Lytton Cemetery - 060402
Hidden beneath tall grasses, amid the pine needles, existed a gold mine of history. It was 1986 when the Village of Lytton decided to uncover and explore one of their greatest treasures.
With little information to go by and no map of the cemetery or grave markers, it was a matter of mining history in the dark. Sometimes that is what archaeologists do, they lay out their grid system to ensure accuracy of points and record an entire block to be slowly dug and explored.
However, at the Lytton Cemetery no one was interested in digging up any graves. What they did want to do was reveal who was there, when they were interred and where they were placed. This would allow historians the opportunity to dig up stories and lore on local pioneers. With the help of Exton Dodge Land Surveyors, a grid was created and 160 survey points were established across the cemetery, dividing it into blocks.
Many volunteers helped clear the site revealing the markers. Every gravestone or marker was then examined in detail and individual photos were taken. Volunteer Marie Heaster deciphered and recorded all the information, mapping the cemetery and its residents. All the information and photographs for each gravesite was collated and filed in the Lytton Village office.
What did all this work reveal? Many interesting stories on the people who built the village of Lytton lay above today’s town. What does 2nd century Rome and 19th century northern Italy have to do with Lytton? Now, that is an interesting tale.
During the reign of a rather oppressive 2nd century emperor, a group of Romans immigrated to northern Italy. They were soon known as the ‘rebellious ones’ and their name, over the years of linguistic evolution, became Rebagliati.
In 1882 Bernardo Rebagliati voyaged for the New World. After his trip around Cape Horn and up the coast from San Francisco, arriving in Hastings Mill, he continued up the Fraser to Yale. From Yale, by horseback through the canyon, he soon discovered his ‘new Italy’ at Lytton.
Rebagliati went to work in the local store and shortly thereafter bought it. In 1886 he sent to Italy requesting a wife, and his bride Angela soon arrived. A new store was built across the street in 1892 and another, adjacent on the south side, would be added in 1913. Unfortunately, it burned to the ground in the second Lytton fire of 1949. Angelo Rebagliati, Bernardo’s brother, arrived to Lytton in 1890 with his wife Concessa, Angela’s sister. Bernardo and Angela would come to have ten children together, while Angelo and Concessa added seven children of their own. This was the beginning of the ‘Little Italy of Lytton’.
Who else is buried in the historic Lytton Highway cemetery? Headstones and markers have revealed the resting place of so many who were pioneers to Lytton and the surrounding area. There are Chinese families, First Nation families, church families, all pioneers and first people of the Lytton area before, during and after the Gold Rush. There is also the notable grave of Archbishop Richard Small, the ‘Archdeacon on Horseback’.
Today these pioneer families lay peacefully watching over their village, the Rebagliatis, Lorings, Gammies, Johnsons, Brophys and many others. Their hard work and stories are a gold mine of the history and tales of Lytton, in the heart of the Fraser Canyon in Gold Country.