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When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Bellevue - Bob OwenBorn out of the expansion of the coal industry, the community of Bellevue was officially founded in 1904. Interest in developing the area had begun only a few years earlier when J. J. Fleutot, the Managing Director of the Western Canadian Collieries (WCC), had begun visiting the Crowsnest Pass in search of coal mining possibilities. On one such trip, his daughter accompanied Fleutot. Upon their arrival at the Bellevue area, Fleutot's daughter gasped in awe and exclaimed "quelle un belle vue." As the area indeed offered beautiful views, so the town was named.

Bellevue - Bob OwenFar more attractive for Fleutot were the area's rich seams of coal and proximity to the railway line. Convinced of its economic potential, the WCC purchased 20,000 acres of land stretching from Bellevue to the settlement of Lille in 1903. By year’s end, the company had begun construction on the town and nearby mine. Comprised only of a few log cabins in 1904, the town quickly developed to accommodate the 150 men who worked at the Bellevue mine. Over the next years, the community continued to prosper. In 1908, when the Maple Leaf Mine was opened, more families moved to the area, boosting the local economy.

Bellevue - Bob OwenTragedy struck in 1910, when a fatal explosion at the Bellevue mine claimed 31 lives, devastating the community and marking the beginning of what became a most difficult period in the town's history. Leading up to the explosion, the ominous signs of danger lurked everywhere. Miners at Bellevue had been on edge for weeks, suspecting the buildup of methane in the mine. Though they could not see nor smell the gas, workers could hear a slight hum as they worked. Their fears materialized when a stray spark set off an explosion on October 31. As the mine was empty for the weekend, no one was injured, and the following week mining continued. However, luck ran out in December, when a second explosion resulted in casualties. Bellevue - Bob Owen

In July of 1912, the demise of nearby mining town Lille resulted in further expansion for Bellevue. Apparently the WCC owned the mines in Lille were no longer economically feasible, and operations were shifted to nearby towns, including Bellevue.

Though Bellevue was fortunate, disaster struck once again, a series of fires erasing whole sections of the town. The first fire occurred on the 28 August 1917, razing all but three buildings in the town's business section. The town was hit with two more fires in January 1921 and 1922. Oddly Bellevue - Bob Owenenough, in all three cases, the fires destroyed only the business district.

At the peak of coal operations between 1925 and 1929, the Bellevue mines employed 500 men and produced 2,500 tonnes of coal per day. With oil replacing coal as fuel for railway locomotives, mine operations ended in Bellevue by 1957. Today, Bellevue is a small, peaceful town where residents enjoy the beautiful view.

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