While photographing the mausoleums in Mount Olivet Cemetery, I noticed that the Clement mausoleum only seems to have one inhabitant. While there is room six, only a single person appears to be interred here. Whenever I come across half-empty mausoleums I always wonder what causes the rest of the family to not be interred here. When I started researching the life and death of Victor M. Clement, I had no idea that it would turn out to be so interesting.
Victor Michel Clement was born in California in 1856. He graduated from Santa Clara college in 1876, and then went on to study mining engineering at the University of California. Shortly after finishing his education he ended up managing the Bunker Hill & Sullivan mine in Wardner, Idaho. It was here that he met his future wife, Flora Smith. (Who was a complete badass I might add!)
Mining during the late 1800’s was obviously extremely dangerous, but during Victor’s time in Wardner, not only did men have to worry about mining accidents, but also labor struggles.
The Bunker Hill & Sullivan mines were the only mines in the area that were not unionized. Because of this, the miners were paid less and worked more. This in turn led to some dangerous strikes in which Victor was almost killed, and Flora was in the midst of it the entire time.
Sentenced to Death in Johannesburg
After leaving Idaho, Victor went to Johannesburg to manage the Primrose Mine. He was a friend of the Cowboy Capitalist, John Hays Hammond and wound up participating in the famous Jameson Raid. Because of his involvement he wound up being sentenced to death along with the other participants. His death sentence would later be commuted and in all he spent approximately a month in jail before being released after paying a $10,000 fine. Today that would come to about $285,000.
By early 1899 Victor and Flora were called to Salt Lake City so that Victor could examine a mine in Mercur and advise a mining magnate on other land purchases. Victor ended up opening an office in Salt Lake City and the couple bought a house on Brigham Street. It was while they lived in Salt Lake that Victor often found himself traveling to Mexico to inspect various mines. Flora would often travel with him.
Death in Mexico
In the Spring of 1903 Victor and Flora were in Guanajuato. Guanajuato is known today for its mummies. When Victor and Flora returned from the mine, Victor was complaining of abdominal pain and extreme nausea. A doctor was sent for and arrived around 1 a.m. He advised them to take Victor to Saltillo, but Victor was too ill to ride a horse. It was Sunday so most of the miners were at home with their families, but one of the men was able to make a litter in order to carry Victor to Saltillo. When they got to Saltillo the doctors told them that it was nothing to be concerned about and Victor was simply constipated. By Wednesday, Victor’s condition had not improved, and by Friday Flora knew this was more than constipation and insisted that Victor be taken by train to the American Hospital at Monterey, which was about 6 hours away.
Instead of taking Victor to the hospital, the surgeon, his assistant, and a nurse were brought to them. At approximately 1 am the following morning the surgeon had arrived and surgery was started inside their hotel room in Saltillo. Flora waited patiently outside the door for 3 hours until the door to the room was opened. The surgeon told her that there was no hope for Victor’s recovery. Victor recovered consciousness briefly, and then dropped off into a restful sleep and eventually passed away.
Mexican law at the time stated that a body could not be removed from the country until a period of two years had passed. A metal coffin would be needed, and Flora was lucky enough to find an American plumber who offered to make a tin coffin for a fellow countryman. Mining officials helped Flora dress Victor’s body and a local man offered a nice in his family tomb for her to use. Within 24 hours of his death, Victor Clement’s wooden and tin coffin was placed in the tomb.
Alone In The Crypt
Flora returned to Salt Lake City and after finalizing Victor’s various business dealings sold their house on Brigham Street and moved to California. At some point she had the mausoleum in Mt. Olivet constructed to eventually hold Victor’s body. At 5 p.m. on July 16, 1906, Victor’s body was finally placed inside the Clement Mausoleum. Within a couple of years following Victor’s death, Flora married Lt. Col. Sydney A. Cloman. She died in October 1943 and from newspaper reports she was to be buried in Washington D.C., although I cannot find proof of her burial.