The Airdrie Cemetery was first established in 1908 when the Village of Airdrie purchased ten acres of land from the farms of George Hatt and Frank Winters.
Before the Airdrie Cemetery was established, residents of Airdrie were buried either in a Calgary cemetery or somewhere on their own land. Burials on private land were a common practice for pioneer families due to the difficulty in accessing cemeteries. For Airdrie, this practice ceased when the Airdrie Cemetery was established.
It was not until 1909 that the first residents of the Airdrie Cemetery were buried. Both Mrs. Mabel Gladys Dodd and Mrs. George Hatt were disinterred from the temporary cemetery located northwest of Airdrie and laid to rest in the official Airdrie Cemetery. Mrs. Dodd passed away on February 18, 1909 at the age of 22, but the cause of her death is unknown. Mrs. Hatt’s cause of death also remains a mystery.
Originally, the Airdrie Cemetery Committee managed the Cemetery until 1944. However, in 1944, Mrs. W.R. Pole and Mrs. D. Clayton, two representatives of the Airdrie Cemetery Committee, met with Village councillors to request that the Village Council take over handling the cemetery account on the condition that the Cemetery account be maintained separately from the Village account. The Council agreed and maintained the Cemetery from then on.
In 1912, a man named Jack Dawson was found wandering the countryside almost frozen to death. Dr. Edwards came to the rescue and treated the man before sending him on to the hospital in Calgary where he would receive the care he needed. However, Dawson soon passed away and his body was transferred back to Airdrie to be laid to rest in the Airdrie Cemetery. His grave is adorned with a marble marker sent from his mother and sister in Scotland.
Within the decade, the Airdrie Cemetery would see many more residents, especially when the Spanish Influenza swept the Village in 1918-1919. This flu epidemic affected so many Airdrie families that the (Old) Hotel was turned into a makeshift hospital. This was critical because then Dr. Edwards could isolate the infection and treat patients in one location. However, despite Dr. Edwards’ best efforts, four residents died and were buried in the Airdrie Cemetery.
Additionally, there are several graves in the Airdrie Cemetery for infants. Some are simply marked “baby” with a last name. This was due to the risk involved in pregnancy and childbirth that was quite common before the advent of modern medicine. Many complications, which would be considered minor today, used to be life threatening and the many infant graves in the Airdrie Cemetery can attest to that hardship. As a result of that hardship, those babies who died soon after birth or were stillborn were rarely given a full name because families believed it was easier to grieve.
Many well-known residents are buried in the Airdrie Cemetery. They include: Halvord and Bitta Kolstad, the owner of the (Old) Hotel; Nurse Kinniburgh, Airdrie’s first nurse; William and Mary Croxford who owned the second house in Airdrie; A.E. and Esther Bowers who owned the first house in Airdrie and the first General Store; Tom Flett, Airdrie’s first Blacksmith; George Hatt who owned Airdrie’s first lumberyard; and Les Farr who owned Airdrie’s first garage.
Airdrie has been active in honouring many residents buried in the Airdrie Cemetery by naming certain places after them. These include the familiar street names of Flett (Airdrie’s first blacksmith), Hawkey (Airdrie’s first teacher), McCracken (Village Councillor), Farr, Jensen (early families), Edwards (first doctor and prominent family), Bowers (first house and General Store), Coopers (prominent landowner) and Thorburn (Mayor). Additionally, Airdrie named four schools after residents buried in the Airdrie Cemetery: Edwards Elementary (which was named after the entire Edwards family, not just Dr. Edwards), R.J. Hawkey Elementary, A.E. Bowers Elementary and Ralph McCall.
Today, the Airdrie Cemetery has grown from its modest beginning of two people to include 2 500-2 600 graves. Thus, the Airdrie Cemetery remains an integral part of Airdrie and truly reflects the City’s heritage.
Written by Laurie Harvey, with info from:
- “One Day’s Journey”,
- “100 Years of Nose Creek Valley History”,
- Walter Bushfield,
- John Church,
- Lorne Huggard.