Vancouver Island Masonic History Project
As part of our Vancouver Island Masonic History Project, here is a page about Morris Price, the first person to be interred in the Victoria Jewish Cemetery.
Morris Price was the first interment in the Victoria Jewish Cemetery. He died in 1861 when he was murdered in the store he owned and operated in the town of Cayoosh, in the B.C. interior near the present town of Lilloett. His body was brought to Victoria for interment since, at that time, Victoria had the nearest Jewish cemetery to Cayoosh.
At present we do not know Brother Price’s Lodge membership details. It has been suggested, but not confirmed, that he was an American, from Boston, MA. We contacted the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to see whether there was any record of a Morris Price in any Massachusetts Masonic Lodge in the mid 19th century. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts says there is no “Morris Price” in its membership records from that period.
Victoria-Columbia Lodge #1 records indicate that an emergent meeting of Victoria Lodge, No. 1085 was held on 6 May 1861 to receive Brother Price’s remains for burial.
Here is what we know about Brother Morris Price, taken from Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No. 1 records and from contemporary newspaper reports of his death and funeral:
“THE BODY OF M. PRICE- The body of M. Price, a highly respected citizen of Cayoosh, B.C., recently murdered by Indians at that place, will be brought to this city and interred with Jewish rites.”
(Source: British Colonist, 25 March 1861, page 3, column 2)
“FUNERAL OF M. PRICE – The body of M. Price, formerly a merchant of Cayoosh, murdered by Indians in February last, was brought to town yesterday on the Otter. The remains were taken to Masonic Hall, Yates street, and will be buried today at one o’clock, with Masonic honors and Jewish rites. The body will be followed to the grave by the Free Masons and the numerous friends and acquaintances of the deceased, who mourn the untimely end of so estimable a citizen.”
(Source: British Colonist, 6 May 1861, page 3, column 1)
From Victoria-Columbia Lodge #1, Lodge records:
“A Lodge of Emergency of Victoria Lodge, No. 1085, was held in the Lodge Room on Monday May 6, 1861.
Lodge opened in the 3rd degree. Members Present:
J.J. Southgate, W.M.
Geo. Pearkes, S.W.
G. Sutro, J.W.
Thos. Nutall, secretary
W.H. Thain, S.D.
K. Gambitz, J.D.
R.J. McDonell, Tyler
R. Burnaby, P.M.
The body of the late Bro. Morris Price was received by this lodge and conveyed to the Jewish Burial Ground where it was interred with the ceremonies of the order. After which the Brethren repaired to the Lodge where it was closed in due and ancient form in the 3rd degree.”
(Source: Victoria Columbia Lodge No. 1, Lodge records)
“BURIAL OF MORRIS PRICE – The body of this unfortunate man, who was so cruelly murdered at Cayoosh three months ago, was yesterday interred in the Jewish portion of the Church Reserve. The corps, inclosed in a handsome coffin, was placed in a hearse and preceded by the Victoria Lodge, No. 1085, of Free and Accepted Masons. A number of friends of deceased followed the hearse. On arriving at the cemetery, the usual Masonic ceremonies were held, after which the burial service of the Hebrew Church was performed. The remains were then lowered to their last resting place. The whole ceremony was a very impressive one, and excited much apparent emotion in the breasts of many of the participants who had long and respected their deceased brother. This is the first Jew interred in the Jewish cemetery of this city.”
(Source: British Colonist, 7 May 1861, page 3, column 1)
Here is an excerpt from a research paper delivered to Grand Lodge of B.C. in 1947:
“……….From the files of Amor de Cosmos’ paper, the British Colonist, Cayoosh, on Cayoosh Creek was one of the most important places, as a rendezvous for miners and packers between Hope and the mines of the Upper Country. Fort Hope to Lytton was 96 miles and from there via Norman Bar, Spintlan Flat, White Rock Bar, where there were dry diggings east and west, Foster’s Bar, Rose’s Bar, Horse Beef Bar, to Cayoosh was another 41 miles………
Such were the main reasons why the town of Cayoosh was so important during the early days of the two colonies mainly on account of its geographical situation, and as a chief crossing place over the Fraser River, and also as a sheltered spot for stopping…..during the winters of the [1860s]……………
……….correspondent notes that [in 1860-61] business never appeared so good at Cayoosh, and on the Flat, a company of Cornish miners were running sluices. Three days later he notes that celebrated Antler Creek, first discovered late last fall [of 1860], $100 to 10 sq. ft. and large [gold] nuggets.
But there was another side, and of a very sordid character. Murders were rife. One was of a man named Moses Price, a storekeeper, who was ‘of an effeminate nature, very quiet and well liked. The few Masons that are here took charge of the body of the deceased, he being a Mason, and buried him with what honours they could give.’ At the time of the murder by three Indians, Price was writing to Reinhardt Brothers, New Westminster. He had in the store 14 ½ oz. of gold dust, and $37.50 in gold coin, yet the three Indians killed the Boston man [Price], evidently an American, for $18.00 in silver dust. One Indian told his wife, to make her think he was a brave man, but she went and informed the police…..”
(Excerpted from, Cayoosh – The First Petition For A New Lodge, by Bro. G. Hollis Slater, Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No. 1, in Proceedings of Grand Lodge of B.C., 1947, pages 140-147)
Note: We contacted the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to see whether there was any record of a Morris Price in a Boston Masonic lodge or any Massachusetts Masonic Lodge in the mid 19th century. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts says there is no “Morris Price” in its membership records from that period.
Here is a photo of Morris Price’s grave in Victoria Jewish Cemetery.
The GPS location of Brother Morris Price’s grave is: N 48⁰ 26.397’ W 123⁰ 20.723’
A link has been put on Find-A-Grave which references this page. The Find-A-Grave page has more photos of Morris Price’s grave.
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