22 May

Coal Creek, near Fernie, B.C.

Tremor Causes Disaster

Frances Shelley Wees, in a wonderful prose-poem called A Geography Lesson, described the Rockies: "They are like giants sleeping under a ragged green blanket piled with snow. Some day, you think, watching them crowd up against the sky, some day they will wake, or turn in their dreaming, and shatter the world."

Occasionally the Rockies have turned in their dreaming, or perhaps just shuddered a little, and results have been devastating. On May 22, 1902, the little mining town of Coal Creek, near Fernie, experienced disaster when a tremor caused the cave-in of a coal mine and 128 men were killed.

After the Coal Creek disaster, a policeman in town said openly that he wished a few hundred more men had been killed. The miners who were left held a court-martial and were ready to hang him. Calmer heads prevailed. They stripped him of his uniform and hustled him through all the mining towns of Alberta, showing him off. The policeman never came back.

Life was exciting in the foothills of the Rockies in those days. There was danger from nature, Indians, wild animals and rustlers from the north and south. During the Klondike gold rush, the Northwest Mounted Police chased out as many of the gamblers, swindlers and suspected murderers as they could. Many of them went to the mining towns like Fernie. The gamblers would wait for the paydays of the miners and railway construction workers, and take their money from them. There were thirteen hotels in the Crowsnest Pass, running wide open, and the gamblers would get most of the workers' money between Saturday and Monday.

The only doctor in the area, Saul Bonne11, worked for the C.P.R. He spent most of his time patching broken heads and stitching up wounds from knife fights. During 1898, when the Crowsnest Pass was under construction, there was a typhoid epidemic. Dr. Bonne11 would have as many as sixty patients lying on the straw. Whenever a blanket was shaken, lice would jump out everywhere.


22 May

-1808    Simon Fraser left Fort St. James, British Columbia, for a trip down the river that now bears his name.

-1815    Fort Niagara was restored to the United States.

-1820    Lord Dalhousie laid the cornerstone of Dalhousie University.

-1867    Queen Victoria proclaimed at Windsor Castle that the British North America Act would go into effect July 1, and named seven ty-two senators— thirty-six Conservatives, and thirty-six Reformers.

-1872    The Earl of Dufferin was made Governor-General of Canada.

-1893    The Earl of Aberdeen was made Governor-General of Canada.

-1906    British forces were withdrawn from Esquimalt, British Columbia; they were the last British forces in Canada.

-1919    The House of Commons passed a bill prohibiting titles for Canadians.

-1945    The government announced that Japanese incendiary balloons had been found in Western Canada.