The Old Edson Cemetery ‘Baby Graves’
Christopher White, author of the paper ‘The Old Edson Cemetery: Investigations into an Early 20th Century Western Alberta Cemetery’ presented a talk and tour of the site in October 2012, July 2013 and September 2020.
Christopher’s thesis uses archaeological survey and historic documentary sources to reconstruct past mortality patterns and understand mortuary practices from the early 20th century Edson Cemetery in Edson, Alberta. Results show that the cemetery existed foremost as a place to enshrine the individual identity of the deceased, with pragmatic concerns about public health and municipal development guiding the establishment, management and eventual abandonment of the site. Mortality patterns show a high number of infant and young childhood fatalities compared to their representation in the living population. Deceased infants received the same level of memorialization as adults, reflecting both a domestic and public identity. Adult mortality patterns follow known occupational risks while a spike in adult deaths in late 1918 coincides with the spread of the “Spanish Flu” epidemic. These findings highlight the importance of historic context and the value of documentary evidence for analyzing past mortuary behaviours.