During the opening years of the 20th century, the Crowsnest Pass
became a hotbed of telephony. In June 1902, following the
installation of the Alberta Mercantile Company’s line between Frank
and Blairmore in January, the Alberta Telephone Company was
incorporated. In addition to Frank and Blairmore, the company
offered service to Townships 7 and 8, Ranges 3 and 4, west of the
In 1904, the line was extended east to Burmis and west to
Coleman. Connections to mines at Hillcrest, Bellevue, Lille and
Passburg increased the line to 16 kilometres.
The company founders were Blairmore merchant Henry Lyon, Frank
merchant Duncan McIntyre, Dominion land surveyor Joseph E. Woods,
and miner Joseph Montalbeti, the first settler in Frank.
In his Alberta telephone history, Singing Wires, Tony Cashman
writes of the rustic nature of this forward-thinking company.
"There is a legend that the Alberta Telephone Company strung its
wire on trees; and although most legends tend to wither under
investigation this one stood up beautifully. Except for the open
grassland near Burmis there is still a good growth of pinus contorta,
or lodgepole pine. Fifty years afterwards the Alberta forestry
department had a number of telephone lines in the area, all hung on
A fight between two of the telephone quartet over ownership in
Blairmore would result in the company being sold to the Alberta
government for $13,500 in 1907.
During the summer of 1907, the government was expanding its
system and was on a shopping binge for territories. Included in its
purchases that year was the network at Fort MacLeod for $17,000 and
the outlying lines of the Edmonton District Telephone Company, with
the notable exception of St. Albert (which would be sold the
following year for all of $400).
"Edmonton was glad to be rid of the line to Leduc and the feeling
was apparently mutual," writes Cashman. "The Leduc Representative
fumed: ‘The Edmonton Commissioners recommended withdrawal of the
line because it was only bringing in 50 cents a day. No wonder, as
that was about 49 cents a day more than the service was worth.
People only used it when they couldn’t help themselves.’ "
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Heritage Community Foundation and
Telephone Historical Centre All Rights Reserved