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The Policeman Never Came Back

22 May

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 cause the cave-in of a coal mine and 128 men were killed.

After the Coal Creek disaster, a police officer, Constable Stevens, 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 police officer 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 pay days

English: Boys move coal cars at the entrance t...

Boys move coal cars at the entrance to the Knoxville Iron Company’s mine near Coal Creek (now Lake City) in the U.S. state of Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 Bonnell, 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. Bonnell would have as many as sixty patients lying on the straw.

I just learned about Discovery Channel making a movie in just west of Calgary, Alberta. You must read the Calgary Herald newspaper article! Thanks Shelli!

For further reading, I suggest a few places, such as The Vancouver Sun for a great photo, and then Crowsnest, B.C. has many articles about this, and When Coal Was King, provided by Wayback Archives, and finally there’s The Free Press from Fernie.B.C.

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8 responses to “The Policeman Never Came Back

  1. seeker

    May 23, 2013 at 12:22 am

    All good now. Just an ordinary day in a mining town. Tim Roth… I will check this out. Like that fellow. 😛

     
    • tkmorin

      May 23, 2013 at 9:57 am

      It should be interesting! I hope I don’t miss it! 🙂

       
  2. Shelli@howsitgoingeh?

    May 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    The old days in Canada were wild! Have you heard about Klondike shooting out here in Alberta? I hope they make it scandalous!!!

     
    • tkmorin

      May 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      No, please tell me. I am so curious! 🙂

       
      • Shelli@howsitgoingeh?

        May 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm

        I don’t know much about it, but I do know it’s set in Dawson City, being produced by the Discovery Channel + is starring Sam Shepard + Tim Roth!

         
        • tkmorin

          May 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm

          Oh, sounds good … I’ll check it out, thank you! 🙂

           
  3. L. Marie

    May 22, 2013 at 9:00 am

    It could be my computer (which is old and grumpy like me), but I wonder if a sentence was lopped off here: ” Many of them went to the mining towns like Fernie. The gamblers would wait for the

    Boys move coal cars at the entrance to the Knoxville Iron Company’s mine near Coal Creek (now Lake City) in the U.S. state of Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    of the miners and railway construction workers, and take their money from them.”

     
    • tkmorin

      May 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      Thanks for the heads up, L. Marie! I was in a hurry this morning for an appointment. It was just “pay days” missing. I can’t seem to recover from the split line, but it’ll have to do. I’m happy you caught it, thank you very much! 🙂

       

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