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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Sir Alexander Galt

Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt. From a sketch in L'Opinion Publique: April 2, 1873.Appointed Canada's first high commissioner to Britain in 1880, Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt was instructed by the Macdonald government to make the development of the North-West Territories his top priority. As it turned out, his own business interests pointed him in the same direction.

His son Elliott Torrance Galt went to the Territories as an assistant Indian commissioner in 1873 and noted the coal deposits being worked by Nicholas Sheran on the Belly River at the Coal Banks. A Cornish mining engineer, Captain Nicholas Bryant, was sent out to check on the deposits. He was assisted by William Stafford, a mines superintendent from Westville, Nova Scotia. Reports were favourable and, with the help of London business interests and federal land grants, Sir Alexander set up the North Western Coal and Navigation Company, Limited.

An instant town sprang up around the mining operation. First called Coalbanks, it was later christened Lethbridge after the company's president, William Lethbridge.

Sir Alexander GaltSir Alexander returned to Canada from London in 1883 to devote the last ten years of his life to his western business ventures. The North Western mining operation took off in 1885 when the company completed a railway line to the CPR's main line at Dunmore, near Medicine Hat. The CPR took control of this line in 1897 and extended it through the Crowsnest Pass.

Elliott Galt continued his father's work. In 1900 his Canadian North-West Irrigation Company completed the first large-scale irrigation project in Alberta. In 1903 he became president of the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company, which lumped together the Galt mining, railway and irrigation interests. The flourishing business was sold to the CPR in 1912.

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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