Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
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.
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 Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 997)
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.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
1914/06/19 to 1914/06/19
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Extraction and Production
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
- Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 997)
Cross-Reference to Collection