When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Blairmore, South and Greenhill Mines

In May, 1923, a mild spring brought heavy rains and flooding occurred throughout the Pass.The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was completed in 1898 and operation of the railway through the Crowsnest Pass began in December of that year. Blairmore was the first settlement in the Pass, the first station was a log cabin on the south side of the track. Mr. Murphy was the first station agent, being succeeded after a short period by Harry E. Lyon, one of the prominent founders of Blairmore.

In 1899 Mr. Lyon built the first houses which were constructed of logs. In 1900 he built a log store and opened the first mercantile business in the Pass. By 1901 Blairmore had several other businesses and three hotels. When Blairmore was incorporated as a village in 1901 it had a population of 231 persons.Citizens' Dance, Blairmore, AB

J. J. Fleutot and C. R. Remy, Canadian representatives of Gold Fields Limited of B.C. heard of rich coal fields in the Pass. They came and acquired coal property on Gold Creek and Grassy Mountain. In 1901 French Camp which later became Lille was established. Mr. Fleutot returned to France in 1902 and on April 2, 2020 the West Canadian Collieries, Limited, was formed, Gold Fields Limited transferring its holdings to the new company.

Greenhill Tipple: boiler - Pat McCloskeyIn 1903 West Canadian Collieries acquired Byron Creek and Bellevue coal properties. West Canadian Collieries acquired the Fishburn and Proctor property at Blairmore, their holdings now being 20,000 acres of coal land. In 1904 work was started on the Blairmore South Mine. This mine was closed down in 1913 and Greenhill Mine north of the town went into operation in 1913. From this time on Blairmore has continued to grow and prosper. The census of 1911 showed Blairmore's population as 1137 persons.

Blairmore spreads out in a wide section of the valley bottom where development was no problem. Its central position in the area of rich coal fields made it the business centre of the Crowsnest Pass.

Greenhill - Bob OwenLumbering was the first industry in the Pass. Over the years a number of successful lumber business concerns added to the wealth of the area but coal from early years was the chief source of income for Blairmore. By 1945 pressure from the CPR for more tonnage and unable to secure sufficient labourers, West Canadian Collieries developed two strip mines in the Grassy Mountain area. One strip mine was started in mid-summer 1945 by a private contractor employing 50 men. The other one, worked by the Collieries, started in mid-summer 1946 and employed 30 men, 15 of whom were truck drivers. Each mine produced about 500 tons of coal daily, same being trucked to the Greenhill processing plant.

Greenhill - Bob OwenBy 1947 Greenhill Mine employed between 500 and 600 men. It produced more than 3,000 tons of coal a day its peak production was in the year 1946, an output of some 758,000 tons.The Greenhill Mine closed down in 1958. Mine employees who chose found work at mines close by, others found employment in local industries. Blairmore continues to boom, each resident proud of his home, his family and his town, and glad to play a part in keeping Blairmore the "Hub" of the Crowsnest Pass.Crowsnest and Its People Millennium Edition

This article is extracted from Crowsnest and its People: Millennium Edition (Coleman, Alberta, Crowsnest Pass Historical Society, 2000). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium would like to thank the authors and the Crowsnest Pass Historical Society for permission to reprint this material.

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