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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Frank Slide

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The village of Frank was established in 1901 to service mines that would provide coal to the CPR. People travelling through Crowsnest Pass are still awed by the 1903 Frank Slide. Even with the passing of a full century, the slide's boulders bury part of the historic community and many of its dead—people who simply vanished during the early morning darkness of April 29th, 1903.

Turtle Mountain's fractured face looks down upon the sea of rock that flowed from its base. But the mountain also stands above two other disasters. Beneath Turtle Mountain's failing crest loom the shattered remains of the three worst disasters in the history of Alberta:

At 4:10 am, April 29th, 1903, a part of Turtle Mountain sheared away in a rockslide with more than 70 casualties. Frank was only three years old and a booming mining town established Henry Frank and Samuel Gebo. The slide claimed minersí homes, tents, a construction camp, two ranches, livery stables, the surface workings of the mine, two kilometers of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Branch Line, and three kilometers of the Frank and Grassy Mountain Railway (the Lille line). Miners here are pictured as they began to clear the Mine entrance. The Frank Slide thundered over the land, claiming miners' homes, tents, a construction camp, two ranches, livery stables, the surface workings of the mine, a two-kilometre stretch of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Branch Line, and three kilometres of the Frank and Grassy Mountain Railway (the line to the nearby town of Lille).

Turtle MountainFortunately, most of the town's populace (600 people) lived a stone's throw beyond the path of devastation. Approximately 100 of the town's residents, those living along Gold Creek, were hit by the edge of the slide as it crashed over them. Amazingly, 23 of these people, most of them children, somehow escaped death.

The wall of mud and rock that hit the town wreaked havoc on many houses, even if they were not buried. In the row of homes hit by the slide, fate determined who would live, and who would die. The Bansemer home was largely intact, and within it, Mrs. Bansemer and seven children were alive. Mr. Bansemer and the two oldest boys, working on the family's homestead in Lundbreck, were also spared. (Decades later, one of the Bansemer "children," Catherine, appeared on the popular CBC television program, Front Page Challenge. There, she refuted the "never-ending" myth that the entire town had been buried.)

This article has been extracted from On the Edge of Destruction: Canada's Deadliest Rockslide by Monica Field and David McIntyre (Vancouver, BC: Mitchell Press for the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, 2003). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium would like to thank the authors and the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre (a Year of the Coal Miner member) for permission to reprint this material.

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