Some of Canmore, Alberta's rich history is unveiled in the Canmore Cemetery.
The history of Canmore is like an Ugly Duckling, Cinderella affair, where survival triumphs over circumstance, first, as Canmore accidentally morphs from a railroad town in the late 1800s to a major coal mining town, then is saved again after the mines close in 1979 to prosper as a co-host with Calgary for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.
The story is told well in 'A Legacy of Miners and Railway Men'. The origin of the names 'Canmore' and 'Banff' are derived from a single source.
The Canmore Cemetery lies beneath the morning shadows of the Canmore Hoodoos, tucked in behind the Holiday Inn on Palliser Road a short distance west of Benchlands Trail. Gravel lot parking outside the entrance provides access to a startling, unique marker past the chain link gate. Ancient wood and stone protective enclosures at the historical section, in the far left-facing corner, draw like a magnet.
Many markers are gone but continuing reverence to the long-departed is provided by metal survey pins which correspond to the site map. Much information remains to be discovered. Navigation through the area is directed by little yellow flags stuck in the ground.
Some areas which are less safe, or requiring additional protection, are cordoned off with yellow tape. Discoveries are much different than expected. Each cemetery has a unique personality, reflective of the people who have contributed to the development of the area. To expect this location might be similar to the nearby Old Banff Cemetery would be deceiving. The stories are quite different.
Learning about the diversity of the immigrant population who left everything to begin a new life in Canada under free but harsh conditions reveals sobering information about sacrifice and hardship. Early life was very challenging and seldom lasted long. Within historic cemeteries, a concentration of similar dates often identifies an epidemic of serious illness or disease. The greatest concentration of the departed is always the most vulnerable, the very young or the elderly.
As always, the most touching markers are the gravestones of the children. Here, they are modest but a few are also the most elaborate. Grieving families did the best they could for their children, at their own expense and the sorrow of their loss can only be imagined.
Leaving the cemetery, the marker which immediately captures attention on arrival is beautiful, fitting and perfectly placed monument to a young life taken too soon. It is natural to wonder if the family surname is in any way associated with a very fine dining experience on Canada's East Coast in Shediac, New Brunswick.
Over several decades, many cemeteries have been visited over widespread locations throughout North America. A few people find the experience uncomfortable but there is a fascinating collection of information which verifies the dedication, growth and history of a civilization. Often, there are feelings enveloped by a great sense of peace, calm and relaxation.
The old Wayne Cemetery, in East Coulee near Drumheller remains in shallow existence through the efforts of a tiny hamlet and local historians who choose to keep their rich coal mining history alive. From that significant and proud effort we can all experience something very important.