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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Jesse Gouge
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Mr. Jesse Gouge was born in Iowa in 1867, the only boy in a family of eight children.

He was a man of varied occupations — lawyer, merchant, farmer and coal operator; all these activities occupied his attention at one time or another, and in each of them he excelled. He received his education in Iowa, and was called to the Bar in 1897. However, he did not practise law too long, as he moved to Canada in 1907, settling first in Manitoba, and two years later coming west to Calgary.

Then he moved to Acme, a little village on the railway which was a distributing point for what is now Drumheller, Verdant Valley and Munson, so Mr. Gouge decided to open an implement business there. The story is told that he had occasion to go to Verdant Valley to set up a binder. He had to cross the Red Deer River at the Greentree Ferry, which was located at the present site of the Canadian Utilities plant, and here he met a man with a load of coal which he had dug out of the bank up around Newcastle way. So impressed was Mr. Gouge at the quality of the coal that he soon hurried to the Land Office in Calgary and secured a lease on what was to be the foundation of one of the greatest coal fields in Canada. It was here that he founded the industry that today stands as a monument to him more than any other single individual.

With Garnet Coyle of Montreal he founded the Newcastle Coal Company and the Alberta Block Coal Company. He was one of the most dynamic figures in an industry which has had a long line of distinguished practitioners. During his period as a coal operator in the valley, he saw the payroll expand from less than 50 names to over 2000. Copy — Western Can. Coal Review Mr. Gouge was married to Maude McGuire, and they had two children, Wilson and Helen. Mr. P. S. Brown built their fine brick family home on Second Street West, where they lived for many years. The family entered whole-heartedly in the life of the growing community, Mr. Gouge being a member of the Board of Trade and Rotary Club. The young people, Billy and Helen were interested in furthering music in the town, and Mrs. Gouge often sought unfortunate and needy people with whom she shared willingly anything she had. Many families would have had no Christmas dinners if Mrs. Gouge had not arrived with generous hampers and messages of good cheer.

Mrs. Gouge died in Drumheller in 1938, and Mr. Gouge in Victoria at the age of 86, in 1953. Surviving are his son Wilson in Victoria, two grandsons, Jesse in Victoria, John in Vancouver, and grand-daughter Ann (Mrs. Herman Lind) in Spokane and Miss Helen Gibson in Victoria, and seven great grandchildren.

This article is based on the article titled "Jesse Gouge" in the book The Hills of Home: Drumheller Valley (Drumheller Valley History Association, 1973). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium would like to thank the Drumheller Valley History Association for this contribution.
 

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