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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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View of coal mining community Rosedale, Alberta. [ca. 1912-1914] The Rosedale Mine came to fruition as a result of J. Frank Moodie. Moodie founded the mine in 1912, soon after discovering coal near the Star Mine, also located in the Drumheller Valley. Once finished, Rosedale could boast one the most impressive camps in the area, complete with kitchens, sleeping quarters, showers, baths, and a recreation hall.

Since only a small population occupied the Drumheller Valley in 1912, Moodie needed to import a workforce. His labour came predominantly from Europe, and drew a significant immigrant community into the Drumheller Valley. Instrumental in building Alberta prior to the First World War, many immigrants took jobs building the railway, breaking the land, and working the mines. The coal industry in particular, welcomed these labourers for their established work ethic and cheap labour.

Power plant of Rosedale coal mine, Alberta. [ca. 1912-1914]After the War, the face of the Rosedale mineworker changed. In 1919, the newly formed One Big Union (OBU) sparked a vicious labour war in the Valley in their attempt to unite all industrial workers under one banner. Veterans returned from overseas to find the economy in upheaval and had difficulty procuring work. Many wondered why the "enemy alien" immigrants had good jobs, while Canadian and British citizens were unemployed.

Moodie perceived the growing tensions and refused to have his camp unionized. Instead, he hired the veterans returning from Europe, and for protection, a detachment of the Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP). The ensuing Drumheller Strike of 1919 was a vicious labour movement that saw the united strikers stand off against an alliance between government, rival union the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and mine operators. Although the labour dispute threatened the Rosedale Mine, the RNWMP prevented the threat of strikers wrecking Moodie's machinery and camp. The threat soon subsided when the OBU dissolved, and Moodie probably rehired his immigrant workers. Many Drumheller Valley operators, who had hired war veterans, terminated their employment after the strike, finding some to be lazy and incompetent.

View of main entrance showing coal cars, Rosedale mine, Alberta. [ca. 1912-1914]Present day Rosedale is not actually located where Moodie’s camp once was. Instead, the settlement is located across the Red Deer River, separated from the camp by Rosedale’s swinging bridge. The current Rosedale site was established in 1918, when a returning soldier opened a candy and fruit store, and the town was literally built around it. The area's population reached its peak prior to the Depression and declined even further when the Rosedale and Star mines were closed in 1952 and 1957, respectively. Today Rosedale is a small and quiet suburb of Drumheller.

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