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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund

 

Francophone Edukit

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West Canadian Collieries
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West Canadian
Collieries

René Le Marchand

The Piquette Affair

Stanislas La Rue

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This mining company was established by two representatives of the United Gold Fields Corporation, French prospectors who were exploring the Gold Creek and Grassy Mountain region in southwestern Alberta in 1901. The name was soon changed to the Société anonyme de chemin de fer houllier de Canada and a railroad was built between Frank and Grassy Mountain, very difficult terrain which required 20 trestles. Only three loaded cars could pass at the time. This was to serve the company established in 1903 by Jules J. Fleutot and C. Remy, West Canadian Collieries, Limited with the rights to exploit 20,000 acres of coal lands from Lille to Blairmore, with its head office in the latter town.

Fleutot had been chief engineer with the marine steel mills in northern France before coming to Canada. The management personnel of the mine at Lille, named for the French city, and at Bellevue, were French, as were many of the employees. Early on, Lille was called the French Camp. Bellevue was named by Fleutot’s 18 year old daughter, Élise, who visited from France and exclaimed at the westward view: "Quelle belle vue!"

The mines at Lille and Bellevue were very progressive. In 1905, four Belgian coking ovens were installed, which were considered to be the most modern in North America. The Lille mine was very difficult to access and its quality of coal became less desirable; the town was shut down and abandoned in 1913. Bellevue mine was devastated by an explosion in 1910 which killed 30 miners. French and Belgian miners from this region were very active in supporting the Free French Movement championed by Gen Charles De Gaulle during World War II, and helped to finance a schooner.

West Canadian Collieries, in a sense a very French name, "West" and "Ouest" being pronounced identically, continued to operate in the region through to the 1950s.

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