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Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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Alberta Telephone Company

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 5th Meridian.

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 lodgepole pines."

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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