Born out of the expansion of the coal industry, the community
of Bellevue was officially founded in 1904. Interest in
developing the area had begun only a few years earlier when J.
J. Fleutot, the Managing Director of the Western Canadian
Collieries (WCC), had begun visiting the Crowsnest Pass in
search of coal mining possibilities. On one such trip, his
daughter accompanied Fleutot. Upon their arrival at the Bellevue
area, Fleutot's daughter gasped in awe and exclaimed "quelle un
belle vue." As the area indeed offered beautiful views, so the
town was named.
Far more attractive for Fleutot were the area's rich seams of
coal and proximity to the railway line. Convinced of its
economic potential, the WCC purchased 20,000 acres of land
stretching from Bellevue to the settlement of Lille in 1903. By
years end, the company had begun construction on the town and
nearby mine. Comprised only of a few log cabins in 1904, the
town quickly developed to accommodate the 150 men who worked at
the Bellevue mine. Over the next years, the community continued
to prosper. In 1908, when the Maple Leaf Mine was opened, more
families moved to the area, boosting the local economy.
Tragedy struck in 1910, when a fatal explosion at the
Bellevue mine claimed 31 lives, devastating the community and
marking the beginning of what became a most difficult period in
the town's history. Leading up to the explosion, the ominous
signs of danger lurked everywhere. Miners at Bellevue had been
on edge for weeks, suspecting the buildup of methane in the
mine. Though they could not see nor smell the gas, workers could
hear a slight hum as they worked. Their fears materialized when
a stray spark set off an explosion on October 31. As the mine
was empty for the weekend, no one was injured, and the following
week mining continued. However, luck ran out in December, when a
second explosion resulted in casualties.
In July of 1912, the demise of nearby mining town Lille
resulted in further expansion for Bellevue. Apparently the WCC
owned the mines in Lille were no longer economically feasible,
and operations were shifted to nearby towns, including Bellevue.
Though Bellevue was fortunate, disaster struck once again, a
series of fires erasing whole sections of the town. The first
fire occurred on the 28 August 1917, razing all but three
buildings in the town's business section. The town was hit with
two more fires in January 1921 and 1922. Oddly
enough, in all
three cases, the fires destroyed only the business district.
At the peak of coal operations between 1925 and 1929, the
Bellevue mines employed 500 men and produced 2,500 tonnes of
coal per day. With oil replacing coal as fuel for railway
locomotives, mine operations ended in Bellevue by 1957. Today,
Bellevue is a small, peaceful town where residents enjoy the