When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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The Livingstones

R. Donald Livingstone and John Marshall Davidson.Coal mining was in the Livingstone's blood. Members of the family were coal miners in Fife, Lanark and West Lothian, Scotland, for at least four generations before emigrating to Petersburg, Ohio, where they operated a coal mine. The first generation of Lethbridge Livingstones was born there and, in order of age, were John, James and Robert. They grew up with coal mining and constituted the fifth generation so employed.

The brothers were prompted to come to Lethbridge because of their association in coal mining in Tennessee with their cousin, William Duncan Livingstone Hardie, called WDL, who preceded them to Lethbridge. He was manager of the Alberta Railway and Coal Company mines in the Lethbridge Field.

John, the eldest, was known to his fellow workers as Big Jack. He came to Lethbridge in 1896 as an official with the Alberta Railway & Coal Company. With his family, He spent one year in Beaver Mines where he and the late Bill Ripley opened the Christie Mine for the Great Northern Railway. The John Livingstone family lived for the entire year in a tent, John's wife, Elsie, being the cook for the mining crew. He then returned to Lethbridge and was pit boss at the Galt mines until his death in 1931. He was a member of Wesley Methodist Church, North Star Lodge No. 4 A. F. & A. M. [Ancient Free and Accepted Masons], and the Shrine Club [officially The Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, or Shriners].

James, or Jim, as he was known, spent 40 years in the coal mines at Lethbridge. He came in 1897 and was associated with the Galt mines as hoisting engineer, master mechanic and later as surface foreman at Galt Mines Nos. 6 and 8. Jim was a member of Southminster United Church [formerly Wesley Methodist Church) and the North Star Lodge No. 4 A. F. & A. M.

Robert LivingstoneRobert, the youngest, was a mining engineer. He worked in Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky before coming to Lethbridge in 1895 where he became underground foreman of Galt Mine No. 3 and later at Galt Mine No. 6, when he left to work with the Alberta government. He served in turn as district mines inspector at Lethbridge and Calgary, and later as chief inspector of mines at Edmonton. He left that post in 1910 to return to Lethbridge as manager of the Galt mines. When the field merger took place at Lethbridge in spring 1935, resulting in the formation of Lethbridge Collieries Ltd., Livingstone was appointed general manager, a post he held until his retirement in 1938.

Recently a letter was received outlining Robert Livingstone’s service with the Alberta government, as follows:

“Appointed District Inspector of Mines, Lethbridge, on 1 June 1908 at $1,500 per year. O-in-C 304-08.”

“Promoted from District Inspector of Mines, Calgary, to Provincial Inspector of Mines, Edmonton, at $2,200 per year. O-in-C 174-09.”

“Resigned as Provincial Inspector of Mines before March 1910 as O-in-C 123-10 appointed a replacement on 1 March 1910.”

Robert Livingstone was a life member of the Masonic Lodge, North Star No. 4 A. F. & M., a member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Alberta, and a life member of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, where he served as vice-president. He served eight years on the Senate of the University of Alberta.

Active in the community, he served on the Lethbridge school board and as southern Alberta’s representative on the Relief Commission during the Depression. He was one of the prime movers behind, and a director of, the companies that built the Marquis Hotel and the Lethbridge Arena. He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Country Club, and Wesley Methodist (later Southminster United) Church. Robert Livingstone passed away on 10 April 2020 and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Robert Donald LivingstoneRobert Donald Livingstone, son of Robert Livingstone, was the sixth generation of Livingstone coal miners. A graduate mining engineer, he became a full-time employee of Lethbridge Collieries Ltd. in May 1939. He worked underground in Galt Mine No. 8 for two years before enlisting in the Royal Canadian Engineers in the Second World War. Returning to Galt Mine No. 8 in 1945, he subsequently became chief engineer in 1946, assistant general manager in 1953 and general manager on 1 October 1957. After Galt Mine No. 10 closed in 1963, he led the coal exploration team that established the Fording Coal Mine in south-eastern British Columbia before retiring as general manager in June 1973.

David Archibald Livingstone, second son of Robert Livingstone, graduated as a chemical engineer. However, he spent two summers while a student in Galt Mine No. 8 as a member of an underground survey crew.

Members of the Livingstone family served Lethbridge’s coal industry for a total of 131 years: John, 35 years; James, 40 years; Robert, 25 years; R. Donald, 29 years; and David Archibald, 2 years.

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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