Voices from the grave: Langley's cemeteries

As markers of our heritage, cemeteries serve as important sources of information for genealogists, historians, and family members. Explore this section of the website to learn about the development of cemetery and monument design.

Enjoy a virtual tour of the Township of Langley's two oldest cemeteries, Fort Langley Cemetery and Murrayville Cemetery, through an exploration of some of their most unique and beautiful grave markers. Conduct your own research by accessing the database of over 10,000 records.

Search the cemetery database. Scroll along the bottom of your search to see additional details.

Cemetery design  Hudson's Bay Company pioneer  Monument style

Fort Langley  Murrayville  Other burials

Cemetery design 

Langley Lawn Cemetery. Photograph by Ron BrysonThe way cemeteries and monuments are designed says a lot about how societies feel about death and the relationships between people. Think of the difference between an unmarked pauper’s grave and the elaborate tombs of the wealthy. Or the difference between an intimate churchyard cemetery and the large, expansive cemeteries of today. Why has the design of cemeteries and monuments changed over time?

In early Christian and Medieval times, royalty, nobility, and high-ranking clerics were buried in elaborate tombs at cathedrals while commoners were buried in unmarked graves in parish churchyards.

When urban populations grew in the late 18th century, large, landscaped cemeteries were developed outside city limits. These new park-like cemeteries became places for education, reflection, and recreation where families might picnic or socialize while visiting the graves of their deceased relatives.

Murrayville Cemetery  Veteran’s Monument. Photograph by Ron BrysonIn largely rural North America, people continued to bury their dead in churchyards or cemeteries near the local churches. Many of these cemeteries were fenced to keep out wandering livestock and had tended lawns. Langley's two early municipal burial grounds, Fort Langley Cemetery and Murrayville Cemetery, are examples of this type of cemetery.

After experiencing the horrors of World War I, attitudes toward death changed. Previously, the Victorians had viewed death as a natural part of the lifecycle. But after World War I, many people were uncomfortable with the idea of death as they had endured so much loss in a short period of time. As a result, cemeteries were designed to be less obvious and emotional. They represented efficiency where burial numbers were maximized and maintenance costs minimized. These cemeteries were called lawn cemeteries and were typified by large expanses of lawn, limited paths, and carefully clipped shrubs. The stones are generally placed flat in the ground, to facilitate mowing. Langley Lawn is an example of this cemetery style.

Columbaria at  Langley Lawn Cemetery. Photograph by Ron BrysonAfter the First World War, it became common to designate a section in a cemetery for the burial of veterans, or a "field of honour". A veterans section was established in the Fort Langley Cemetery some time before 1924, and the same was also created in the Murrayville Cemetery.

Today, most modern cemeteries are lawn cemeteries. However, in response to the increasing popularity of cremation, many are also offering scattering gardens and/or columbaria, a room or building used for holding cremated remains.

The Hudson's Bay Company Pioneer Cemetery (1840-1884)

This cemetery, located on the northeast corner of Church and Mary Streets beside St. George’s Church, was established after the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort was built to the northeast in 1839. Approximately 30 people were buried here until the Fort Langley Cemetery was created in the 1880s. The predominantly wood grave markers disappeared quickly. 

The Fort closed in 1886 and the surrounding land, including the cemetery, was purchased by Alexander Mavis. He sold the land to members of an Anglican congregation in 1900. In 1901, St. George’s Anglican Church was built. 

The research of Bob and Sheila Puls resulted in the following list:

 Known burials 

Peopeoh (Pion Pion)

b.1798; d. after 1859

Catherine (Katrina)

wife of Peopeoh

Infant son of Henry and Eliza Peers


Ovid Allard


Ovid Allard Jr.


