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Our Treasured Heritage-
A History of Coalhurst and District
Pages 1 - 4

A.Location of Coalhurst (9-22-W4)
Coalhurst is a Village approximately six miles west of Lethbridge
B.The Naming of Coalhurst as told by Miners:

The centre was named after its coal, and one of its early settlers, Jimmy Hurst, thus arriving at the name Coalhurst. There were many other opinions. (Be your own judge). Coal was mined there from 1911 until the disastrous explosion in the Coalhurst mine on December 9, 1935.

Coalhurst was a good sized village, where one could find practically every nationality. For its size it had a main street with many business firms. In the 30's the south side of main street going east was Saboro's store. It was dry goods, groceries and meat market. James Creighton, owner of the Alberta Meat Market on 6 Avenue South in Lethbridge was the full time butcher. Wednesday afternoons was slaughter day, as the store had its own slaughter house two miles south of the village. This business was owned by Dominic Tedesco who, after leaving Coalhurst was a building contractor. He passed away a few years ago. Next door was a shoe store and clothing store owned by Mr. Bublik. East of his business was the large I.O.O.E hall, where all functions in the village were held: dances, Robbie Burns Night, school concerts, etc. East of this, across the lane, was the bank. Then there was a lot that was full of fruit trees, strawberries, etc. and the owner had a small confectionary at the east end called Aunt Dotys. She was a sister to J. I. McDermott and Ernie McDermott. Next in row, was the Post Office, located in one end of the large McDermott Hardward Store. Ernie ran the store and J. I. was the Justice of Peace. Following this route east was a pool hall, and Willis's Confectionary. Last of the buildings on the south side of main street was the Miners Community Hall, owned and operated by the Miner's Union.

Every Christmas Santa Claus visited this building and gave a present and a bag of goodies to all the children in Coalhurst, courtesy of the Miner's Union.

On the north side of main street heading east was a Blacksmith shop, run by Bob Gammon, who also was the mine blacksmith. He later had Gammon's Blacksmith shop in Lethbridge on the comer of 15 Street and 2 Avenue South. He lived in his house, west of Northern Bus Lines garage, on 3 Avenue South. This was one of the houses moved to Lethbridge from Coalhurst. Mr. Gammon passed away several years ago.

Next to him, was a garage owned by Mr. Tedesco, as he was known, and it was operated by Mike Bublik the mechanic. In those days it was a fully modern garage. With the hand pump on the gas pumps, and oil was purchased by the quart in bulk form. Next to the garage, was a shoe repair store, operated by William Hales. Strangely enough, he too moved to Lethbridge and opened a business on 13 Street North in the 300 block. Mr. Hales passed away several years ago, a fairly young man. The Coalhurst Hotel was next. It was a bus depot, had rooms to rent and also served beer.

Just across the lane was an old business building known to everyone as the Grass-hopper Poison Bait Shed. The reason for this name, was because the grasshopper poison mixed with sawdust was prepared here for the farmers.

The next building was a Chinese Restaurant and Confectionary, owned by Lee Wing, who served many meals to single miners. Part of the same building was a barber shop, and then the laundry owned by Wing Lee.

The only vacant lot on main street was next, and then came Pavans general store, groceries, dry goods and meat market. Mr. Pavan had a lady butcher almost as good as himself (Inez Cattoi). He also had his own slaughter house, about a mile northeast of town. The last store on this side was the Red and White store (groceries and dry goods), owned and operated by Isdale McDonald and his sister Mary.

South of the Community Hall was what they called the Boarding House, owned by the Pattons and Neidicks, here miners could obtain board and room.

Just west of the Boarding House, was the Hospital; the first doctor was Dr. Inkrote and after him Dr. Murray, who later practised in Lethbridge. Dr. Woodcock came from Lethbridge once a week, and operated mostly on tonsils. He was an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist. Dentist, Dr. Allen, also made his weekly visit, and pulled teeth, (filling teeth was not heard of then).

The R.C.M.P. also had a building in Coalhurst, with an office and cells in the front, and living quarters in the rear. First constable was McWilliams, later replaced by Constable Cook, then Constable Davis, and Constable Bull.

I should have mentioned, all stores, Pavans, Tedesco and McDonalds, had delivery service, with a horse and democrat, and also ran charge accounts for the miners.

Louis Locatelli had a flour mill just north of the schools, but it burned down and was never replaced. There were two schools in Coalhurst, with well known teachers, such as George Watson, now deceased; Nora Tennant, deceased; the Morrissey sisters living in British Columbia; Sid Oliver, who was a Customs Inspector; and last, but not least, W. J. White, who retired a few years ago, as principal of Gilbert Patterson School.

There were three churches; the United, the Penticostal, which was a butcher shop remodelled, and the Catholic Church, the largest of them all. Early ministers were: Father Violet, a Foote (Catholic), Martin McCallum (Penticostal), and United Churches' Rev. Watts.

Many small farmers sold milk to the people of the village. When you went and picked it up it was 50 a quart. Quite a few people kept their own cow and chickens as there was no law against having them in the village.

The main dairy deliveries in the early days were done by Jack Whyte, Jack Brewer, Mrs. Berlando, and the two largest dairies, Charles Nicol, and Harvey Sandham.

Other farmers would peddle eggs, garden produce, meat, etc., from door to door. Families had garden plots on nearby farms to help with the food needs, and smoke houses could be seen in many yards where the towns people cured their own meat.

