North

Whitehorse cemetery mystery laid to rest, partly

When a pair of large, unmarked graves were uncovered this month at the Pioneer Cemetery, amateur historian Murray Lundberg started sleuthing.

When an unmarked grave was uncovered earlier this month, a local historian put on his sleuthing cap

The large concrete vault suggested the gravesite belonged to some prominent Yukoners — but who? (Paul Tukker/CBC)

An amateur historian in Whitehorse has settled one gravesite mystery, while another lives on.

Murray Lundberg started sleuthing earlier this month after renovation work at the Pioneer Cemetery uncovered a pair of large, unmarked graves.

Murray Lundberg, an amateur historian, at Whitehorse's Pioneer Cemetery. Lundberg was intrigued when work crews uncovered a large unmarked gravesite at the cemetery earlier this month. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Lundberg had a hunch it might be the final resting place of Otto and Kate Partridge — the prominent couple who built Ben-My-Chree, an idyllic tourist retreat on Tagish Lake, a century ago — but he had no proof.

So he started digging, so to speak.

He got hold of some City of Whitehorse records and discovered his hunch was wrong. The gravesite was nobody's final resting place.

"That's the nature of research — you work on an assumption, sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn't," Lundberg said.

"It never occurred to me that the graves might be empty."

The city records told him the graves once belonged to T.C. Richards — a legendary Whitehorse entrepreneur and gambler — and his wife Bernadine. T.C. died in 1961 and Bernadine in 1956.

But Lundberg says the Richards were ultimately laid to rest at Whitehorse's Grey Mountain Cemetery, in 1967.

"That may very well explain why the plots in the Pioneer Cemetery were totally covered over with dirt so you couldn't recognize them — because they were empty," he said.

The empty grave had concrete mounts where the Richards's headstones once stood, and Lundberg took some measurements. They matched the Richards's headstones at Grey Mountain.

The graves of T.C. Richards and his wife Bernadine are now in Whitehorse's Grey Mountain cemetery. (Submitted by Murray Lundberg)

But where are the Partridges?

Lundberg is now confident he's solved one mystery, but another remains — where are the Partridges buried?

They had to come to mind for Lundberg when the Pioneer Cemetery graves were first uncovered, because the couple seemed prominent enough to deserve a large plot. 

There was also no known gravesite for the Partridges.

Undated photo of Kate and Otto Partridge, hosts at Ben-My-Chree on Tagish Lake. (Canadian Home Journal)

Looking through City of Whitehorse records, Lundberg actually found another plot at Pioneer Cemetery identified as belonging to the Partridges — but it's empty too.

"They've got the Partridges marked into a single plot, and the ground-penetrating radar survey over the winter found nothing there," he said. "It's still a mystery."

Lundberg is not giving up now. He's got a long-standing fascination with the Partridges, and he's determined to find their resting place. He's just not sure where to go at this point.

"I've pretty well tracked down all the things I've been able to think of so far," he said.

"But there's an answer out there somewhere."

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