Vernon & District Family History Society

SHARING GENEALOGY KNOWLEDGE SINCE 1982

Arthur Merick Byam, a Mountain Mystery by Pioneer Park Cemetery Researchers

“A MOUNTAIN MYSTERY, Skeleton of a Man Found on Cherry Creek” read the front page of the Vernon News on October 18, 1894. Detailed in the article is how a miner, William H. Hollingsworth, reported the discovery of a skeleton on the north fork of Cherry Creek.

The bones had been scattered over a considerable distance and had been gnawed upon by wild animals. Other items found included a pair of spectacles, a few fragments of clothing and a small memo book. Unfortunately with the book exposed to the elements much of the writing was obliterated and pages were stuck together, however what could be deciphered showed that the man was educated. In one entry it reads, “Jim says we are cornered”. The bones and articles were placed in a flour sack and brought into the Vernon government office by Mr. Hollingsworth.

The items were given to Constable Harold Parke who with his wife, Alice, reviewed the memo book for clues. They were able to decipher a woman’s name, ‘Agnes’ and a place in Sussex, England that appeared to be ‘Cuckfield’.

Constable Parke sent a letter of enquiry explaining the situation to the postmaster of the English village. In December of 1894 a letter was received from Miss Agnes Byam which left little doubt that the remains found were that of her brother, Arthur Merick Byam.

Arthur was the third son of Edward and Elizabeth Augusta (nee Temple) Byam. He was born on November 30, 1838 and baptized in Warblington, Hampshire, England on December 20, 1838. The family lived at Warblington Lodge.

There were a total of 12 children born to Edward and Elizabeth: Matilda Augusta (1830-1906), Agnes Welthian (1831-1913), Willoughby Temple (1832-1854), Henry Edward (1834-1858), Maria Christiana Elizabeth (1834-1925), Augusta Temple (1837-1899), Ellen Gladys (1840-1840), Edward Willoughby Grenville (1842-1906), Christina Laura (1845-1921), Alice Margaret (1847-1909) and Temple Krollys (1849-1891).

Edward Byam originated from Antigua, an island in the Caribbean. He was a Lieutenant-General and Colonel with the 18th Hussars that served in the Peninsula and at Waterloo. Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir Grenville Temple, Baronet. The couple was married in Tuscany, Italy on September 4, 1829.

Arthur followed his father and brothers in a military career joining the Navy on August 12, 1852 and being promoted to Lieutenant on June 28, 1859. It is unknown exactly when Arthur came to Canada but in 1861 he appears on a British Naval vessel in the Esquimalt Harbour.

In September or October of 1893, with a companion, Arthur headed over the Monashee mountains on his way to the Vernon district. Sadly they were unable to complete their journey. Of the companion, no trace was ever found.

In the diaries of Alice Barrett Parke she included some passages from his notebook and her own thoughts. The notebook began with notations that Arthur was in a camp with a number of other men before he and his companion tried to traverse the mountains however over time Arthur’s writing become more depressing. He writes about the lack of food and becoming weaker to the point where they had visions of food where there was none. Along the way, they had to kill Willie, the dog for a food source. Arthur’s last entry was a note expressing his love for his sister, Agnes.

The Parke’s received at least two letters from Agnes Byam. They responded in kind, sending Arthur’s belongings and providing information on the interior of British Columbia. Miss Byam requested that the bones of her brother be interred reverently and that a stone cross be erected in his memory.

On Saturday May 18, 1895 the bones of Arthur Merick Byam were laid to rest in the Vernon (now Pioneer Park) Cemetery with the burial service conducted by Reverend T.W. Outerbridge of the Church of England. His grave was marked with a cross bearing his name and age (55 years) and the date of his death which was estimated to have occurred on October 18, 1893.