THE BERG COAL MINE
by Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
Readers with an interest in the history of the coal industry from southwestern Alberta will know well that there were numerous mines situated outside the Crowsnest Pass itself. One of those centres from the Pincher Creek area was that of Lundbreck which owed many of its origins to the development of that black resource hidden deep in the bowels of the earth. Prominent in those operations which flourished during the late 1920s was that of the Berg Coal Mine.
COAL MINING HAD EARLY ORIGINS
Other coal mines had much earlier origins in the history of Lundbreck, some of which dated back to the 1880s. Mart Holloway, who was connected with the 1868 group of prospectors whose loss of a pair of pincers in our Creek resulted in the naming of Pincher Creek, operated a mine on the north side of the Middle Fork. This was at a point directly north of what years later became the settlement of Lundbreck.
Additional mines followed. On the south side of the river was situated a mine operated by Mr. Galbraithe. Also known as the “Tomato Kid Mine’, it dated back to the 1880s, closed for several years, and re-opened in 1904. The most famous was the one established in the early 1900s by Messrs. Breckenridge and Lund. It became the largest of the mining operations, and is generally credited with the founding of the settlement of Lundbreck.
THE BERG MINE AND COAL QUALITY
The Berg Coal Mine was known for its variety of coal, which accompanied by strong business practices, made it a going business concern during the late 1920s. Established during the summer of 1928, it was situated on a hillside immediately south of Lundbreck. It was located adjacent to another coal seam which once had been harvested by a miner with the surname of Extell.
Berg’s operation accessed a coal seam measuring nine by eleven feet, embedded deep in the terrain. Not only was there coal of high quality but also once mined, the operation was also noted for its variety, including nut, lump, and slack. Berg Coal was advertised as being clean, long burning, had a high heat temperature, and was low in moisture.
LOCAL MARKETING A MUST
These qualities held the mine in good business stead with southwestern Alberta customers. Domestic coal – that which was consumed in the household – required a solid quality, which would burn easily, satisfactorily warm the house, and not give off excess soot within the building. Much of the coal mined at the Berg Mine apparently met this requirement. Screened coal sold for four dollars, and the mine run for $3.25. These prices were affordable for many local customers.
The mine was relatively close to the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Crowsnest Line which traveled through this region, a blessing in terms of delivering the coal to its markets. Advertisements of the time state that coal could be delivered to Pincher Station, and some sales were handled through the community’s Alexandra Hotel. A well graveled road connected the mine with the railway depot at Lundbreck, and also allowed local customers with their own trucks or horse drawn wagons to pick up their supplies directly at the mine. Customers also could order their coal prior to pick up due to the fact that the mine had telephone service – its number was 405!
This business was under the proprietorship of Mr. C. M. Berg, a local businessman who had experience in the coal mining industry. Previously, he had worked with the industry in Enumclaw, located in Washington State. He extensively promoted his coal discoveries within Pincher Creek itself, hoping to secure significant business within the community. Over the years, he had developed strong business contacts with the Gilbert Family, formerly of Pincher Station, and Mr. & Mrs. F. M. Collins as well as the Larums. The Berg Family, which included a young son named Warren, resided directly at the mine which allowed the mine owner to be involved in the daily supervision of the mine’s operations.