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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Commercial mine, Wayne, Alberta.Nestled in the middle of Alberta's Badlands, through the winding Rosebud creek and across 11 one-way bridges, lay the hamlet of Wayne. A once boisterous community that supported up to 1,500 people, today Wayne invites tourists to visit what has become a ghost town and discover the area's history.

Like many communities in the Drumheller Valley, Wayne was founded when the first mines were developed. The Red Deer Coal Company arrived to open the Rose Deer Mine in 1912, but did not manage to become operational until 1914. Unfortunately, the First World War broke out soon after, and the capital necessary to develop the mine never materialized. Despite the unfortunate timing, the company persisted, bringing in supplies and equipment via handcarts instead of trains.

The mine companies were not the alone in experiencing difficulty, all citizens sustaining tough times of their own. During the period 1915-1923, when Alberta's prohibition laws were in effect, moonshiners ran successful businesses. The illegal trade occurred in the hills surrounding Wayne, where access was limited. Until the early 1920s, when a narrowWayne, Alberta. wagon road was built, the only practical entry route was via the railway. To curtail any illegal liquor sales, the Albert Provincial Police stationed one of its officers in the town.

A good deal of miners took liberties with the law, but perhaps they had reason to. Arriving in the Drumheller Valley, miners were met with a significant social and economic gap between their kin and the upper class. In Wayne, up to six men would live in a 14-square-foot shack, referred to as a ‘chicken coop.’ Many shacks would share a single outhouse, and disease was rampant. Life was hard on the miners, and many out of desperation, coped the best they could.

Within the pages of her Explore Southern Alberta with Joanne Elves, Elves suggests a range of illegal activities that miners were involved in. Apparently Wayne's 15-bed hospital had a reputation for giving the best amputations in the province. It has been speculated that some miners may have intentionally mangled their own fingers in order to collect sick pay in the summer when the mines shut down.

View of Commercial Collieries, Wayne, Alberta.The 1930s were a particularly difficult period for Wayne and its miners. The Depression strained the community and its businesses, the coal companies were no exception. With the opening of the mine, Wayne's population had grown to 1,500 people, but when mining operations were shut down, people left as quickly as they had come, in pursuit of further work. The Rose Deer Mine did not re-open until 1934, and operations were intermittent until 1957. By that time, Wayne's population stood around 255 people, and was further reduced to 93, 10 years later.

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