William Henry Newton


Etienne Pepin

Magice or Maille 1798-1874

William Cromarty


Elizabeth (Cromarty) Dawson


Catherine (Falardeau) Taylor


An Unnamed Sapper of The Royal Engineers


 Presumed burials

Joseph Allard

b.1862; likely died as a child

Marie Allard


Matilda Allard


Isabelle Pepin

wife of Etienne Pepin

Ann Cromarty

b.1850; died before 1875

Salum-mia (aka. Eliz, Jane, Jenny) Cromarty



d.1867 aged about 100

Katherine Morrison


Ovid John Morrison


Peter Apnaut (Ohule Ouahi, Apnath)

b.1825; d. before 1867

Aglae (Paiwa) (Peopeoh) Ohier

b.1827; d. after 1856

Charles Ohier

d. after 1856

Approximately 30 to 35 people were buried in this cemetery during its active life. Another 15 people are named in the company's records as having served in Fort Langley but whose burial places are presently unknown. Their names will be added to this memorial list if evidence of their burial here can be established.

Sarah Brousseau (1842-1889) may not be buried in this cemetery. She was believed to have been buried in the company's cemetery at Derby, her headstone having been brought here for safekeeping as the Derby cemetery eroded into the Fraser River.

Monument Style

Tombs, headstones, and tablets

Grave marker trends and styles tell us a lot about what mattered to people: both to individuals and the society they lived in.

Robert Mackie headstone,  Fort Langley Cemetery. Photograph by Ron Bryson

In the Victorian era, stones reflected loved ones’ hopes for the afterlife of the deceased. These stones contained decorative and symbolically carved motifs, such as clasped hands (two people saying farewell). A bouquet of flowers symbolized the soul of the deceased and ivy served as a reminder of immortality, friendship, and fidelity. Christian beliefs were emphasized through lines of scripture or excerpts from hymns incised on the stones.

Tablet-style Victorian monuments proliferated in Langley's cemeteries throughout the 1890's. Virtually all were carved from marble by monument makers in New Westminster and Vancouver.

The tombstone of Robert Mackie, the first burial in the Fort Langley Cemetery in 1882, is an example of a typical Victorian tombstone. The stone's design is laden with symbolism. Much of its inscription is placed on a raised heraldic shield, creating a sense of antiquity. The gathered drapery flanking the stone is representative of mourning.

Mavis family monument,  Fort Langley Cemetery. Photograph by Ron Bryson

By the early 20th century, Victorian symbolism was in decline; headstones were simple, with few symbolic images. From 1900 to 1920, most stones were made of granite and were formed into various obelisk (tapered, four sided pillars) and pedestal-like shapes. By the 1920s, roughly hewn grey granite tablets were common. Names and dates were recorded, but little other additional information was present.

The Mavis family monument at the Fort Langley cemetery is an example of this style. It also demonstrates a trend toward commemorating several family members with a single monument. Like other monuments erected at this time, it is made of polished red granite and takes the form of a modified obelisk. The stone was probably sent to a monument maker in New Westminster or Vancouver in virtually finished form. All the monument maker had to do was add the particulars of the deceased and some ornamentation.

By the 1930s, most North American cemeteries were lawn style cemeteries. They feature low lying concrete ledger stones with low, stamped concrete tablets at their heads. This style allowed for easy lawn maintenance and an understated acknowledgement of death.

Hallack monument, Murrayville Cemetery. Photograph by Ron BrysonThe Hallack monument is a charming example of an early response to the needs of the lawn cemetery movement. The stone is low, but not flush to the ground. It is rendered from white marble in the form of an open Bible. A cross marks the exposed page. One page lists Hugh Hallack’s particulars (1874-1931), the other his wife Martha's (1872-1954).

Like society in general, cemetery monuments today tend to be more secular and individualistic. They tell more about what the person cared about in life than about the family's wishes for their afterlife. Symbols of a person’s interests is common, such as images of favorite activities, sports, or hobbies. Inscribed phrases may say something like "gone fishing" or "see you in the movies."

