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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Railway station at Blairmore, Alberta. [ca. 1906]Blairmore has the unique distinction of being the first settlement in the Crowsnest Pass and has subsequently experienced three name changes. The original name of the settlement was "Tenth Siding." However, after a short period in which it was known as "The Springs," Blairmore was given its current name on 15 November 1898, in honour of the Honourable A. G. Blair, Minister of Railways in the federal government.

Property disputes plagued Blairmore, and likely delayed the development of the mining industry in the area. In the spring of 1899, Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Station Agent H. E. Lyon and First Section Foreman Felix Monalbetti built log houses in the settlement. Both claimed squatter's rights and a legal battle ensued for full ownership of the area. At stake was land deemed valuable due to the construction of a nearby mine at Frank.. As the area was growing in value, neither man backed away from his claim.

Blairmore 1901From 1 September 1901, to when the claims were finally settled in 1907, Blairmore’s development lagged behind other Crowsnest Pass towns because obtaining lot titles was difficult. Still, people settled the area, and many professionals and labourers came to Blairmore in search of work.. By 1905, Blairmore could boast doctors, barristers, land surveyors, and insurance agents. Like other towns in the Pass, Blairmore’s primary economy consisted of lumber and mining. It was not until 1907, that the coal properties surrounding the village were finally developed.

The development of the coal industry in Blairmore faced a number of challenges. In 1921 and 1922, unemployment problems forced the local unions to seek relief for more than 70 unemployed men. Matters were further complicated the following year when Blairmore experienced one of the most devastating floods in Pass history, the Crowsnest River and its tributaries overflowed. Officials estimated the damage at $250,000 in property, rail tracks, bridges, waterlines, and loss of coal sales.

Upon the closure of the mines, the town's population started to decline. What should have been an economic blow was offset by people coming to the area seeking recreational and retirement homes. Centrally located in the Crowsnest Pass, Blairmore has become a commercial centre for the area.

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