One of the
earliest, largest and most significant town mines was opened by William
Humberstone in about 1880. Humberstone was born near Toronto in 1836, moved to
the Edmonton district from Winnipeg in 1880, and opened one of the first coal
mines and the first Alberta brickyard, during 18801881. His first drift was
excavated at the bottom of Grierson Hill, and he built his own road up the hill
to make deliveries to the Edmonton settlement. The Edmonton Bulletin called his
coal "the best from any of the drifts near town."
winter, Humberstone mined, and in the summer his crew and horses were used to
manufacture bricks. His coal fueled the kilns, located nearby. In September 1896,
he opened a second drift, sometimes employing ten men to work the three-foot
seam. This operation averaged 700 tonnes per year. In 1898 the Territorial
Deputy Commissioner of Mines warned Humberstone to improve the working
following year the mine was provided with an adequate ventilation shaft and a
second safe exit. This mine (No. 6) went out of operation in 1903.
In 1896, the
Humberstone ferry commenced operation. J. Milner's coal sold at $1.70 per tonne;
Humberstone's superior coal sold for $1.80 per tonne. He and John Walter were
supplying Edmonton with lumber by 1899, and in 1900 his coal sold for $2.25 per
tonne. By this time, he was the major supplier to the town, selling nearly 16
tonnes in December 1901. In August 1904, he sold seven tonnes, at $2.40 per tonne.
Soon after he sold the town four acres of land, and struck a deal to sell it at
$1.50 per tonne, and slack at $0.25 per tonne.
Kenneth Tingley. Coal Mining in Alberta: An Introduction to Changes in Coal-Mining
Technology in the Plains and Parkland Areas, 1872-1955. n.p.:
Reynolds-Alberta Museum. With
permission from the Reynolds-Alberta