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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Georgetown
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Boys with pit ponies, Georgetown, Alberta. 1916In 1912, the Georgetown Coal Company sought to develop a mine it had prospected several years earlier. Mining operations in the area had failed in Anthracite in 1904, but new prospects in the Bow Valley seemed to draw new investors for another attempt. The Georgetown Coal Company chose the lower slopes of Mount Rundle, five kilometres west of Canmore.

It took less than four years for Georgetown to spring up, flourish, and then disappear. From all accounts, Georgetown was an idyllic setting with established coal deposits, modern conveniences, and a vibrant community. Even with all of these advantages, development could not be sustained when war broke out in Europe and funding for the mine became scarce. In 1916, with the First World War underway in Europe, the Georgetown Coal Company, an English investment firm, had little funds left for expansion. When coal markets dwindled, eliminating the viability of a profitable operation, the company closed their mines in the area permanently.

Georgetown was the envy of nearby mining communities, a place where workers could find modern amenities. Married workers lived in the comfort of one or two-bedroom cottages equipped with running water and electricity. Although the company felt that indoor toilets were a luxury, outdoor toilets were frequently emptied. Miners could find all necessities in the well-stocked company store, including groceries, clothing and hardware. If the store did not carry an item, almost anything could be ordered. The only limitation was that if a miner worked in Georgetown, he could only shop at the company store.

Miners found working conditions at Georgetown improved in comparison to Anthracite or Bankhead. The union had sought the reduction of the 10 or 12-hour day, and by 1912, had won the long-awaited eight-hour shift. Wages, however, remained low; a miner still toiled for $3 a day, while labourers were paid $1.10.

The town did not grow beyond 200 people but in its three-year existence, Georgetown was considered a vibrant town. Social activities included card games and parties, and each week the community hall came alive with the sounds of the local orchestra. Residents took advantage of skiing, tobogganing and summer hikes.

Today, there is little to show that Georgetown once existed. Many of the buildings, including the houses, company store, and community hall, were quickly moved to Canmore once the mine closed. One of the few remaining reminders of the town is the foundation of the company store.
 

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