Cache Creek Cemetery
Even cemeteries can be given a new lease on life, as the Cache Creek Cemetery demonstrates. It began as the Collins Family cemetery, established by the pioneering family of the same name, now commemorated by a road in Cache Creek. John Gerome Collins was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1851, and arrived in the Cache Creek area in 1874. He worked at a variety of occupations, and was for a time manager of Hat Creek House, after William Cargile purchased the property in 1881. In 1883 John married William’s daughter Mary, and their son Bert was born at Hat Creek in 1888. It’s likely that Collins stayed on as manager until Cargile sold the property in 1894; by 1895 he had gone into the drug and jewelry business in Ashcroft with a partner, F.C. Lawrence.
In 1904 the seemingly ever-restless John Collins took his family to Tennessee, where he set up in the theatre business. When the theatre burned down in 1908 Collins returned to British Columbia, and purchased land between Boston Flats, northwest of Ashcroft, and the Bonaparte River, with his holdings encompassing much of what is now the village of Cache Creek.
In 1927 John and his son Bert opened the T.U. Auto Court, at the point where the road from Kamloops met the Cariboo Wagon Road (the current site of the Cache Creek post office). Auto courts were a precursor of the motor hotel—or motel—of the 1950s, and catered to the needs of that newfangled being, the motorist. The T.U. Auto Court—a central building with numerous cabins around it—soon became well known as a Cariboo landmark, but was sold by Bert Collins in the 1940s.
John Collins had died in 1931, and was interred in what was referred to as “the family plot” half a mile to the east of the Auto Court. This was probably the extent of the Collins family holdings in Cache Creek, as it seems that postmaster James Campbell, former owner of Bonaparte House, owned land to the east of this location, and farmed there. Mary Collins was buried in the cemetery in 1936, as were other family members, including Bert Collins’ brother. Intriguingly, Roy Collins, great-grandson of John Collins, recalls going out to the cemetery late one night when he was five or so, in the late 1930s, with his brother. There they witnessed the disinterment of several Chinese people buried there; the bodies were, said Mr. Collins, disinterred by other Chinese people, and the bones repatriated to China.
The Collins family cemetery fell into disuse, and for many years lay neglected. In 2006 the Village of Cache Creek stated, in its Annual Report, the intention of establishing a cemetery in the village, either by upgrading the Collins family cemetery or purchasing another property. In the 2007 Annual Report it was proposed that the Collins family be consulted, with a view to changing the name from the Collins Family Cemetery to the Cache Creek Cemetery. By 2008 this permission had been obtained, and in 2009 the Village approached a firm of landscape architects to develop a plan to manage what was described as a “small but neglected pioneer cemetery”. Preservation of the few graves scattered through the site was paramount, as was locating the sites of any unmarked graves in the area. Construction and renovation of the site was completed in the fall of 2009, with the graves of John and Mary Collins given pride of place in the northwest corner. A stone noting the legacy of the Collins family stands beside their graves. .