NAME: Mitford
CLIMATE: Hot summers, cold winters
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Late spring, summer, early fall
COMMENTS: Townsite vanished more than 100 years ago; only the cemetery remains
REMAINS: A few grave sites, most with broken markers, remain

About two miles west of Cochrane, a booming Alberta foothills town of 10,000 citizens, a fenced off and weathered graveyard sits unnoticed a mile off the main highway in an unused pasture. To get there, visitors must drive down a barely navigable rural road; climb under a barbed wire fence and trudge through an uneven field of high grass and weeds. Once there, visitors will see a handful of long-forgotten head stones, marking the souls from the pioneer town of Mitford; a one bustling village, a few hundred yards south of the cemetery on the bank of the Bow River. Mitford, following a promising start in 1886, vanished without a trace before the turn of the century. The community’s hopes started with a sawmill, and with it sprang a post office, store, saloon, church and drug store. A rail line was even built along the nearby Horse Creek Valley to haul the timber but it’s grade was so steep, the locomotives would often jump the tracks. Once the sawmill operation failed, a coal mine was opened but that too proved unworkable. Local businessmen then tried to manufacture bricks but they proved too expensive to produce and the operation died two years later. By 1898, only the graveyard remained and it has sat alone in the open field, almost cruelly exposed to the often harsh foothills’ elements. The original church was moved to Cochrane. Today, as development spreads from nearby Cochrane, the future of the fading graveyard — a reminder of the old Canadian west’s pioneer days — could be in doubt, as new residential neighbourhoods inch closer and closer. submitted by Johnnie Bachusky


UPDATE: Unfortunately, the cemetery is entirely enclosed by private property grazed by a few cows and what we soon realized was a bull. The cemetery has the remains of a Richard Smith, a John Williams, and a few others. The headstones are in disrepair, in particular one made of sandstone which has weathered considerably. The owner, a very angry elderly lady, was waiting as we left. She took my license plate number and threatened to call the police if she saw me there again. I explained that I was just interested in the cemetery and couldn't find another way in, and she said "if someone wants a grave out of there, they can have it!" Perhaps it's taking up good grazing land.

As the years pass, grass and weeds overtake the few grave markers remaining in the Mitford cemetery. Photo by Johnnie Bachusky

A once lovingly cared for grave site now barely rises over the grass in the Mitford cemetery. Photo by Johnnie Bachusky

The spreading development (background) in nearby Cochrane is quickly encroaching the Mitford cemetery. Photo by Johnnie Bachusky