The early history of European settlement in North Delta is witnessed in the family graves of the Norwegian graveyard, the resting place of many of our oldest North Delta residents.
Located on the corner of Brooke Road and Dunlop Road, it was known as the Norwegian Graveyard while under the stewardship of Trinity Lutheran Church. Since the Corporation (now City) of Delta took over stewardship in 1978, it has been known as the North Delta Cemetery.
Many of our early pioneers’ graves in the Norwegian communities of Annieville and Sunbury were located at Trinity Lutheran Church, which was built in 1909 and dedicated in 1910. With the growth of Annieville and Sunbury’s Norwegian communities, a second graveyard was needed, and the Norwegian Graveyard at Brooke Road was dedicated in 1919.
In the early 1940s an expansion of the church building was needed. The old graveyard was needed for the expansion and the descendants of each of the pioneers were petitioned for their permission to disinter and move their kin’s remains grave markers.
All remains were relocated from beside Trinity Lutheran Church to the Norwegian Graveyard but for one: a baby girl’s remains that were found in an unmarked grave. Church records were searched and pioneer families were interviewed, but the child could not be identified. As was appropriate to the covenants of both the Lutheran Church and the government of the 1940s, the remains of the unknown child remained as they were, in place on the River Road church grounds.
The Norwegian Graveyard is now part of the larger North Delta Cemetery and the memorial markers bear witness to North Delta’s Norwegian heritage. Olaf Stokkeland, builder of the Trinity Lutheran Church, rests there. The Gundersons of Gunderson Slough, the Landes, the Sandes, the Dahls, the Mackies, the Johnsons and the Norums all represent the hard and at times dangerous life in the fishing community.
Their names are enshrined on our streets, our library and in our geographic place names. They are a starting point of stories for us to explore and preserve.
Special thanks to Les Starheim who guided me through the history of the Norwegian Graveyard.
Nancy Demwell is a board member with the Delta Museum and Archives Society.