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Old Hillcrest Cemetery

Crowsnest Pass - Hillcrest, Near

Other Names:
Hillcrest Cemetery

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Old Hillcrest Cemetery is situated on 1.45 hectares of land on the eastern slope of Turtle Mountain in the Crowsnest Pass. The cemetery contains a variety of grave markers identifying the final resting places of 180 of the miners killed in the devastating Hillcrest mine explosion of 1914.



Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Old Hillcrest Cemetery lies in its association with the mass fatalities from the Hillcrest mine explosion of June 19, 1914, an event generally considered to be Canada's worst mining disaster.

In the late 1890s, American Charles Plummer Hill discovered a rich outcropping of coal along the eastern slope of Turtle Mountain in the Crowsnest Pass. Plummer staked his claim to mineral rights in the area and organized the Hillcrest Coal and Coke Company to exploit the coal seams within his claim. In 1907, Plummer sold the company to a group of Montreal developers who re-organized under the name Hillcrest Collieries Limited. The Hillcrest mine produced high-grade coal and was considered one of the safest collieries in the Crowsnest Pass, a region that would become notorious for hazardous mining conditions. On the morning of June 19, 1914, 235 workers descended into the underground mine. At 9:30 a.m., a massive explosion shook Turtle Mountain. Though the precise cause of the explosion remains unclear, it appears that a spark caused by falling rocks may have ignited a pocket of methane gas. 189 men died in the disaster, the vast majority from the poisonous "afterdamp" gases left behind as the fires in the mine consumed the available oxygen. In the wake of the tragedy, 130 women were left widows and 400 children fatherless. Virtually every family in the community was affected. 180 of the miners were buried in mass graves at the Old Hillcrest Cemetery. The cemetery remains a poignant reminder of the perils of early mining in the Crowsnest Pass and the profound tragedy that occurred at Hillcrest in 1914.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 997)


Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Old Hillcrest Cemetery include such features as:
- location on the eastern slope of Turtle Mountain;
- spatial arrangement of miners' graves;
- grave markers;
- use of the site for commemoration of the tragedy;
- perimeter fencing consisting of steel cables, wires, and rails with concrete steps or stile at the cemetery’s south entrance.


Location



Street Address:
Community: Crowsnest Pass - Hillcrest, Near
Boundaries: Parcel A, Plan 6256GX and Lot 1, Block 3, Plan 1811204
Contributing Resources: Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s): 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
5
5
3
3
7
7
20
20
12 (ptn.)
5 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
6256 GX

N/A
A

Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.576094 -114.380699 Secondary source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1985/02/11

Historical Information

Built: N/A
Significant Date(s) 1914 to 1914
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Extraction and Production
Historic Function(s): Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
Current Function(s): Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE:

The Hillcrest Cemetery is significant to the history of mining in the Pass because it contains the graves of 180 of the victims of the disaster, an event that affected almost every family in the Pass. The results of this disaster are also indicitive of the precarious nature of early coal mining within Alberta.

Site Evaluation Form (October 16, 1979)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0484
Designation File: DES 0997
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 50346
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 997)
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