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Mayton: Remembering centennial ghosts

As Glen Cummins stood at the rural crossroads, he noted nostalgically that on the northwest corner once stood a row of buildings that gave Mayton a brief glimpse of prosperity and hope.
The site, propelled by a creamery operation a century ago, was once the pride of Central Alberta, and a symbol of the region’s pioneer dreams. Although the hamlet never had a population of more than 50 hearty pioneer citizens, it was home for those who looked forward to a bountiful future – including the Cummins family.

Glen was born near the hamlet, located 25 kilometres northeast of Olds, in 1923. He is the great grandson of one of the area’s earliest pioneers – Samuel Cummins – who arrived in the region in 1897. The Cummins clan is one of the oldest and most long lasting families in Central Alberta – a true centennial family of Alberta in 2005.

Former resident Glen Cummins
© Johnnie Bachusky

Former Mayton resident Glen Cummins.

Today, however, there is nothing left at the cross-roads to remind visitors of Mayton’s brief moment of hope and prosperity. “There was a lot of cream hauled there,” wrote Glen’s father Seth 25 years ago for the Mayton community book, “Sweaty Brows and Breaking Plows”. “My granddad and grandma milked sixteen or eighteen cows. They stored the cream in a sod milk house, and once a week granddad hauled it in a steellined wooden barrel, perhaps holding twenty-five or thirty gallons of cream, with handles on the side for lifting. “He last hauled there in 1915 with a team and democrat,” continued Seth. “The butter maker that I remember was Charlie Rear and he had a helper. He had to have papers for steam.”

The creamery is long gone, as are the stores, blacksmith shop and community hall. As those businesses closed and were hauled away, the people left. By the 1960s, there wasn’t a single trace left of Mayton. It became a ghost town, one of many that quietly dot Central Alberta.

“When I was on my way in, Mayton was on its way out,” said Glen, whose family remained on a farm a few kilometres from the hamlet. “When Mayton was put there they thought the railroad would come through on account of the area being flatter land, but it didn’t turn out that way. “It came up through the hills to Wimborne. That was in 1929,” added Glen. “That pretty well put the end to Mayton. The rail petered out there (Wimborne) and now it is gone too.”

Mayton's pioneer store
Mayton's pioneer store.
Mayton church
Mayton school
© Johnnie Bachusky
© Johnnie Bachusky
Mayton church.
Mayton school.
But in 1935, as the town was in its slow death throes, Glen’s grandfather, also named Samuel, hauled two of Mayton’s buildings to the family farm – an oil shed and an old store. Both structures remain on the family farm property today. The store is badly weathered and near collapse but it still somehow maintains its pioneer nobility amidst a clump of trees and bushes in the back of the Cummins home.

As the province officially celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005, many residents and descendents of ghost towns across the prairies, including those in Central Alberta, did their part to mark the historical importance of these pioneer communities. Some erected commemorative plaques and markers. Others held homecomings
Mayton survey sign
Derelict Mayton store
© Johnnie Bachusky
Derelict Mayton store.
© Johnnie Bachusky
A survey sign for Mayton.
Mayton cemetery
But at the site of Mayton, there is no marker, no plaque and no sign the community ever existed.
“That would be a good idea so everybody in the future will know where Mayton was,” said Glen, who noted the absence of a marker during a visit to the site in July. “Whether the younger generation will be interested I don’t know. I was too young to have too many memories but the ones I had were very pleasant.”
© Johnnie Bachusky
Mayton cemetery.