When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Hillcrest Mine
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Power house and hoist buildings, Hillcrest mine, Hillcrest, Alberta. [ca.1920s] Florence E. Kerr; Information from The Crowsnest Pass Illustrated and Wm. Hutchinson's Memoirs, Courtesy of Margaret Kibblewhite (daughter of David Hutchinson)

Hillcrest was born around the turn of the century and built up on the strength of the tremendous coal fields in the vicinity.

Charles Plummer Hill of Port Hill, Idaho, found rich coal outcroppings in the Crowsnest Pass in 1898. By 1902 he owned the mineral rights on land staked out to become Hillcrest Coal and Coke Company. By the 31st day of January 1905 that company was incorporated under the laws of the Dominion of Canada by letter patent with all the rights and privileges to mine coal, make coke, build and operate railroads, coke ovens, townsites, etc.

In 1905 the area which was to become the town was an expanseSmall engine and mine cars, Hillcrest mine, Hillcrest, Alberta. [ca.1920s] of timber. Trees were cut down and log shacks were built by and for the workers. The first tasks in the mining development were to lay out roads and a railway line to connect with the CPR line at Hillcrest Junction. By 1910 Hillcrest station had been built and side tracks for Hillcrest cars of coal had been put in.

Water supply would be no problem, Drum Creek guaranteed ample of the purest.

The Hillcrest town-planners looked well into the future: main street was mapped to be 80 feet wide, other streets 66 feet.

Hillcrest Collieries had two methods of mining coal in distinctly separate mines and planned to develop several more mines. It had two methods of lowering its coal from the tram road to the railroad, one a double track railway and lowering gear system and one a Jeffrey retarding conveyor.Miners outside lamphouse, Hillcrest mines, Alberta, 1914

Hillcrest semi-bituminous coal was high in fixed carbon, low in ash, free from clinkers and strong in its quality for generating steam. The CPR reserved their purchases for passenger trains.

Hillcrest Coal and Coke Co. owned the Hillcrest townsite as well as the mine and all the buildings, railroad, timber limits, water rights, etc. Mr. William Hutchinson accepted the position of surveyor-engineer with Hillcrest Coal and Coke Co. and arrived on May 10, 1910.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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