Dedication of a Stone of Remembrance – Inspector Montague Henry White-Fraser, O.50A

Dedication of a Stone of Remembrance  – Inspector Montague Henry White-Fraser, O.50A

Part II

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.

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 was approved and was officially dedicated July 13, 2019.  I was privileged to be able to detail White-Fraser’s life and career in the NWMP. The RCMP Chaplain, Jim Turner, officiated, and there was an Honour Guard of RCMP Veterans’ and Regular Members.  A member of the RCMP Pipes and Drums, played a lament.

For more background on the life and times of Insp. White-Fraser see:

Members of the Honour Guard
RCMP Chaplain Jim Turner
Piper Brian Bakuska of the “E” Division RCMP Pipes and Drums 

To honour the service of Montague White-Fraser to both the NWMP and the Strathcona Horse, I replaced my RCMP Veterans’ Association badge on my wedge cap with the badge of the NWMP.   Also, I carried a drill stick from the Lord Strathcona’s Horse.  In the background is the “E” Division Sgt. Major Sebastien Lavoie.

When I first became involved, I thought this would be a piece of cake, get the marker made, have a bunch of nice folks attend the dedication.  I should have known the hoops that would have to be gone through to get the RCMP to fund the grave marker.   It could not have happened without the assistance of Lurenia Blanchard of “E” Division HQs, who looks after these types of requests.   For the first time she attended the dedication ceremony of a former member who had previously laid in an unmarked grave.  She also brought flowers from her garden to be laid at the gravesite.

Also, little did I realize the location and history of the Old Agassiz Cemetery.  Those who created the cemetery on a mountainside and laid to rest those who are buried there were some hearty folks.

The grave markers of Montague and Elizabeth White Fraser.
Note the flowers provided by Lurenia Blanchard, “E” Div. HQs.
Kudos to the staff of the District of Kent and volunteers for cleaning
up the grave site and making repairs to damage incurred over the years.

There are 23 rows of grave plots on the side of this mountain.  Montague and Elizabeth are buried in line with row # 10…which is barely visible from where we gathered.   For the health and safety of our more senior attendees we decided to remain below and later should any attendees feel strong and wish to pay their respects to Montague’s marker, they were invited to do so.  Later, everyone made the trek up the mountainside and Piper Brian Bakuska entertained them on the bag pipes with “Going Home”.  Well done Brian!

It would not be a gathering of RCMP members and Veterans
without the traditional group photograph!

After the dedication those in attendance were invited by Reverend David Price, of the Anglican Church, Agassiz, to meet at the church for a light lunch.  It was far more than a light lunch, but rather a full buffet.   It was very much appreciated by all.   It also gave everyone the opportunity to view the stain glass window that was dedicated by church members in memory of Mrs. Elizabeth White-Fraser after her death in 1908.   Barely visible at the bottom of the window is the dedication to Elizabeth.

It always amazes me the interesting connections between Force members and their families.  After the dedication ceremony it was later learned that Elizabeth White-Fraser’s brother, Sgt. John Ley Retallack, Reg # 1067, also served in the NWMP.  He joined the NWMP in August 1884 and left “Time Expired” in August 1889.  Interesting to note he joined the NWMP four months after his brother-in-law, Montague.   Was there a connection?  Another question and answer lost to history.  

According to Archives Canada, John Retallack joined the NWMP at Regina.  He served at Fort Carlton, Prince Albert and Wood Mountain and was promoted to Sgt. in May 1887.  He was posted at Fort Carlton when the NW Rebellion broke out and served at Duck Lake.   He was a member of the scouting party that went from Prince Albert to Batoche and participated in the capture of that location.   He was awarded the NW Rebellion medal.

It is another quirk of family history when applying for his NW Rebellion Medal, Retallack noted:“Just before the capture of Batoche I was one of a party under Insp. White-Fraser holding the Hudson’s Bay Crossing of the Saskatchewan River. I proceeded with this party on a steamer to Batoche and arriving on the day of and immediately after its capture.”  Also:  Subsequently I was one of the column pursuing “Big Bear” in the neighbourhood of Green Lake to which column he surrendered.”

Retallack participated in many events in his short career with the NWMP.  Many recruits over the years learned about those adventures in those History of the Force classes we all took while in training and tried our best to stay awake in.  

Retallack came to the Kootenay in 1889, after his service in the NWMP, where he was prominent in mining, banking, and townsite promotion. He served on Kaslo city council and twice ran unsuccessfully for MLA. After returning from World War I, in which he was awarded the Order of the British Empire, he was named BC’s first public utilities commissioner.

Major John Ley Retallack and his associates leased the Whitewater mine in the Kootenay between Kaslo and New Denver. The Whitewater Mine became the second largest silver/lead/zinc mine in the British Empire and was “lit up like Coney Island.” The town boasted several hotels, numerous brothels and casinos, its own school, and was a key stopping point for the “Kaslo to Sandon (K&S) Railway.” Due to the large amount of mail that went to Major John Ley Retallack, the owner of the Whitewater Mine, the postal service decided to officially rename the town to “Retallack.” The mine continued to operate until the 1950’s, after which Retallack became a ghost town. In total the mines at Retallack and Sandon produced more money than the Klondike, California, and Caribou Gold Rushes combined! After fire destroyed the camp in 1910, they purchased the property. The fire also burned bridges and snow sheds on the Kaslo and Slocan Railway, putting it out of business.

The remains of the Town of Retallack 

Major John Ley Retallack, OBE
John Retallack’s grave marker at Mountainview Cemetery, Vancouver, BC. He died three years before his brother-in-law Montague White-Fraser.  I wonder if they remained in contact after the death of Elizabeth?   

Ric Hall 24393/O.1330


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