In the spring of 1902, the members of the International Coal
and Coke Company Limited (ICCC) met in Spokane, Washington, to
discuss the growing problem of coke supply to the western United
States. Coke, a highly valuable product of bitumous coal, was
becoming increasingly more costly to ship from suppliers in the
east and the ICCC was seeking access to their own supply.
Knowing that the Crowsnest Pass coal was particularly rich in
coke and that property in the area was available, the company
moved to purchase quickly.
By the next year the ICCC had
obtained 5,300 acres, approximately seven kilometres east of
Blairmore, and were selling lots to businesses on 22 October
The company envisioned the new town as the ideal mining camp
for all workers and their families. According to Mrs. F. G.
Graham in the essay Early History of Coleman from the book
Crowsnest and its People,
The deeds carried a restriction controlling the sale of
liquor for fifteen years. It was the object of the company to
prevent their town from becoming the resort for all sorts of
questionable people, in other words, to make a model mining
camp, where women and children might live in safety and enjoy
all the comforts of a well-organized community. Those who lived
here in those days know that during the first years a more ideal
town could not be wished for.
The town was an instant success, fulfilling the goals of the
ICCC. As hoped, a thriving Coleman quickly drew miners and their
families to the area. By the end of 1904, the population reached
500 people, and Coleman achieved village status under the
regulations of the Northwest Territories Act. Mining families
made the village their permanent residence and to address their
needs, a citizens’ committee developed a water system.
Advancements were made in a hurry and by May 1905, town planners
had already installed electric light and a telephone system.
Coal Built Coleman
Adapted from the book Crowsnest and its People
Few people today realize the significant role played by the
Coleman coal companies in developing the West. During the past
50 years, the two Coleman mines have produced over 25,000,000
tonnes of coal and approximately 1,750,000 tonnes of
metallurgical coke. They have paid to their employees over
$75,000,000 in wages, while approximately $7,750,000 went to the
shareholders in dividends.
Governments too, have benefited in the extraction of coal
from the mines. Several millions of dollars were accrued through
royalties, rental payments, and income taxes. The mines have
also provided an important market for manufactured products,
consuming over $20,000,000 in supplies, not including several
millions expended for capital items such as mine machinery and
equipment. More importantly, the mines have provided a means of
livelihood for thousands of people who have come to this area
from Eastern Canada, Great Britain and the rest of Europe. Not
only had these people joined together in wresting from the
depths of the earth its vast treasure of riches,
provided Canada with a solid core of responsible and respected
citizens who added daily to the greatness of our culture and
When Coleman Collieries closed in 1983, the town began to
shrink. The commercial sector was especially devastated as long
time businesses—unable to sustain themselves with the diminished
population—closed their doors. In recent years, the town has
once again begun to grow, revitalizing the community.
Angelo Toppano describes east Coleman, or "Bushtown,"
where he lived when he first arrived in 1913 (oral