History

Search Our Site

history

From oil and gas to coal and dinosaurs, Drumheller’s long history is full of industrial entrepreneurs, pioneers, and innovators who brought with them a sense of optimism that remains with our people today.

Drumheller is known as the dinosaur capital of the world because of the high concentration of fossils located in the area.

Millions of years ago the Drumheller area was tropical which created a great environment for plant growth and where dinosaurs could flourish.

After a cataclysmic event, these dinosaurs were wiped out leaving only their bones to be discovered millions of years later.

In the 1880’s, J.B. Tyrrell came to present-day Drumheller looking for coal and found the skull of a dinosaur near the Red Deer River.

That dinosaur became known as the Albertasaurus and so began the collection of dinosaur remains that are sought after by museums all over the world.

The ice age formed what is now the Red Deer River Valley. As the glaciers melted and moved on they left behind lakes and large valleys.

Approximately 11 thousand years ago new plants and animals started to emerge and First Nations Peoples began to roam the prairie learning and living from the land.

Coal was eventually discovered as well.

The Calgary-Drumheller railway was opened in 1913 bringing with it the many faces and families who would settle this new community with a profound sense of optimism and excitement.

The first load of coal shipped out of the valley was from a Newcastle mine in 1911 by Jesse Gouge and Garnet Coyle who originally opened the mine.

The Drumheller coal rush really heated up after Samuel Drumheller bought land in the valley from Thomas Greentree and sold it to the Canadian National Railway to develop a town site.

A famous coin toss was made between Samuel Drumheller and Thomas Greentree to decide who would name the town.

The coin fell in favor of Samuel Drumheller. Between 1911 and 1979, 139 mines were registered in the valley and over 56 million tons of coal was shipped across Canada.

Coal mining was a dangerous job, claiming the life of many miners.

The names of these miners are commemorated on a special memorial located beside Drumheller Town Hall at 224 Centre Street.

The Atlas Coal Mine was the last one to close down in 1979 signaling the end of the coal mining era in the valley.

This structure and the coal mining history have been preserved at the original Atlas Coal Mine site at East Coulee, attracting and educating hundreds of visitors each year.

Today, agriculture is the biggest industry in the region followed closely by oil and gas production.

These sectors employ hundreds of people in and around Drumheller.

Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the town with thousands of people visiting the town each year to see the World’s Largest Dinosaur, Royal Tyrrell Museum, and Atlas Coal Mine just to name a few.