A grave marker in the area of New Westminster’s Fraser Cemetery known as the Masonic section links to a story that is all the more interesting because of some poignant details.
This story and marker feature the daughter of George Black, who was a well-known businessman on Burrard Inlet operating a hotel and butcher shop in the area known as New Brighton at the end of the much-travelled road from New Westminster.
The story took place in June of 1883, and the girl was 13-year-old Maud, much admired and well-liked, and a student at St. Ann’s Academy in New Westminster. On a particular day, blessed with beautiful weather, a group of girls accompanied by a couple of sisters from St. Ann’s, went out to visit a farm near the Coquitlam River. A newspaper account of the day noted that the girls “enjoyed themselves with all the gladsome mirth of childhood.”
Apparently, the girls went near the edge of the water to bathe their feet and one of them, a Miss Ward, ventured too far, got into deep water and sank. Maud Black went to her friend’s assistance and, as reported, “Miss Black, attempting to save Miss Ward, went down but never emerged alive.” Joseph Wise who happened to be nearby, hurried to help but could only save the Ward girl and when found, Maud was “beyond the reach of human efforts.”
Maud’s body was taken to St. Ann’s Academy. The newspaper story filled in much of the aftermath of the tragedy. “The scene at the Convent parlour, where the body was laid in a shroud, was very sad – the child’s father and mother, the sisters and the school children, standing round in the awful presence of death, it was pitiful.” Of the parents of the girl, the description of the gathering singled them out in saying: “Mr. Black bore his sorrow like a Christian gentleman and tried to console the others. The grief of her parents is too sacred for discussion here.”
The funeral service was held at Holy Trinity, after which the procession headed off to the Masonic Cemetery in Sapperton where the interment took place.
The gravestone for young Maud Black is still there to be seen in Fraser Cemetery.