Skip to content

Letter: Upkeep of Hainstock Cemetery more than a labour of love

Rural cemetery maintenance, administration relies on volunteers, families of the dead
Prior to 1946, Hainstock Cemetery was known as Fairview Cemetery, but since that name was being used by about three other cemetery locations in the province and was never properly registered, Hainstock was chosen. Photo courtesy of Gary Yewell

When driving west on the highway from Olds, after about three miles you will find a beautiful piece of land on the top of a hill with views to the west and the east. 

This three acres is called Hainstock Cemetery, but anyone who is sure how this name was chosen would be difficult to find. 

Prior to 1946 it was known as Fairview Cemetery, but since that name was being used by about three other cemetery locations in the province and was never properly registered – Hainstock was chosen. 

Interestingly enough, the location is not in the original school district of Hainstock, or even in the more recent rural district of Hainstock in the county. The closest school district seems to be Innis Lake, but no matter…

I grew up close to the old Hainstock school, and this cemetery is very close to my heart. My four grandparents rest there, as do my parents and a brother and sister. I have many aunts, uncles and other relatives there as well. 

As a child, several times each summer we would go to the cemetery (usually a Sunday afternoon) to tend the graves of the people who my parents loved. I believe that it was much more common in those days (going on 60 years and counting) for families to tend the graves in rural cemeteries.

Of course, Hainstock is not alone in this. In Mountain View County, there are many rural cemeteries. Most do not have the visibility of being so close to a major highway as this spot, and are tucked away in corners and wooded spots around the county.

About five years ago, I decided to try and become a bit more involved in the operation of Hainstock Cemetery. Over the years the board of directors had dwindled away and one person (Linda Ogilvie) was doing everything that was required to keep this little institution functioning. 

I was surprised how much involvement really is required! People tend to think these things just happen on their own, but sadly this is not the case. More about that later. In becoming involved, I discovered some interesting facts that I would like to share with you. 

Did you know, for instance, that originally this cemetery was supposed to fulfill the needs of the growing town of Olds?  After a time it became too difficult navigating the four miles (three now) so the town found another piece of property closer – where the existing Olds Cemetery is now just south of town. 

I have a little historical document that goes through the years from 1900 to 1976 that has some points that are – well, surprising to say the least.

In 1900, you could have a grave dug for $2 except in the winter when the price rose. In 1909, lot owners were asked to pay one dollar yearly for cleanup and you could buy a plot for the lofty price of $4.

In 1913, a local man (C. Holmes) was appointed caretaker and paid the exorbitant fee of 20 cents per hour for his time. By 1945, the caretaker that was hired (Mr. Nowak) was making 45 cents an hour (inflation was taking its toll). In 1968, the newest caretaker (G. Skinner) was paid $72.90 for 54 hours work. Ouch! Finally in 1972 it appears a local young man (M. Ross) was hired to mow the grass for $2 per hour. As an aside, I can tell you M. Ross is still doing his part today but does so as a volunteer.

The Hainstock Cemetery is not just a beautiful location or the final resting spot of someone you love - it is also a very historical spot.

Recently I have used several sources to try and catalogue the site. 

In a time long gone, there was a parchment map produced. Then about 30 years ago someone put a lot of work into creating a map using typed words glued on a large piece of paper.

A couple of years ago a volunteer created an Excel spreadsheet and we are working now on trying to map using that spreadsheet so we have something electronic that is easy to update and would be available on a web page.

Through the spreadsheet it is easy to see that the earliest grave in Hainstock seems to be 1878. Of the graves, the earliest birth date is 1819. One of the most striking points I found, although this should not be too surprising, is that in times past many more children passed at a young age.

I believe our society is evolving and changing quickly. As a young boy, I would go to the cemetery to tend graves because my parents said we needed to. My parents would go to remember those who had passed and to grieve.

For today’s society, that importance may be waning. It is difficult to know. We still sell plots in the Hainstock Cemetery so it is important to some.

My involvement over the last years has been an eye-opener in one respect. I think I did not understand that when you buy a plot in a cemetery it does not necessarily include perpetual care. It may in some – but not in ours. I know that if you were to go to the city of Calgary (where I currently reside) and buy a plot the cost is a least 10 times more. With this always in mind, we try hard not to sell plots to anyone who is not local or does not have roots in the community of some type.

So how does it work? Generally the cost of maintaining our three acres of (memories?) can usually be covered by new plot sales.  For that we will try and continue to provide basic maintenance of the grass in the summer. 

We consider it the “owner's” responsibility to do major maintenance such as any filling or straightening that is required. This is difficult to enforce – so we don’t try. In the oldest parts of the cemetery the families may be long gone.

We, as a board, do the best we can. Lately we have tried to have a two or three hour work bee each spring to do basic clean up. We hire someone to mow as often as possible in the summer. We gratefully accept donations when they come. It is, and will continue to be, a labour of love.

Gary Yewell,


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks