Folk lore can be spellbinding, is often tragic, and sometimes downright eerie.
Consider the story of James. M. Worth, a New York native who became one of the best known men in Trail back in the early 1900s.
Before moving to Trail Creek in 1895 to work at the smelter and later as a timber man in the Rossland mines, he was well known for holding off a gang of 16 Italians during the Long Island Railroad strike.
He was a powerful man and his habits were notable in that he never touched tobacco or intoxicants of any kind.
What eventually felled the prominent Trail ballplayer, and married father of a two-year old son – was a cut to his foot.
His obituary notes that Mr. Worth returned to work before the wound could heal, and blood poisoning ravaged his system and led the man, with a particularly strong constitution, to a lingering death.
Worth was laid to rest by the side of his wife, in a little burying ground on Smelter Hill on Oct. 11, 1902.
Or there’s the story of Chow Kwang, a 27-year old Asian man who died of Bright’s disease, today known as kidney failure, on April 13, 1901.
He was given a traditional burial when his family distributed small slips of stamped paper all the way to the grave.
The traditional Chinese belief was that the devil follows in the wake of the procession seeking to capture the soul of a dead man. The scattered papers are supposed to distract and lead the devil away from the procession until Confucius had time to come to the rescue.
Mr Kwang’s obituary notes that Messrs. Clark and Binns had charge of the funeral arrangements and placed slippers at the man’s feet so he would have something to wear in the world to come. And a 10-cent piece was put in his mouth before the coffin lid closed, so he would have a little ready money in the afterlife. Customary bowls of rice and roast pig and chicken were left on the grave, but later that day a hungry dog took off with the chicken, which is noted to be doggoned mean thing to do under the cirumstances.
Just as woeful is the story of the Arlington’s chief clerk, John H. Lynch who succumbed to an illness just before Christmas in 1897. He was an educated man, fought in the 19th Battalion in the Riel Rebellion, and authored a book titled Lynch’s Hotel and Railway Guide.
But after his death in the Trail hospital, no relatives came forth, so the Catholic ladies of Trail were left in charge of his remains.
Tragic yes, but all play an important role in shaping Silver City history.
The three historical tales are part of the Graveyard Walk that the incrEDIBLE trail committee latched together in nine short days to mark the Silver City’s first Halloween walking tour through the downtown core.
Thirty symbolic grave markers, each sharing the story behind the name, are set up in front of downtown stores until Friday.
Most of the grave marker names have been selected from publicly available Trail Creek Times and Rossland Miner news articles from the early 1900s.
“We have stories from Trail and West Kootenay characters who came, lived, worked and shaped our communities,” said the incrEDIBLE trail’s Gina Ironmonger. “But much of what they did had an impact on the world.”
Others faux tombstones throughout town come from traditional Halloween lore, such as stories of the witches of Salem, Casper, and Count Dracula.
“The goal of the group was to put together a factual, creative and fun Halloween display to attract the public to walk the streets of downtown,” noted volunteer researcher Ingrid Enns, “And have it cater to all ages.”
The haunting trail is in “Spook Square,” located on the block between Cedar and Bay Aves. and Spokane and Eldorado St.
The route features two red door kiosk displays replete with route information and maps.
For those who dare, there’s an orange-coloured ballot with questions that asks visitors three trivia questions related to the walk, that once completed can be entered into a draw for gift basket full of treats courtesy of incrEDIBLE Trail businesses.
One trivia hint is located at city hall alongside the actual wooden grave mark of Frank Hanna Jr., the son of one of Trail’s founding fathers.
Dated Nov. 15, 1895, Frank was a 16-year old, who after succumbing to typhoid, was the second person buried in Trail since the arrival of inhabitants five years previous.
The marker is one of the oldest and most valued artifacts in the city’s museum collection.
Aside from the unfortunate demises of Trail ancestors, there are a few grave walk stories that could bring a chuckle to some.
It’s the tale of Mr. Jones of Fort Sheppard, a gentle soul who passed over one hundred years ago.
“This one I did smile at,” said Ironmonger. “In his haste to mount a small burrow, or jack ass, Mr. Jones slipped and fell into a disused well, broke his neck and died,” she explained. “The inquest came to the conclusion that he died because he did not know his mule from a hole in the ground.”
For more information visit the incrEDIBLE trail Facebook page.