During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the
momentum of the Industrial Revolution and its growing new
economy had finally moved west of Central Canada. Confederation,
in 1867, set the national agenda and was the catalyst for the
building of a transcontinental railway, the opening of
settlement of the Great Plains.
By 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway had
reached Calgary and opened up the resources of the region to
Eastern Canada. At the same time, it opened the West for
settlement and industrial development. The railway
represented a new wave of
entrepreneurship, a chance to bring
manufactured goods to forts and communities, and industries to
Lethbridge, for example, was set up in the early
1880s as Alberta's first industrial city and its Mayor, town
council and board of trade viewed it as the Canadian Pittsburgh.
The region did not envision its wealth coming from farming but
rather from coal and industrial production. Communities from the
Drumheller Valley in southern Alberta to the
Elk Valley in
southeastern British Columbia were linked by mines and railways.
The labour pool moved from one community to the next, always on
the lookout for better paying work.
from the perspective of political and economic leaders is the
norm. Their contributions make up the public record and can
readily be recounted. This section profiles individuals such as
Sir Alexander Galt, a Father of Confederation and entrepreneur.
But, in order to tell the coal mining story of southern Alberta
and southeastern British Columbia, it is important to tell of
the contributions of ordinary people. They are the labouring
masses who built the railways, mined the coal to fuel them and
developed the rich fabric of community life. Thus the site
includes an overview of the ethnocultural groups that made up
the population of these communities and an in-depth look at the
the men came looking for work intending to return to the
homeland when they had enough money. The mines provided good
paying work for those who were not afraid of long hours and the
dangers of digging for "black gold." In the end, they realized
that this was a good place to live and so they married and had
children. Each ethnic group brought its culture and traditions
to enrich community life in the communities that were bounded by