Samuel Drumheller was
born in Walla Walla, Washington, USA., the son of Jesse
Drumheller, a native of Tennessee. After leaving Whitman College
he joined his father in stock and wheat raising. He earned
$500.00 a year plus clothing. When he had saved $1,000 he
launched out for himself, first raising sheep and then going
into wheat raising. He could buy land at $1.25 an acre and at
the end of eight years he ploughed all the land under and
planted it in wheat, producing as much as 80,000 bushels of
grain a year. For seven years he was Superintendent and Director
of the Livestock Department of the County Fair. After, he was
joined by two partners and they were able to sell 3,000,000
bushels of wheat a year.
There were other
members of the Drumheller clan in the North West United States.
Ken Liddell of the Calgary Herald, in 1957, interviewed one
Jerome, son of Dan Drumheller, who had come to the North West
United States at the age of 20 years in 1854. The Drumhellers
ran pack trains up into British Columbia around Fort Steele. All
goods were paid for in gold and once a nugget worth $56.00 was
passed over the counter.
Soon the Drumheller
Associates were in natural gas in Montana; oil in Ohio; gold in
Alaska; lead in Missouri and whatever was to be found around
Rossland and Slocan of British Columbia.
It was Jerome
Drumheller who, in the early 1900s came to Alberta with his
cousin Sam to look for ranch and wheat lands and when hiking
around the Badlands, 90 miles north-east of Calgary, reached the
cabin of a homesteader named Mr. Greentree. The door was
unlocked and they went in and made themselves at home. They were
surprised to see a bucket of bituminous coal sitting by the
stove and wondered where it came from in this isolated valley
with little access to the outside world. They decided it must be
a local product so went outside and followed tracks in the snow
to the banks of the Red Deer River and found a five-foot seam,
fifteen feet above the valley floor. They forgot all about ranch
land and returned to Calgary to take out mineral leases in the
There are many tales
about Sam's next trip to the Valleyone says it cost him $700 to make the trip but doesn't tell how he got down the
hills in a car. This may have been the time he drove down in his
car from Red Deer on the frozen Red Deer River. One trip we know
about was made also on the river but his car rode on a raft
which tied up at Greentree's Crossing which was located about
where the Power House now stands. After talks with Mr. Greentree,
the raft and car continued down stream to near the mouth of
Rosebud creek where he drove the car off the raft as he wanted
to drive to Gleichen. He stopped at Mr. Murphy's homestead to
find out about the road and some of the Murphy children piled in
the car to show him the hill road. One look at that steep
Raymond Hill was enough. Sam got a team of horses to haul the
car up the hill, didn't go to Gleichen but followed prairie
trails to Calgary.
By this time it was
known that the railroad was coming into the Valley and Sam
Drumheller wanted to buy Mr. Greentree's land for a townsite. On
Ins third trip to the Valley, Sam completed the purchase of the
land (rumor said for the sum of $2800.00 which he carried in
cash in his shirt pocket) for the townsite.
When a post office
was established in 1911 in Mr. Brownjohn's store, Mr. Greentree
and Sam Drumheller flipped a coin to see whether the new town
should be called Greentree's Crossing or
Drumheller. The latter
won and the new little town had a name.
Sam Drumheller opened
up his mine in 1912, shortly after the
Newcastle was opened by
Jesse Gouge. The mine was worked at a depth of 85 feet and had
seams from 9 to 11 feet thick, but only about half the seam was
worked. The production per acre that is estimated in the
vicinity of the Drumheller Mine is on an average of 9,000 tons.
The mine did not always work at capacity as enough miners could
not be found but it was estimated that the mine produced four to
five thousand tons a day. The Drumheller mine did not remain
open as long as some of the others in the valley.
After the railway
came in, the Drumhellers established a home in the town where
they lived for many years. Sam Drumheller also maintained a
business office in Calgary. Mrs. Drumheller was very active in
all community projects, sang in the first choir of Knox
Presbyterian Church, was president of the first Ladies' Aid (of
Knox) and a member of the Women's Institute.
Their only son, Lee,
was manager of the Canadian Utilities plant. He married Nina
Norstrant and they have two children, Robert and Merridy.
The article titled "The Samuel Drumheller
Story" by Mrs. Myrtle Toshach is reprinted from The Hills of Home: Drumheller Valley (Drumheller
Valley History Association, 1973). The Heritage Community Foundation and the
Year of the Coal Miner Consortium (of which the Atlas Coal Mine is a member) would like to thank the
author and the Drumheller Valley
History Association for this contribution.