AFHS credits with gratitude the following text to Mary Thomson, one of the cemetery managers over the years. Below she tells the story of how her Great-great-grandfather initially established the cemetery and a little history from then on.
“The Big Prairie Cemetery was established in 1912 when my Great-great Grandfather James Noble Bracken donated an acre of land from his homestead SE 24-30 5-W5th, just north of where the Big Prairie Hall is today. The cemetery was registered in Didsbury for $5.00 and sent to Edmonton Legislature. Local farmers became the Board of Directors and donated supplies to fence and set it up. A fee of $1.00 per grave and $2.00 for a family was charged. The nearest other cemeteries at the time were Westcott, Carstairs, Bergen and perhaps Water Valley and later Cremona. There is a small graveyard with several stones on the Graham homesteads about 2 miles west.
In the 1920’s and ‘30’s there were several babies lost to stillbirth, influenza, and pneumonia. The nearest doctors were in Didsbury, a long trek in a wagon. Some travelers would come dig a small grave and leave, without anyone knowing their names. Several graves had a spruce tree as a marker instead of a stone. One still stands for Torville and Etta Waterstreet’s stillborn baby boy. A Louie Nettnay from Elkton was buried on the homestead. Calvin and Grace Coleman had an infant girl, still born May 1938, who was buried at the cemetery. My Mom’s sister, Sarah Mae Bracken died of pneumonia at age 18 months and is buried in the Bracken family plot.
There are two sections in the cemetery. In the 1960’s the South section opened as they didn’t want to disturb any unmarked graves. My parents Bill and Lora Smith took over as caretakers from Bill Graham in the late 1960’s. In the 1970’s Frank and Jean Bracken took over and put some small markers where they knew some grave sites were. They did an excellent job of the upkeep for many years. In 2010 a new board of volunteers was installed when Frank and Jean wanted to step down.