Virtual tour: Fort Langley Cemetery

West family monument, Fort Langley Cemetery. Photograph by Ron Bryson

Rich in history and home to numerous Victorian and Edwardian headstones is the Fort Langley Cemetery. As the oldest cemetery in the Township of Langley, it records many of the loves, dreams, and heartaches that shaped the development of this Fraser River community.

In 1881 when the cemetery was established, regulations required that it be located away from populated areas. Due to growth and development, the Fort Langley Cemetery is now nestled amongst the community’s historic downtown allowing residents and visitors to enjoy and learn from the stories it reveals. The Fort Langley Cemetery is located at 23105 St. Andrews Street, along Glover Road.

A brief tour of the Fort Langley Cemetery is offered below by viewing a few of the beautiful headstones that commemorate some of the early Fort Langley pioneers.

Julia Robertson’s headstone, Fort Langley Cemetery. Photograph by Ron BrysonThe West family monument has the distinction of being the largest and most impressive monument in the cemetery. It is crafted from white marble and rises in stages, ending in a Gothic canopy supported by four columns sheltering a classical urn. Its beauty now stands in tribute to a local pioneer family. Henry West, the family patriarch, arrived in the municipality in the early 1870's and established a prosperous steam powered sawmill east of Fort Langley.

Julia Robertson's monument is among the finest in the cemetery and is a lovely example of a Victorian grave marker filled with symbolism. The hand represents that of God, and the flowers symbolize the soul of the deceased, which is being carried up to heaven. Julia Robertson was the First Nations wife of Samuel Robertson. They operated the What Cheer House, a saloon in Derby, and the British Columbia Saloon Company in Fort Langley. When Julia passed away, she was living in Maple Ridge where her husband had acquired land. Because there was not yet a cemetery in Maple Ridge, Julia was buried in Fort Langley.

Susannah Yeoman’s grave monument, Fort Langley Cemetery. Photograph by Ron Bryson

Susannah Yeomans’ monument is different than most. Instead of a stone, this marker is created from cast metal and coated with zinc so as to retard rust. Similar monuments are common in communities such as Victoria, but this is the only one in Langley. With its delicate vegetal decoration and simple text, this marker acts as remembrance for another pioneer that contributed to the development of Langley.

Virtual tour: Murrayville Cemetery

Featuring a view of Golden Ears Mountain in the distance, the Murrayville Cemetery has a history that extends back to 1891. Established by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (Cloverdale Lodge No. 15) and named the Odd Fellows Cemetery, it has the unique feature of the oldest tombstone predating the opening of the cemetery. How is that possible? Alexander Murray drowned in the Fraser River in January 1884 while attempting in vain to save a friend. Originally, Murray was buried at the Fort Langley Cemetery. But when the Odd Fellows Cemetery opened, his family exhumed his body and relocated it so that he would be closer to home.

In 1904, the municipality of Langley purchased the cemetery and renamed it Langley Prairie Cemetery. Over the years, it has come to be known as the Murrayville Cemetery. It is located at 21405 - 44 Avenue, west of 216 Street on the Murrayville hill.

Capture a glimpse of the Murrayville Cemetery and learn of Langley's early history by viewing below some of the special and unique headstones located within the cemetery.

As in the Fort Langley Cemetery, the Murrayville Cemetery is home to many unique and touching memorials. One of sweet remembrance is that of Therold F. Williams, who passed away one month shy of his fifth birthday. In keeping with attempts in the early 20th century to downplay death’s finality, this stone described Therold as one who "fell asleep." Sentimentally, the stone also reads:

"No Sordidness of life can stain No weight of woe can crush This little child of mine."

The history of Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia is a long one. In the older section of the Murrayville Cemetery, a few graves mark their early presence in Langley. The stone, inscribed in English, is a thick, squat granite block. The stone remembers the Sakamotos as “Father” and “Mother” and bears the Christian text “God is Love.”

