Hillcrest Mine Disaster: 100 Years

June 21, 2014
The site of mass grave in Hillcrest Cemetery. Coffins were laid side by side in the grave. Photo Steve B. Davis, 2012

The site of mass grave in Hillcrest Cemetery. Coffins were laid side by side in the grave. Photo Steve B. Davis, 2012

One hundred years ago on June 19, 1914 Canada’s worst mine disaster changed the Village of Hillcrest, Alberta forever. At about 9 a.m. a massive explosion thundered through the mine. Of the 235 men working the morning shift 189 were killed. In a few seconds wives became widows and children lost fathers. The Pass was rocked to its core.

The Crowsnest Pass in Southern Alberta was and is still coal mining country. In 1914 coal was king. Virtually everything ran on coal, trains, heating for houses and industry. Demand was high and the Pass had many mines employing thousands.

I visited the area recently and took in the history. I stood beside the massive grave site in Hillcrest Cemetery. It shocked me how many men were buried there. The entire Pass area reeks of history. Visit soon to take in this fascinating history and beautiful scenery.

Memorial in the cemetery erected to honour the miners. Photo Steve B. Davis, 2012

Memorial in the cemetery erected to honour the miners. Photo Steve B. Davis, 2012

Here are some links I recommend to learn more about this tragedy and the history of the times. I especially suggest the Crowsnest Pass Museum in Coleman. They have exhibits on coal mining and the disaster in Hillcrest. They are also stewarding the centennial remembrances.

Crowsnest Pass Museum, Coleman, Alberta
Centenary of Hillcrest Mine Disaster
Hillcrest Mine Disaster
Discover Crowsnest Pass Heritage

 

Advertisements

Alberta Lawman: Stephen Lawson – His Life and Times

July 9, 2012

Steve Lawson being laid to rest with full military honours. Photo A4826 Provincial Museum of Alberta

Ninety years ago this September, in fact on Monday September 25, 1922, a somber event took place at Macleod, Alberta. It was the funeral of Stephen O. Lawson. The town said goodbye to its former Chief of Police. His wife Maggie and their five young children Stephen, Peggy, Mary, Pearl and Kathleen said goodbye to their husband and father. Never again would his loving wife Maggie have her life partner to hold and confide in. Never again would his children have him to love and cherish.

Constable Steve Lawson of the Alberta Provincial Police was gunned down in cold-blood on the previous Thursday evening September 21, 1922 outside his home and office at Coleman, Alberta. His wife and children witnessed his murder. When he collapsed fatally wounded and bleeding his family saw it all. They watched in horror as the life left his body.

The so-called rum runners of the Crowsnest Pass killed him in their thirst for profit in the illegal liquor trade of the Prohibition Era.

That Monday at Macleod, where Steve had been on the police force from 1908 until 1920, and chief for most of those years, the town and his family buried him in Union Cemetery with full military honours. Flags were flown at half-staff, most businesses closed, and schools dismissed such was the respect they had for one of their own.

During his time in Macleod he met and married Maggie Rae McKenzie. There beginning in 1908 they had five children. The older children attended school in Macleod. Steve and Maggie took active roles in the community belonging to the Masons and other organizations.

In Alberta history Steve Lawson seems to be only a footnote, but there was much more to this man. He emigrated from England in 1903. Settling in Macleod he worked briefly for the RNWMP as a Special Constable, Teamster, then he joined the Macleod Police force as a night constable and later became its chief.

In 1916 he volunteered and went overseas with the CEF in World War I. He attained the rank of Sergeant, was wounded, and won the Military Medal for valor. He returned to Macleod as Chief of Police in 1919, but left to take the same position in Fernie, BC in May 1920. Then in March 1922 he was hired by the Alberta Provincial Police and posted to Coleman in the Crowsnest Pass. There he met his demise at the hands of the smugglers.

Steve B. Davis
Calgary, AB, June 2012
Synopsis from his soon to be published book,
“Alberta Lawman: Stephen Lawson – His Life and Times”


%d bloggers like this: