Posts tagged #explorer

Douglas Hector

Dates: b. 1877 d. 15 August 1903

Cemetery location: Block F, Row 7, Plot 54


The gravesite of Douglas Hector represents a piece of Canadian history.  The marker reads:  “Douglas Hector, of Wellington, New Zealand.  Died August 15, 1903.  Aged 26 years.”

Douglas Hector was the son of James Hector, an explorer who was responsible for the surveying of the Kicking Horse Pass. James Hector was trained as a medical doctor and geologist in Scotland. In the late 1850s, he joined the Palliser Expedition to map the Canadian west and look for a suitable pass through the Rocky Mountains for a railway. Hector and a small group of men were exploring the area around Field when his horse kicked him in the chest. Hector was rendered unconscious, and his companions actually believed he was dead. They were digging his grave when he came to, but Hector was in very bad shape. He asked one of his companions to make up a medical mixture at his instructions, but the man was terrified he would get the blame if Hector died, so he asked Hector to sign a waiver before he would administer the medicine. 

After the completion of the Palliser Expedition, Hector made his way to New Zealand, where he was involved in more survey work. He established his family there and was eventually named Chancellor of the University of New Zealand. In 1903, the CPR invited him to return to Canada and give talks to interested groups across the country.  He decided to bring one of his sons, Douglas.  The pair traveled by boat to Vancouver where they got on a train and began their journey.  They made it to Glacier House in Rogers Pass, and Sir James was regaling his audience with the story of the Kicking Horse Pass when Douglas became ill.  He was rushed to the Queen Victoria Cottage Hospital with appendicitis, but he died of peritonitis after his appendix burst.  Sir James was devastated by his son’s death, but because of the difficulty of getting the body back to New Zealand, the decision was made to bury him in Revelstoke.  A few CPR officials and distinguished visitors at Glacier House attended the funeral and Sir James returned to New Zealand.

Almost a year later, Arthur O. Wheeler, who was working on the geographical survey of the Selkirk Range, and T.D. Kilpatrick, CPR superintendent at Revelstoke, decided to raise money for a monument for Douglas Hector, and also for a monument in honour of Sir James’s achievements during the Palliser Expedition. Finally, in June 1906, almost three years after Douglas’s death, the memorials were put in place.  The plaque to honour Sir James was placed at Laggan (now Lake Louise) and later moved to the Great Divide.

The memorial stone for Douglas’s gravesite was described in the Mail-Herald newspaper on 2 June 1906:

“…Hewn out of granite, chiseled, polished and inscribed at the CPR quarries, was shaped a monument which shall endure as long as the mountains. The laying of the monument has just been completed.  It is a beautiful yet massive piece of work. The stone selected is the big-grained granite of the Cascade Range, polished and hewn to the size and shape of the grave on which it is laid horizontally, set on a basement of the finer-grained granite, of which the CPR corner stones are cut.”
Kicking Horse Valley, c.1915. Douglas's father James Hector surveyed the Rocky Mountains for CPR in the late 1850s.   

Kicking Horse Valley, c.1915. Douglas's father James Hector surveyed the Rocky Mountains for CPR in the late 1850s.