A very ambitious project is underway to document every mining death which happened in the once bustling mining communities of the Drumheller valley in ramp-up to the Miner’s Centennial celebrations planned for next year.
Royal Tyrrell Museum Director Andy Neuman became the first volunteer to rifle through copies of the Drumheller Mail dating back to 1919, as well as documents from the mines themselves.
“Going through old newspapers in Drumheller has been very interesting,” said Neuman, a self professed history buff.
“On the international scene, seeing first hand, events taking place in Europe through the first world war,” have been some articles most fascinating for Neuman. At home, Drumheller was preoccupied with baseball– with the mining industry dominating the front page.
The first death Neuman had found was a young man in 1919, who fought in the first World War without incident, and came home to be almost immediately killed by a mine accident.
Linda Digby, the Atlas Coal Mine’s Executive Director, estimates up to 100 miners died in accidents from 1911-1963– an average of four fatalities a year.
“I know everyone who has participated so far has been incredibly interested to have this peek into early Drumheller and what it was like,” says Digby. “The front page was dominated by mining news.”
Old editions of The Mail is not the only way names are being compiled– the group has chief mine inspector reports, archival information, and books documenting early Drumheller. It’s a monumental task to not only get the names of those who died, but the stories behind the deaths as well.
The Mining Remembrance project is aiming at a March completion date, and could use volunteers to spend even an hour digging through historic editions of the Drumheller Mail at the library.
Those with interest can visit the public library to gain access to microfilm and instructions to begin research. It is open to anyone with time to spare.
Requests for proposals from sculptors and landscape artists have been sent out, with a deadline of January. A decision on what the memorial will look like will be decided on early next winter.
Grants are hoped to cover most of the costs, with corporate donations to cover the rest.