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People travelling through
Crowsnest Pass are still awed by
the 1903 Frank Slide. Even with the passing of a full century,
the slide's boulders bury part of the historic community and
many of its deadpeople who simply vanished during the early
morning darkness of April 29th, 1903.
Turtle Mountain's fractured face looks down upon the sea of
rock that flowed from its base. But the mountain also
stands above two other disasters. Beneath Turtle Mountain's
failing crest loom the shattered remains of the three worst
disasters in the history of Alberta:
The Frank Slide thundered over the land, claiming miners'
homes, tents, a construction camp, two ranches, livery stables,
the surface workings of the mine, a two-kilometre stretch of the
Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Branch Line, and three kilometres
of the Frank and Grassy Mountain Railway (the line to the nearby
town of Lille).
Fortunately, most of the
town's populace (600 people) lived a
stone's throw beyond the path of devastation. Approximately 100
of the town's residents, those living along Gold Creek, were hit
by the edge of the slide as it crashed over them. Amazingly, 23
of these people, most of them children, somehow escaped death.
The wall of mud and rock that hit the town wreaked havoc on
many houses, even if they were not buried. In the row of homes
hit by the slide, fate determined who would live, and who would
die. The Bansemer home was largely intact, and within it, Mrs.
Bansemer and seven children were alive. Mr. Bansemer and the two
oldest boys, working on the family's homestead in Lundbreck,
were also spared. (Decades later, one of the Bansemer
"children," Catherine, appeared on the popular CBC television
program, Front Page Challenge. There, she refuted the
"never-ending" myth that the entire town had been buried.)
This article has been extracted from On the Edge of
Destruction: Canada's Deadliest Rockslide by Monica Field
and David McIntyre (Vancouver, BC: Mitchell Press for the
Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, 2003). The
Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner
Consortium would like to thank the authors and the Frank Slide
Interpretive Centre (a Year of the Coal Miner member) for
permission to reprint this material.