held.”

(Source: British Daily Colonist, 23 October 1872, page 3, column 1)

For more information on Captain John Swanson:

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