Found in what was once called an Odd Fellows Cemetery is an odd monument marking the passing of Johnston and Margaret Nelson. This unique and impressive marker is carved out of red granite and consists of a sphere supported by a pedestal. The perfect sphere surely must have been a challenge to create, but also draws much admiration. As the second family to settle in Murrayville, the Nelsons operated Langley's first steam-powered sawmill.

Paul and Lucy Murray came to Langley in the 1870s, giving their name to the Murrayville neighbourhood. Originally known as Murray’s Corners, the community that emerged at the Five Corners came in time to be known as Murrayville. The monument commemorates Paul, Lucy, two of their sons, and a daughter.

Photo Gallery: salishan - Cemeteries - Murrayville will appear here on the public site.

Other burials

  • The Township of Langley maintains three cemeteries:
  • Fort Langley Cemetery
  • Langley Lawn Cemetery
  • Murrayville Cemetery

There are seven other known burial sites in Langley not maintained by the Township. In many cases, the identities of those buried in these sites cannot be confirmed.

Hudson’s Bay Company Pioneer Cemetery

This cemetery, located on the northeast corner of Church and Mary Streets beside St. George’s Church, was established after the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort was built to the northeast in 1839. Approximately 30 people were buried here until the Fort Langley Cemetery was created in the 1880s. The predominantly wood grave markers disappeared quickly. The Fort closed in 1886 and the surrounding land, including the cemetery, was purchased by Alexander Mavis. He sold the land to members of an Anglican congregation in 1900. In 1901, St. George’s Anglican Church was built.  

The research of Bob and Sheila Puls resulted in a list of known and presumed burials.

McQuilken Burial

The exact location of this grave has been forgotten, but it was on the John Alexander Cameron property near the southwest corner of 16 Avenue and 232 Street.  Cameron’s aunt, Mary McQuilken, died around 1900. She seems to have expressed a wish to be buried under her favourite tree, overlooking a creek. The family honoured her wishes.

Patricia Lutheran Churchyard

Between 1900 and 1921, the Patricia Lutheran Church was located close to the 264 Street border crossing. A mother and her two children were buried in the churchyard. Although their names are unknown, they might be members of the early northern European families that settled in the area.

St. Alban’s Anglican Churchyard

These two west-facing graves are located on the east side of 216 Street just north of 61 Avenue in Milner. St. Alban’s Anglican Church stood at this location from 1890 until 1925 when it was dismantled and moved to the Otter area of Langley. During this time, the churchyard saw just two burials. 

One stone marks the 1894 burial of Ellen Culbert, an ancestor of the well known Blair family.  The other grave, unmarked for many years, is assumed to be that of her daughter, Martha Culbert, who probably died soon after the church was built. St. Andrew’s Anglican Church erected the existing wooden cross in the 1990s to mark Martha’s grave.

Walworth Cemetery

Mrs. Jane Walworth and her extended family settled in south Langley in the 1880s.  In September 1888, the smallpox epidemic resulted in the deaths of Mrs. Charles Walworth, Mrs. Van Luven, and James Walworth. Because of a quarantine imposed on the area, the burials had to take place on the property. An area just north of Mrs. Walworth’s house on a bluff on the north side of 16 Avenue was chosen. Other family members were later buried here, including Jane Walworth, Albert Walworth in 1897, and Mr. and Mrs. Jason Samuel Lewis in the 1920s.

8 Avenue burials

Two burials are believed to have taken place in the 1890s on the north side of 8 Avenue, west of 256 Street. One is believed to be a young girl from the Broe family; the other, a young First Nations girl.

200 Street burial

This burial place is located on the west side of 200 Street, south of 21 Avenue and about 75 feet from the road. A cherry tree that marked the spot is gone, so it is impossible to know exactly where it was or who it was. The property was owned by the Wix family in 1908, but earlier owners are not known. There is a possibility a member of the Lewis family died during the same epidemic that killed members of their extended family, the Walworths.