Thursday, 17 October 2013 08:31

Special marker makes note of prairie cemetery near Lomond

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Individuals who attended the ceremony included the Koch and Ketchmark families as well as several representatives from Vulcan County and the Village of Lomond. Individuals who attended the ceremony included the Koch and Ketchmark families as well as several representatives from Vulcan County and the Village of Lomond. Photo by Jonathan Koch

A special ceremony took place in an open field about 27 kilometres northeast of Lomond and just west of Bow City on Highway 539 on Oct. 1.

It was a chance to say a special blessing over the area which houses the graves of anywhere between five and 14 people who first settled the land in the early 1900s. It is known as Taylor Cemetery.
Instrumental in helping have the land recognized were the Ketchmark and Koch families. Liza Dawber, grants and program co-ordinator with Vulcan County, worked hard to put together a grant application for funding for a cairn to be erected at the site and asked Jonathan Koch, an avid historian and writer of the website Forgotten Alberta, to write the words for its plaque.
Koch was thankful work was undertaken to recognize the site, calling Dawber’s efforts “tireless.”
“I have to make special mention of Liza Dawber at the county, who worked diligently for a year and a half to make this day happen, and of the county administration and council, for supporting this legacy project,” says Koch.
Dawber first learned last year that tax recovery land being transferred to the county contained the prairie cemetery.
Through research she discovered both the Frank Koch family (whose son is Jonathan) and George Ketchmark family have had an interest in seeing the land recognized with some form of historical marker.
Ketchmark’s family has farmed the land east of the abandoned cemetery for three generations,
According to a column written by Jonathan Koch on his Forgotten Alberta website, “Concerned a pipeline or seismic crew might disturb the unmarked graves, Ketchmark registered the graveyard with Alberta Land Titles. He named the ground ‘Taylor Cemetery’ after the family who originally homesteaded the land in 1910.
A few years ago, Ketchmark, who currently leases the Taylor quarter from the province, paid several thousand dollars to have ground-penetrating radar scan the property in hopes of identifying the number of graves located there. The results were inconclusive.”
Dawber sought permission from the Vulcan County council to pursue grant funding through the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation to erect a permanent marker at the site. The permission to pursue a 50-50 matching grant was given in mid-2012.
Then earlier this year, the grant application was approved in the amount of $4,670. The County’s contribution included some funding and work in kind to clear the area and prepare it for the marker.
In August, the stone cairn was installed and Oct. 1 was a chance for the Ketchmark and Koch families to gather at the area, along with representatives from Vulcan County and Lomond for a special ceremony. Reverend Gordon Cranch of Vulcan, said a special blessing over the land and for the people buried beneath it.
Large stones mark the four corners of the prairie cemetery. Its boundaries were identified as best as possible by the Koch and Ketchmark families.
“It was quite interesting talking to some of the members of Lomond who have lived there for years and years and never realized a cemetery was there,” says Dawber.
She had a do a lot of research for the grant application, but enjoyed every minute of it.
“It was a really neat project for me to work on. To be contracted to do something like this is really fun and interesting.”
For the Koch and Ketchmark families, they can rest easy knowing their interest in the area has resulted in the cemetery forever being remembered as a piece of prairie history.
The plaque’s inscription, written by Jonathan Koch, reads:
“During the inter-war period (1918-1939) consecutive years of crop failure, caused by drought and extreme natural events, prompted the near wholesale abandonment of much of south-eastern Alberta. This decades-long environmental disaster, made worse by isolation and economic depression, forced several thousand settlers to leave behind their land and dreams of a new life on the prairie.
“For some, the decision to leave meant parting with something even more dear: loved ones who had passed on, their remains destined to reside forever in lonely, sometimes forgotten, prairie graveyards.
“This graveyard, Taylor Cemetery, situated on the homestead of George and Mary Taylor, was used for a time by residents of the Kinnondale community. Its only identified occupant, Ms. Mary Beatrice Taylor, succumbed to tuberculosis at age 18, and was buried here in 1918, on her family’s homestead. The Taylor homestead continued to function for a time as a community cemetery as others were buried here prior to the Second World War.
“In recent times, emigration, the elements and the influence of man have all but erased the memory of the Kinnondale pioneers who were laid to rest here.
“By dedicating Taylor Cemetery, Vulcan County honours these pioneers, and recognize the often-tragic reality of life for the first homesteaders here on the plains.”

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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