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 Joseph Spratt (1834-1888), a leading industrialist in 19th century Victoria, B.C., who is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
Joseph Spratt was a member of Vancouver & Quadra Lodge, No. 2 in Victoria. He was one of the leading businessmen of 19th century Victoria. One of his businesses, the Albion Iron Works, was among the city’s leading industrial concerns of that day.
Joseph Spratt was born in England in 1834 and went into the foundry business. He came to California in 1853 and started the Albion Foundry in San Francisco. He came to Victoria in 1861 and set up the Albion Iron Works, the city’s first foundry.
His former office building is still standing on Store Street in downtown Victoria. We will take a new photo of it and post it here in the near future.
Here is Brother Joseph Spratt’s obituary and the contemporary newspaper reports of his death and funeral:
“DEATH OF MR. JOS. SPRATT
An Old Pioneer of Victoria and One of Its Most Enterprising Citizens Passed to His Rest
By the steamer Olympian yesterday a telegram from Mr. Isaac Lipsett, of San Jose, California, reached Mr. Geo. Haynes which announced that Mr. Joseph Spratt died in that city on Thursday last [note: 12 January 1888]. It was owing to the lines being down that the dispatch was not received sooner. The sad news was not long in finding its way to all who were acquainted with the deceased, and was received with genuine regret, the one expression being that Victoria had lost one of its most energetic citizens.
The late Mr. Spratt was born near London, Eng., in 1834, and was consequently in his 55th year. At an early age he was educated at Brussels, after which he returned to England where he learned the trade, which in after years made him so prominent and wealthy, with Penn, marine engineer and builder. Acquiring an extensive knowledge of his profession, he started out for California in 1853, being attracted thither, like so many others, by the gold fever. With a small capital he organized the Albion Foundry in San Francisco, and was most successful, being a recognized authority on matters pertaining to his business. To his credit, and a matter which to-day is remembered pride by those of his friends who are living, he built the first locomotive ever run on the coast, and this naturally brought his into prominence. In 1861 he left San Francisco and came to Victoria, and immediately started what is to-day the largest foundry in the province, the Albion Iron Works.
His progress was rapid and before long he had organized a regular steamboat line between this port and points on the east coast, running such boats as the Maude and Cariboo Fly, then considered to be the best steamers afloat in these waters. Subsequently he purchased the old steamer Wilson G. Hunt, from Capt. Irving, and ran her for a few years to Nanaimo before the C.P.N. Co. was organized, when he disposed of that vessel and the Maude, now used by the company which bought her as a freighter and coal carrier. In the latter part of ’82, Mr. Spratt disposed of his foundry, which by that time had grown to be a flourishing concern, to the joint stock company known as the Albion Iron Works Co., and with the disposal of his steamers retired from the east coast trade. He still retained the old Cariboo Fly, Eliza, Emma and the famous Ark, which bears his name. He was always willing and ready for any undertaking, and his enterprising spirit was retained to the very last, evidence of it being observed, not only in this city, but in other parts of the province. His last work was the building about a year ago of the Victoria Machinery Depot, which is at present managed by Mr. Andrew Gray, who was associated with the deceased for many years. During the building of the Depot, Mr. Spratt was constantly at work, not withstanding the inclement state of the weather, and to this is attributed his death, as he took a severe cold from the exposure which he was subjected to, and not being a strong man, was taken seriously ill, never recovering, though able to be about at times. Mr. Gray, who was in Scotland, on learning of his old friend’s illness was not long in reaching Victoria, and Mr. Spratt placed in his hands the managing of his new venture. The best medical aid was secured, and by a trip to Banff and Harrison Hot Springs Mr. Spratt’s health was slightly improved. In October last it was considered that a trip California would probably benefit his health and prolong the life so dear to him and his host of friends, and he left on the 15th of that month for San Jose. The change of climate, though, did not benefit him and he was so ill that his friends were expecting to hear of his death at any moment. During his long illness those most intimate with him watched with sorrow the progress of the fatal disease which had taken so firm a hold on his system, and it was a matter of regret to all that one so useful and so clever, one that had done so much for the advancement of our city, and one whose career was stamped with good deeds, was soon to pass away. He was always ready to lend a helping hand, and when a man made a friend of Joe Spratt he could rely on him. Ever generous and open-hearted, to do a charitable act was his aim, and the deserving poor were never turned away by him. He was beloved by his employees simply because he was known by them, never presuming on his position, and many men to-day will say that they derived great benefit from his superior knowledge, and the example set them by him. He died leaving a fortune attained by hard work, having realized handsomely by his investments, which were in most cases judiciously made. His dying wish was that his remains be interred in Victoria, and the next steamer from San Francisco will bring all that is mortal of the late Joseph Spratt. Due notice of the funeral will be given.”
(Source: Daily Colonist, 15 January 1888, page 4, column 4)
“LAID AT REST – The mortal remains of the late Mr. Jos. Spratt were interred in Ross Bay cemetery on Sunday afternoon. The funeral took place from the Masonic temple, Douglas street, and the hearse was followed by about forty carriages. The procession was headed by Prof. Haynes’ band, which played the “Dead March In Saul” and other funeral marches from the temple to the cemetery. The services were conducted by Grand Master Bro. A.R. Milne and W.M. Bro. M. Morris. The pallbearers were composed of friends of the deceased and were: J. Madden, T. Shaw, McCahill, J. Johnson and J. Patterson. In response to the request of the mayor, the council attended in a body.”
(Source: Daily Colonist, 31 January 1888, page 4, column 2)
Joseph Spratt is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
Here are some websites with more information on Joseph Spratt:
- BC Archives photo A-01769 – Joseph Spratt circa 1864
- Victoria Heritage Foundation
- Wikipedia – Victoria Machine Depot
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