Dedication of a Stone of Remembrance Inspector Montague Henry White-Fraser, O.50A, North West Mounted Police – July 13, 2019 @ 11:00 – “Old Agassiz Cemetery”

The following information was brought to my attention in October 2017 by Linda Shephard, who is a member of the Historical Society of the District of Kent (Agassiz) which has taken on the task of conserving the “Old Agassiz Cemetery” as part of the community’s 150th celebrations in 2020.  In 2016 she wrote to Superintendent Joe Healy (Ret’d) who maintains the RCMP Graves web site informing him of the unmarked grave of White-Fraser and seeking his assistance.

(http://www.rcmpgraves.com/database/search.html)

To recognize the service of Inspector White-Fraser who served in the early days of the Force and in the Boer War the Vancouver Division of the RCMP Veterans’ Association working in conjunction with “E” Division HQs sought support in having the RCMP fund a stone of remembrance, with the badge of the NWMP, to be placed in the “Old Agassiz Cemetery” at Inspector White-Fraser’s currently unmarked grave.  The marker has been approved and will be officially dedicated July 13, 2019.  The RCMP Chaplain will officiate, there will an Honour Guard of RCMP Veterans’ and Regular Members of Agassiz Detachment.  A member of the RCMP Pipes and Drums will play a lament.   

If you feel the need for a drive in the county and the smell of fresh air.   Please join us at the “Old Agassiz Cemetery”, set your GPS for 5721 Limbert Road, Agassiz.  Wear comfortable shoes, this used to be called “Mountain Cemetery” for a reason. A light lunch will be served at the Anglican Church, located at 6904 Loughheed Hwy., just down from the RCMP Detachment, after the ceremony.

Background:  Montague Henry White-Fraser was born June 24, 1853 at Inverness, Scotland to Major Montague James White of the Bengal Army, India and Frances Elizabeth Fraser of Inverness, Scotland. Montague Henry White-Fraser’s christening took place on August 24, 1853 at Delhi, Bengal, India. Being that M.H. White-Fraser’s mother was born to the aristocratic family of Philip Affleck Fraser of Inverness, Scotland she chose to give her children a hyphenated surname to pass the lineage of the Fraser name to her children and put them in line to possibly inherit the family fortune. 

On February 26, 1883 Montague Henry White-Fraser married Elizabeth Sage Retallack at All Saints, Leamington, Warwickshire, England.  Elizabeth Retallack was born in 1863 at Quebec City, Quebec, to Francis Retallack and Emma Grace Ley.  Elizabeth (Elsie) Sage White-Fraser Elizabeth Retallack’s father, Captain Francis Retallack of the 63rd Regiment was the Secretary, Aide de Camp and Military Secretary to the Governor General of Canada, Sir Edmond Walker Head. Francis Retallack also served with Governor General of Canada, Charles Stanley, Viscount Monck. After leaving service in Canada and returning to England, Francis Retallack became magistrate at Cornwall.

In 1883 M.H. White-Fraser arrived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan as the agent for the Canada North-West Land Company, a British Canadian syndicate that managed lands for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Montague Henry White-Fraser stated on his enlistment into the NWMP that he had previously served in the National Police (India) and he had also served as a bugler in Carrington’s Horse, Isadhlwana, Zululand, South Africa.  

He was commissioned May 1st,1884 posted to Fort Qu’Appelle, North West Territories.  His service led him to Battleford where the North West Mounted Police he had the arduous job of separating the First Nations people from the settlers who were arriving in large numbers from overseas. There were many conflicts that the NWMP had with both the First Nations people and the settlers. A difficult time to follow orders and keep to what the government had imposed.

Photo from the Scarlet and Gold magazine

At the onset of the North-West Rebellion in 1885, White-Fraser followed orders and was commended for his service while under command of General Middleton.  Lieutenant White-Fraser was the orderly officer at the hanging of Louis Riel. After the Rebellion ended, White-Fraser was posted to Regina, Saskatchewan. 1886 

Through 1887 to 1897 he served at Pincher Creek, Calgary, and in charge of Lethbridge Detachment which policed from Maple Creek to Fort McLeod. 

Photos courtesy of RCMP Historical Collections Unit, “Depot”

Through 1887 to 1897 he served at Pincher Creek, Calgary, and in charge of Lethbridge Detachment which policed from Maple Creek to Fort McLeod.

Photos courtesy of RCMP Historical Collections Unit, “Depot”

In 1897 he was Commander of “A” Division Regina, Maple Creek.  At age 44, Montague H. White-Fraser requested retirement after 13 years of service. He was suffering from ill health having lost his hearing in his left ear, much of his hearing in his right ear as well as lumbago and incipient sciatica. He was also made aware that his job was soon to be dissolved and the N.W.M.P. may be disbanded. In the last three years of his position his wage was $1000.00 a year and was then given a retirement allowance of $250.00 a year. He was superannuated on September 30, 1897. 

Upon leaving the NWMP 1897 he resided in Kamloops, B.C. as an employee of Lewthwaite & Co. In 1900 he was living in Wardner, B.C. in the Kootenay’s and listed as Commission Agent and Contractor.  During this time White-Fraser sent many messages to the NWMP stating his health had improved and was asking for any available postings in any area of government for employment. 

White-Fraser wrote, in 1900, and asked for a commission into Lord Strathcona’s Horse which would be formed to fight in the Boer War. He asked for this posting because he was having a difficult time financially. He was granted this commission as a Lieutenant. His commanding officer was Lt.-Col. Samuel B. Steele and 2nd in command Major R. Belcher both having served in the NWMP.  Samuel Benfield Steele Records show that M.H. White-Fraser was involved in many close conflicts with the enemy during the Boer War. Montague is mentioned in Samuel B. Steele’s memoirs as a brave soldier who on one occasion stood his ground between the enemy and his men to protect them.

