The Graves on Echo Ridge Golf Course
From the Fort Qu'Appelle Times, January 28th, 1965 - reprinted with permission.
Two more bodies identified
Fort Qu'Appelle (Special) - Like a voice in the night the appearance of Mr. Jim McIntosh of Prince Albert recently opened once and for tall the dark doors of the years to illuminate with sudden finality the mystery of the old graveyard in the golf course on Fort Qu'Appelle's North Hill. The 87 year old gentleman also provided the answers to some otherwise unanswerable questions that had arisen with the recent discovery of a total of seven graves at the site. Mr. McIntosh added two more, a Mrs. Loomis and a younger brother, George Hugh.
It all began with an article written by Edythe Humphrey of Nokomis in the Leader Post some time ago. At that time a single white gravestone dominated a soft fold in the valley hills on the northern edge of town.
The marker, seen and wondered at by many thousands of golfers and tourists throughout the year, bears the simple inscription: "Sacred to the memory of Thomas Fullerton who departed this life July 22, 1882. Aged 26 years and ten months."
Local lore had it that this was the last resting place of a member of the North West Mounted Police who had a post in the 1870's on the easy slope of the west end of the golf course. Stone markers set up by the Department of Natural Resources now outline the barracks site and a cairn marks the spot.
But the Fullerton marker, sheltered from the harsh north winds and carressed by the south, is not that of a policeman. And it is not alone. Subsequently investigation following the appearance or the Humphrey article revealed that a total of seven crosses were in evidence in the coulee in the 1890's. Identity of six of the pioneers of Saskatchewan became known with the last known simply as "A frenchman from Montreal."
The arrival of Mr. McIntosh on the scene last week has added two more at the site - a Mrs. Loomis and a six month old baby, a brother to George Hugh McIntosh, who passed away January 1st, 1883.
In the article to the Leader Post, Edythe Humphrey described the activities of Mr. McIntosh in those far gone days and said: 'Even today, his eyes get misty as he clearly recalls a tragedy that occurred shortly after their arrival.
"A friend by the name of Torn Fullerton had come for his mother's sister, who was with them on a visit. When the couple left the aunt was determined to take with her, young Jim's sister Maggie. Finally her parents gave in and agreed to let her accompany the visitors.
"Somehow the buckboard left the trail . . . it went down the steep embankment and into 16 feet of water. All - were drowned and Jim McIntosh recalls the incident with horror inked in his mind as vividly as the date of the tragedy, July 22, 1882."
The gravestone in the golf course is inscribed: "In memory of Thomas Fullerton who departed this life July 22, 1882."
An error by a reporter of those years darkened the identity of Fullerton. Saskatchewan archives have record of a news item appearing in the Saskatchewan Herald of Aug. 5th, 1882, which states: Special to the Saskatchewan Herald: One man and two ladies were drowned in the Qu'Appelle River, while crossing it during the night. They were on their way to Prince Albert. We have not learned their names."
The alert, 87 year-old Jim McIntosh, now residing with his daughter, Mrs. Famie Saunders of Prince Albert was a four year old lad at the time of the tragedy itself, but he remembers the happening well. He and his daughter came all the way from the Northern city to, as he said, "Straighten Out a few points in the story."
The trio were not traveling from Edgeley to Prince Albert as the news item suggested. They were coming from the McIntosh homestead in what is now the Avonhurst district to Fort Qu'Appelle. The drowning site itself was also misplaced. The accident happened in a creek that runs west to east of the river in this Valley flat.
Tom Fullerton himself was a handy man who worked at Bob Smith's Valley Hotel of that day and had been sent to the McIntosh homestead to pick up Bella Smith, Jim's aunt, and to bring her back to the Fort Qu'Appelle. As in the Humphrey article, young Maggie returned with them and all perished at night in the creek. Maggie McIntosh was 8 years old at the time and her aunt Bella, 19.
At that time, Mr. McIntosh pointed out, practically every hill down the valley had a trail to. the bottom. Freighters in and out of the south country entered the valley with their heavy wagons and created cart tracks on every hill. Arriving at the bottom, he said, they would water their horses in the creek and then move on to the old log bridge near where the Schmaltz farm is today.
The Fullerton buckboard left the McIntosh farm on the old Moose Jaw or Pile-of-Bones trail which ran close to the valley rim until it reached the south hill of Fort Qu'Appelle. There it dipped down Slope to the valley floor near where the cemetery hill is today. But in the dark, the Fullerton buckboard ended up to the east of the bridge where the creek widened and deepened before spilling Into Mission Lake. In those days, Mr. McIntosh said, there were few lights to act as guides and late at night the valley was in darkness. The creek even then was not wide, nor was it fast. Even though muddy it did offer a ford at practically any point in its length at that time of year - except near its outlet into the lake where pockets in depth occurred. It was in one of these pockets that the Fullerton trio entered and floundered. Fullerton was found by a member of the NWMP with his legs tangled in the spokes of the buckboard wheel with the reins still in hand. Maggie McIntosh was found with her leg caught in the saft and harness and her aunt, Bella Smith in the deep water nearby.
Burned in his four year old mind and still vivid today is his remembrance of seeing his sister Maggie in a coffin in the police barracks and of saying to his mother at the time - - "Why doesn't Maggie open her eyes?"
Maggie McIntosh and her aunt Bella were buried in the same casket alongside Fullerton. When his young brother George Hugh passed away, there was no room alongside because of another grave containing a Mrs. Loomis, and the child was buried at the foot of the Smith McIntosh casket. Two crosses commemorated the family and Fullerton plot. A stone was later erected on the Fullerton grave by relatives.
The addition of Mrs. Loomis and George Hugh McIntosh still left the total at seven crosses.
Investigation of the site still reveals bits of charred wood and square nails which have survived the ravages of nature and the follies of man - a definite trademark of the 1880's.
In the Coulee bottom are the graves of Mrs. Lyons, the wife of a road contractor of that period Mrs. Loomis; Maggie McIntosh; Bella Smith; George Hugh McIntosh and Tom Fullerton.
On a slight rise of ground to the right are the graves of a Mr. Peacock, a surveyor of the period who was found slumped in a campfire; a person known simply as "a Frenchman from Montreal" who arrived in Fort Qu'Appelle in a sickly condition and passed away in a store where Cockwill Motors now stands on Broadway Avenue, and a baby by the name of Alfred Hays, an older brother of George Hays formerly of Lipton and now a resident of Regina.
The news opened the veil of mystery that obscured the 19th century graveyard of many years and the appearance of Mr. McIntosh has added certainty to some of the guesswork involved.
The parade of names of these pioneers will be inscribed on a tablet by the Fort Qu'Appelle and Lebret Historical society.
The department of Natural Resources are assisting and to date have placed a chain fence around the coulee bottom portion of the site.