Monday 12 February 2018

Grave beginnings

Saturday was spent in Oyen, Alberta being shown some of the sights by someone who has lived in the area all his life. I had met him once in person a few years ago. We have corresponded off and on about local history. What brought us together recently was a bit of a grave mystery. On a hunting forum I read in some parts of Alberta there are a few solitary graves out that hunters run across in the middle of nowhere. One grave they specifically mentioned in the forum and had a photo of was for Cecil P. Heffernan. The dates on his headstone were 1902 - 1915. The exact location was not mentioned. The people on the forum wondered what happened to Cecil. I was curious as well.

This is the photo that someone posted on the hunting forum.

I contacted my friend in Oyen. I was pretty sure the grave was not in his area but in an area he knew. I took a chance he might know something or know someone who may know. He did not know about it but he was intrigued. He did make some enquiries and within a few days he found out where the location was and the exact fate that befell Cecil. We had also discussed some old schools in the area that I had seen before and he said there were a few places that I missed that he could show me. I mentioned I would like to drop out to Oyen and meet up. We picked a date. A heavy hint was dropped that a bottle of Canadian twelve year old rye whisky would help matters immensely. I tracked down that particular request before heading out. I thought it was a fair price, or bribe, to pay for someone willing to be a tour guide for a large chunk of the day. Since a few old one room schools were on the agenda I invited a friend of mine along who loves that sort of thing. I might as well get my money's worth.

He showed us some very interesting places in the area. One of them is this lonely grave sitting in a field. This person died in a windstorm, possibly a tornado, in 1918. This is not far from Oyen. It is a little fenced enclosure with a simple cross in a farmer's field. Life as a settler years ago could be precarious.

Cecil P. Heffernan will be a story for another time. I did not get to see his resting place nor find out where it is. I do know his story. My host knows where it is and has not been there yet. I am sure that he wants to see it first. He does not have a blog but he does post photos in forums about Alberta history. I had previously told him he should post this tale somewhere. He did the work so he should reap the benefits, it is only right. I can wait.


  1. Lonely graves in the middle of nowhere, yet still fenced off and respected as final resting places.

  2. Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. - Job 14:1

  3. A Saturday full of adventure and intrigue!

    I always feel quite elated when I find a marked singular grave like this. Seeing the marker that celebrates a loved one's life is rather uplifting.

  4. That they thought to leave a marker is telling.
    Can hardly wait for the story behind Cecil's marker.

  5. Neat find! Also glad you were able to solve the mystery of Cecil Heffernan.
    You must have been in excellent company on Saturday.

  6. I will look forward to Cecil's story too.

    Don't know if I would want to be buried out on the prairie all by myself though. If I may be permitted some superstition - I hope their shades rest easy.

    1. That may have to wait until the summer months. It is over a three hour drive from where I reside.