When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Christopher Storrar Donaldson

Christopher Storrar Donaldson was born in Black Braes, Stirlingshire, Scotland, a rich coal mining area, in 1877. At age 13 he went to work at Rosebank Collieries, where his father was mine foreman.

He attended night classes at Lauder Technical College, Dumferline, for several years even while working underground during the day. Later he attended the Watsonian College in Edinburgh and qualified for his mine manager's certificate in 1897.

In 1907 he immigrated to Canada, eventually coming to Lethbridge. After working briefly loading coal at Galt No. 3 mine, he was appointed fire-boss by Jack Livingstone, the mine foreman. The increased earnings enabled him to bring his Fiancée, Katherine Wilson, from Scotland and they were married in Lethbridge in 1908.

From 1909 to 1921, Donaldson operated North Lethbridge Realty Company and worked at a variety of jobs, including city assessor, mine operator at Diamond City, mine operator at Cluny, and manager of the Grace mine and later of the Federal mine at Lethbridge. He qualified under Alberta's new mining regulations and obtained his mine overman's and manager's certificate and mine surveyor's certificate, which enabled him to operate any coal mine anywhere in the province. He leased the Federal mine in 1921 and operated it until 1927.

In 1927 he acquired two freehold sections (518 ha) of coal rights about 29 km north of Lethbridge. Piyami Coulee cut through this lease and in places was deep enough to expose a 2.7-m thick seam of coal with excellent roof and floor structure. Donaldson interested Sir Mortimer Davis of Montreal in this development and organized the Cadillac Coal Company Limited. The resultant mine was called the Standard mine and operated profitably under several names from 1929 to 1964. It was the first fully electrified mine in the Lethbridge field. The nearby community was called Shaughnessy.

In 1935, the CPR mines around Lethbridge, the Cadillac mine at Shaughnessy, and the Imperial mine at Coalhurst amalgamated under the name Lethbridge Collieries Limited. Donaldson became a director and manager of the Standard mine, renamed Galt No. 10. He became general manager of Lethbridge Collieries in 1943 upon the death of Benjamin Tyler Coon.

Christopher Storrar Donaldson passed away on 11 February 2020 and was survived by his wife, three sons and one daughter.

Lethbridge Its Coal IndustryThis article is extracted from Alex Johnston, Keith G. Gladwyn and L. Gregory Ellis. Lethbridge: Its Coal Industry (Lethbridge, Lethbridge: City of Lethbridge, 1989), Occasional Paper No. 20, The Lethbridge Historical Society. The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium (of which the City of Lethbridge is the lead partner) would like to thank the authors for permission to reprint this material.

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