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Remembering Capt. William Irving

Each year, we mark dates that are special to us. For many decades, we have been involved with the story of Capt. William Irving and his place in the history of the Fraser River.

Each year, we mark dates that are special to us. For many decades, we have been involved with the story of Capt. William Irving and his place in the history of the Fraser River.

This past week, we visited his grave in Fraser Cemetery to mark the anniversary of his death.

On August 28, 1872, the good captain died at the age of 56. His passing was felt as a tremendous loss in New Westminster and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Throughout the time we have spent following his story and seeking more details of his life, we have drawn connections to many things, places and events. During trips to Scotland some years ago, we tracked down the places he grew up, identified where he lived, located a family gravestone in a small churchyard, and put together many aspects of his youth.

In Oregon, the Irving family's connections to trade and business on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, to towns such as Portland, Oregon City, and Roseburg, and, on his wife's side, to the Oregon Trail, are notable in that state's history. In California there are references to shipping, of course, as well as other links in Sacramento, San Francisco, and elsewhere in the state.

Irving family connections can be found all throughout Puget Sound and the Gulf of Georgia with stories appear-ing at places like Port Townsend, Port Gamble, Seattle, and Victoria. In Victoria, you can visit a building William's son, John, was involved with, an Irving Park where John's palatial multicoloured home used to stand, and see a number of associated graves at Ross Bay Cemetery.

In New Westminster, the captain and family are closely tied to the community through links to the hospital, library, schools, churches, civic government, fire brigade, May Day, social groups, philanthropic activities, and more. And, of course, he was a steamboat captain of great renown, knowledge and character.

The family home of Irving and later Briggs, through marriage of his eldest daughter, has been a city heritage and historical amenity since its purchase from family members in 1950.

His obituary ends: "He is known everywhere; and his name will be held in respect by British Columbians as long as one of the present generation exists. His pure good heart has ceased to beat; the remembrance of his good actions will live forever."

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