It took nearly a century, but the grave of one of Nelson’s earliest mayors is finally marked.
“Frank Fletcher was a member of Nelson’s first city council in 1897 and was elected and served as mayor for two terms, 1901 and 1902. He was an important figure in Nelson’s history,” reads a plaque at the foot of the new monument in the Masonic section of the city’s cemetery.
The idea was Don Tonsaker’s — who lives in the magnificent home Fletcher built in 1897 at 306 Silica Street.
“He was a historic figure who had been forgotten,” Tonsaker says. “When he died in 1913 he was broke, basically, and alone. We just figured he needed some recognition.”
Fletcher was a surveyor, who produced some of the earliest maps of West Kootenay. He was also a land agent for the Canadian Pacific Railway — a role that didn’t win him many friends.
“The Slocan City people have hostile feelings toward that great diplomat, Frank Fletcher, and he occupies a prominent place in their mental anatomy,” wrote the New Denver Ledge on August 12, 1897.
The paper seemed to have it in for Fletcher, regularly mocking him. A few weeks earlier, it wrote: “The Slocan Pioneer roasts Frank Fletcher for his treatment of Slocan City and intimates that he is worse than old man Shylock. This is awful, just as poor Fletcher had commenced to build the finest residence in Nelson.”
After serving two terms on city council, Fletcher ran against founding mayor John Houston in 1900 but lost by 10 votes.
The pair squared off again just months later in the provincial election. Houston, running for the Progressive party in the Nelson riding, once again beat Fletcher, who was seeking office for the Conservatives.
Houston then served as mayor and MLA simultaneously, but did not seek re-election to council in 1901, allowing Fletcher to become mayor by acclamation — probably the only time it’s ever happened in Nelson.
Fletcher then endured more abuse in the press at the hands of The Tribune, which Houston owned. Still, in 1902, Fletcher won re-election, beating John A. Kirkpatrick by 16 votes.
By the time of his death at age 58, Fletcher had lived in Nelson for 25 years, and could count himself as one of the city’s true pioneers. However, he was by then estranged from his wife and three children, and although he received a Masonic funeral — he was lodge master in 1895 — no one bothered to mark his grave.
“Bill Riesterer, who used to work up at the graveyard, showed me where his tombstone was supposed to be,” Tonsaker says. “I thought it was sad there was no recognition.”
He applied through the Nelson Heritage Preservation Society for Columbia Basin Trust funding and received $4,350 to create an upright granite headstone that matched others in that part of the cemetery.
The marker itself, crafted by Brenda Lucas of Nelson Monumental Stone Works, contains the simple inscription “FRANK FLETCHER/Born 1855 – England, UK/Died 1913 – Nelson, BC.”