Boot Hill - New Westminster BC
N 49° 13.016 W 122° 53.950
10U E 507343 N 5451576
Quick Description: This is the Cemetery for the former British Columbia Penitentiary in New Westminster, BC
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 6/28/2010 10:11:25 PM
Waymark Code: WM94Y3
From a website called Boot Hill: Stories from the British Columbia Penitentiary Cemetery
by Deborah McIntosh:
In 1985 the site of the former British Columbia Penitentiary in New Westminster, BC, which had languished unoccupied for several years, was sold by the federal government to a private developer. Over the course of nearly a decade, the property was redeveloped as premium housing a community of landscaped, adults-only condominiums overlooking the Fraser River and, higher up the hill, larger homes for the well-to-do. Two former penitentiary buildings were renovated as heritage properties, and the rest were razed.
Unbeknownst to most local residents, included in a parcel carved from the penitentiary lands and donated by the developer to the City of New Westminster was the penitentiary cemetery, destined to become part of Glenbrook Ravine Park. The cemetery -- known to some as "Boot Hill" -- thereby became the institution's third surviving feature.
Hidden from view, the BC Penitentiary convicts cemetery abuts the eastern boundary of the now vacant Woodlands Institution. It is otherwise bordered by the ravine, the back yards of neighbouring town homes, and a dense blackberry bramble which continually threatens to overtake the entire property. The cemetery doesn't appear on maps, and the City of New Westminster doesn't advertise its existence. It's one of those places a handful of people have heard of, but no one can find.
The cemetery contains forty-eight headstones, each bearing the three or four digit prisoner number of an inmate who died at the penitentiary between 1914 and 1968. Government and media records confirm at least one additional man was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere near the site in 1913 -- local legend has it there were many more. It's a "pauper's cemetery" -- a burial place for prisoners whose families were too poor, too far away, or too estranged to claim their bodies after death. As a prison cemetery, it's a burial place for those whose lives were characterized by poverty, violence and misadventure.
Each stone, made of concrete in the penitentiary's masonry shop, is identified by a three or four digit prisoner number. The cemetery was built on a slope which has eroded over time due to run-off and drainage problems, and some of the stones have begun to sink into the earth. Two of the stones are so worn their numbers are almost impossible to read (these numbers have been confirmed by BC Penitentiary records).
There is much more information on the web pages of Deborah's site and I encourage you to peruse the pages. She is very passionate about this forgotten cemetery.