Even in the 1930's, Coalhurst had good transportation to Lethbridge if one could afford it. Greyhound Lines ran past the village a mile to the west, also the C.P.R. passenger service. Northern Bus Lines came into the village in 1927, the depot being at the hotel. Taxi service was run by Alex Galbraith, Howard Stark, Jack Keho, and a Mr. Mills. Mr. Stark also hauled the mail from the station to the Post Office. Hugh MacLeod also had this service. The Coalhurst Station was moved from Kipp, by rail, to its present location.

During the 1930's, the mine was quite often on slack time, and if the mine was not going to work the next day, a steam whistle would blow twice at 7 p.m. It also acted as a curfew and blew at 9 p.m. for the kids to be off the street. (The kids respected this whistle). When there was a fire, it blew 3 or more times, and any one available would run to the mine and get the two wheel carts which held a hose and a reel on them, and run with it to the nearest hydrant and start fighting the fire.

There was no sewer in Coalhurst, all outside privys. Located in the lane in the center of most blocks was a square box about 4' x 5' x 4', and a pipe and tap was located here. This is where the people got their water. In the winter time this box was packed with manure to stop the pipes from freezing. Many times they had to be thawed out. People who had no tap near them, had their water delivered to them by water tanks which filled their barrels (located underground). When the roads were bad, four horses were used to pull this tank. Mr. Douglas Adams, now deceased, operated this service along with delivering the coal from the mine to the homes and businesses. He was a friend of every kid because he let them ride with him on Saturdays and drive the horses.

Welfare was unknown, instead it was called relief, and most families were on it during the 1930's. However, not like today, it had to be worked off. Each spring the neighboring farmers supplied the horses and wagons and the men cleaned up the village of ashes, garbage, etc., much like our spring clean-up of today.

They also built roads with horses and scrapers, wheel barrows, and shovels. If a man was lucky enough to own a car, and had to go on relief, he turned in his license plates during the duration of his relief period.

Most of the houses in Coalhurst were owned by the Mining Co. and Mr. Tedesco had a row of houses next to the schools. Few of the more fortunate owned their own.

Like any other mining centre, Coalhurst had its bootleggers, known in those days as "Blind Pigs." (A real treat for the kids was stealing the empty bottles and trading them for candy.)

Several bad fires took place during the 1930's. The Community Hall burned down, but was replaced, and in 1934, a whole block burned down, Post Office, Hardward Store, Pool Hall, Confectionary, and the Community Hall again. It was right after this fire, Chief Hardy of Lethbridge died. The flames could be seen in Lethbridge. On December 9, 1935, just at shift change, a sad blow hit Coalhurst, the mine explosion killing 16 men. After this the mine closed, and people started looking for work elsewhere.

Fires were quite common after this, and on one or more occasions the hydrant closest to the fire was stuffed with old mattresses, sacks, rags, etc. One has to arrive at his own conclusion as to why.

The large ash pile that still stands was where two cars were pulled by a cable up over a trestle and up on top, the ash pile carrying the rock, shale, slack and good coal mixed with it and dumped over the side. These cars would carry about six to eight tons each.

The people used to pick coal from this pile, and use it in their homes. Later on, Robert Adams had a contract with the mine, and he hired people to pick the coal out of the waste, and pile it down below on the level. This he would sell to farmers and local people. The ash pile known as the dump, always had fires on it, the waste burning. That is why the ashes are burned red. These fires burned for years after the mine closed.

Coalhurst people were very active in the Social Credit movement during the Aberhart Era. Mrs. Harvie from Lethbridge, always kept them informed at the meetings as she was a great Social Creditor.

During this time, Mr. Aberhart came out with script, and anyone who worked on the roads, or government work was paid with it. The script looked like money on the front, and on the back it had little squares for stamps. Every week, whoever had it, had to place a 10 stamp on it. The idea was, in time it would pay for itself. This was a good idea but was short lived and now it is nothing but a collectors' item. Enclosed in the book is a photostatic copy of one.

Coalhurst soon became a ghost town, with people leaving and houses getting moved away. Some of these houses could be purchased from $50 to $100, and cost the same amount to move them. Mr. Jim Potts moved a house 3 miles out of Coalhurst with horses; as did Russel Clifton. Other house movers were Jewel Rex, who used a caterpillar tractor, Reilley's moving from Lethbridge and Roelofs moving from Monarch who used a large truck.

Most of them were moved on the Northern Irrigation land, Shaughnessey, Picture Butte and also to farms. Two of them were even moved to Lethbridge. Bob Gammon's house on 3 Avenue South has now been taken down to be replaced by the Volkswagon garage, and Joe Cash had his moved to the 1200 block on 6 Avenue South where it still stands.

It might have been mentioned, Coalhurst had one of the best football teams around. The opposition from Lethbridge were the R. C.M.P. team, Supinas, Miners, McGavins, and the Calais, the Brewery Team. Few of the players are still in Lethbridge.

Through the years the mine tipple was dismantled, the shaft filled in, and now with the exception of the ash pile, it is also normal land; all fenced in and used as farm land and pasture.

The street set up is different today than it was; you could go east on any of the four streets, and end up close to the ash pile, then east out of town. Now the road enters the same way, but turns north at main street, and leaves the village on the north end, heading east. During the war years, Coalhurst stayed about the same but they only had one store, confectionary, station, Post Office, and one elevator left.

After the war, the highways became hard-topped, and as places were hard to rent, a few more people moved back to Coalhurst. Now with land at a premium price, high taxes, etc., people are buying lots in Coalhurst and it is beginning to grow again. The population in 1971 was 426 people and it is increasing every year.

Coalhurst is such a short distance from the University of Lethbridge, and the City of Lethbridge, that it has once again reached a population of 1250.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup