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Industry

Another of the many influences on place names in Alberta is industrial development. The discovery of oil and coal, as well as others, contributed to the development of certain areas in Alberta and consequently the names of features and towns in those areas. Here are a few of those names....

Abasand, 2 km west of Fort McMurray, is a contraction of Athabasca tar sands. The post office opened here in September of 1937.

Anthracite, 6 km east northeast of Banff, is named after a nonbituminous variety of coal mined in this area from 1886 to 1887 (when the sale of coal diminished) by the Canadian Anthracite Company. Mr. H.W. McNeil, an American entrepreneur, took over the mine in 1891 and kept it operating until the fall of 1904, when it was officially closed. The post office closure followed on March 7, 1905, after many former residents of the village moved to Canmore.

Bryan Creek, 53 km southwest of Edson, flows through what was the property of the Bryan Coal Company Ltd. The Bryan mine was open until 1923. It was an underground project, spearheaded by James Bryan, a well known northern fur trader.

Coal Valley, 60 km south southwest of Edson, was a typical Coal Branch town when the coal industry was flourishing. The Coal Valley Mining Company installed a Cable Way Excavator in 1930. There was no underground mining at this site, which was established in 1923. The town had closed by 1955. The scars of strip mining are now all that remains of this town.

Devon, 30 km southwest of Edmonton, takes its name from the oil industry. Before 1947, the site where Devon now stands was an open grain field. After the oil discovery by Imperial Oil in 1947, from the Leduc #1 oil site, it was decided to create a model town on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River to serve the surrounding oil fields. This company town was named after the geological formation (i.e., of the Devonian system) in which the oil had been found. A Mr. Johnson of the Imperial Oil Company of Toronto, submitted the name for the community, whose post office opened in September 1948.

Kaybob, 6 km south southwest of Fox Creek, was named early in 1941. A committee including John Harvie, Deputy Minister of Lands and Mines and Robert Ethan Allen, chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board, recommended some 15 areas where half the lands should be withdrawn from disposal under the normal lease and natural gas rights. One of these areas was called the Kaybob oil field. It is likely a combination of the name of Mr. Allen's mother and wife who shared the same name, Kathryn, and his first name, Robert. The name for this railway station was officially approved on January 18, 1974.

Lignite Creek, 30 km southeast of Grande Prairie, is named for the seam of this low-grade coal at the mouth of the river. Documentation shows this name was in use as early as 1918.

Reliance, 50 km east of Lethbridge, is named after the Reliance Coal Company that began mining operations in 1901. By 1908 the coal supply had become too thin to mine profitably and the town soon died as a result.

Royalties, 14 km south of Turner Valley, owes its name to the oil industry. This hamlet was once a booming centre called "Little Chicago." The unpleasant odour in the area, due in part to the oil lying below the surface of the land, inspired the title. Another explanation for the name "Little Chicago" suggests that one of the general storekeepers named Rex Warman earned the nickname "Little Al Capone." Al Capone was a gangster who operated in Chicago during the 1920s. The "twin cities," as they were called, of "Little Chicago" and "Little New York," which was located four km south, owed their existence to the Turner Valley Royalties Number 1 Well. In 1914, a commercial deposit of crude oil was first tapped by this well; one of the first of its kind in Western Canada. The community of "Little Chicago" exploded into existence in 1936. Boom towns such as this grew quickly in response to a demand for housing and services for the workers and their families. Mr. R.A. Brown, owner of Turner Valley Royalties Ltd., set the wheels in motion for the growth of "Little Chicago." Its first store was located in the shores of a slough which American drillers dubbed "Lake Michigan." The small community was eventually named Royalties by the government in honour of the first well to produce crude oil. The post office was officially closed June 7, 1969, leaving one service station in operation.

Tokyo Snye Channel, 200 km north northeast of Fort McMurray, draws its name from the fishing industry. The most likely explanation for the name dates from around the 1930s. There was a commercial fishing operation there at that time run by Mr. McInnis, who recruited Japanese fisherman to work along with the local aboriginal fisherman. They camped along this channel while working on the freezer barge that was used as a floating fish processing platform. A snye usually refers to a narrow, meandering, sluggish side channel of a river. It may be a corruption of the Canadian French chenal, meaning channel. An older spelling of snye makes the connection clearer, i.e., "shnye."


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