At the end of the Boer War M.H. White-Fraser took a leave of absence to travel to England. Montague was never the same after the Boer War and wasn’t able to find steady work. 

On January 19th, 1904, M.H. White-Fraser was appointed to be Justice of the Peace at Agassiz, B.C. and within and for the Province of British Columbia. 

The BC Directory shows M.H. White-Fraser in Agassiz, a farmer, and he states he is a Major. Titles were given to officers on leaving the military after performing good service which influenced job opportunities etc. 

On February 17th, 1908, White-Fraser’s wife Elizabeth (Elsie) Sage White-Fraser died in Agassiz of sudden heart failure. She was 47 years old and is buried in the Old Agassiz Cemetery, Row 8, plot 7.  Montague spent a good sum of money to give his beloved wife a resting place adorned with an ornate metal fence and a decent sized monument with inscription and a cross. Elizabeth (Elsie) White-Fraser was thought very highly of by many in the community.

The ladies of the congregation of the Anglican Church in Agassiz raised money to install a stained-glass window behind the alter in their church as a memorial to her. This window bears her name.

He bought a small lot in Burnaby sometime between 1910 and 1916 and built a structure to use as a home. 

In 1927 White-Fraser is hospitalized, suffering from malnutrition and collapse of the heart. He fears he will not recover and asks Reverend H.A. Lewis Hooper, RCMP Veterans Association, to promise him that if he should die, he would be buried next to his wife in Agassiz, B.C. and also that he would take a Piper with him to play “Lochober’s Lament” at his graveside. Reverend Hooper mentioned in a letter he wrote to the RCMP, while Montague was in hospital, that Montague was living very much alone in a small shack that he had built in Burnaby and was no longer able to tend to his small garden or look after himself due to ill health. He asked for assistance in getting help for White-Fraser and was turned down.  June 5th, 1927, Montague Henry White-Fraser succumbs to his illnesses while still in the Vancouver General Hospital, a few days shy of his 74th birthday.  Once again, Rev. Hooper wrote to the RCMP for assistance, this time to bury Montague Henry White-Fraser. They complied with a grant not to exceed $75. With the sale of Montague’s shack and property in Burnaby, which brought $300.00, they were able to pay his hospital and medical expenses. A very small amount remained that was used to help pay for his burial.  Services for Montague were held in the Undertakers Chapel in Vancouver, and was largely attended by Veterans of the Force as well as Superintendent Duffus representing the RCMP, members of the Vancouver City Police, Provincial Police and late Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP, Col. Wroughton.  Reverend Hooper kept his promise and Montague Henry White-Fraser was buried next to his beloved wife Elsie in the Old Agassiz Cemetery on June 7, 1927, and the Chief of the Vancouver Police Department sent a piper in Highland uniform at his own expense to carry out Montague’s wishes.  Montague’s service at his grave-side was mentioned in the Agassiz paper at that time as it was the first burial to have ever had a piper. Services were performed by Reverend Lewis Hooper and the Vicar from the Anglican Church.

Montague fought for many years trying to get help from the NWMP, the RCMP and the Canadian Government asking for work, or at the very least a raise in his pension to help him get by.  Many men did receive raises but unfortunately, because Montague was a commissioned officer and his pension was started before 1900, he wasn’t eligible. 

White-Fraser spent a good portion of his working life in the military, this is where he found comfort, so he continually turned to the forces for employment and in later years for an increase of his pension. His letters over the years show he had great respect for his commanders and the forces and they all had given him good reports and said that Montague H. White-Fraser had a universal expression of good will that held him in esteem with all classes with whom he came in contact with. Inspector Montague Henry White-Fraser died a pauper and there wasn’t a single penny left in his estate after bills were paid to afford him even a modest headstone to mark his final resting place.

Insp. White-Fraser’s stone of remembrance has been placed
alongside his wife Elsie’s marker.

Another historical note:

Although the exact date has, so far, been lost to history, it was generally accepted that it was during the early 1900’s that a system of consecutive numbers for officers was introduced.   For officers then in the Force, or officers who had previously served and left, the number was assigned retroactively.  

The numbering system was, for those officers who joined with a commission, based upon the date of the member’s appointment to the Force or, for those men promoted from the ranks, the date of his promotion to the commissioned ranks.  However, that criterion was not followed in a number of cases.   One example was Commissioner G. A. French; he was allotted number O.1 when in fact, he was the eleventh officer appointed to the NWMP.  When the Officer Numbers were allotted, four former officers were overlooked.  It has been suggested that resulted from the incompleteness of early records however, all of the Orders-in-Council covering the officers’ appointments during the period in question remain intact and there was no doubt they were available at the time the list was first compiled.  When the errors were discovered, the numbering system was modified.  Interestingly, numbers were allotted to only three of the four officers – Commissioner (Temporary) W. O. Smith, (who should have been O.1), was assigned O.2 ½; Quartermaster C. Nicolle was assigned O.23½ and Inspector M. H. White-Fraser was assigned O.50 A.

Workers cleaning up the White-Fraser’s grave site

Revised: 2019-06-22

Ric Hall 24393/O.1330

Photograph of retired RCMP Superintendent Ric Hall (Source of the photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).


Found it!  Grave site is between rows 9 & 10. Very rough terrain getting across to grave. A view down from the grave site.  Note my car just visible on the right hand side in the trees.

 
Old Agassiz Cemetery – Grave site of Insp. & Mrs. White-Fraser
Marker for M.H. White-Fraser is in place
Stairs at the base of the mountain leading up.

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