Stories from the Past |
Stories from the Past

samuel drumheller

Drumheller has a long and colourful history comprised of many interesting characters. Here you’ll learn about the people who made coal vital to the Drumheller economy!


Early History 


The history of the Drumheller Valley dates back over 70 million years. The land was flat and the climate tropical.

This was the ideal surrounding for plants and animals and was home of the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs like the Albertasaurus, Archi-cera-torus, and Sty-ra-co-saurus roamed the region.

Millions of years ago the dinosaurs became extinct, but the remains were covered with sediments of the rivers and in this way preserved.

During the ice age the entire region was covered with ice - at its thinnest about 1000 meters thick.

At the end of the ice age the glaciers melted away leaving lakes and the Drumheller Red Deer River Valley as it is know today.

Soon the Valley became the home for new animals, plants and the Native People.

In June of 1884 this region was discovered by J.B.Tyrrell, who was looking for coal deposits.

At 26 years of age while working with the Geological Survey of Canada he discovered the major coal deposits and he came across a skull of a dinosaur, which today is known as the Albertasaurus.

This finding was the beginning of the search for remains of these giant animals.

This marked the beginning of the collection of dinosaur remains that are sought after by museums all over the world, including the Royal Tyrrell Museum located in the Drumheller Valley.

Today we are proud to be called the Dinosaur Capital of the World. Enjoy your time hunting for the big ones!


People of the Past


The dinosaurs made us famous... the people made us visitor friendly.

The valley was discovered in 1884 by J.B. Tyrrell, but the first inhabitant of the valley was Thomas Greentree. Mr. Greentree built his house in 1902 in what is now called Drumheller.

Another famous local was a business man named Sam Drumheller.

Sam was the first person who made a business from the rich coal deposits of the region.

At the time, it was known that the railroad was coming into the Valley and Sam Drumheller wanted to buy Mr. Greentree's land for a townsite.

On his third trip to the Valley, Sam completed the purchase of the land (rumor said for the sum of $2800.00 which he carried in cash in his shirt pocket) for the townsite.

Mr. Greentree and Sam Drumheller flipped a coin to see whether the new town should be called Greentree's Crossing or Drumheller.

The latter won and the new little town had a name.

After the railway came in, the Drumhellers established a home in the town where they lived for many years.

Sam Drumheller also maintained a business office in Calgary.

Mrs. Drumheller was very active in all community projects, sang in the first choir of Knox Presbyterian Church, and was president of the first Ladies' Aid (of Knox) and a member of the Women's Institute.


Coal was King


 In the day coal was King Drumheller is the Dinosaur Capital of the world and it was the Coal Miners who made Drumheller what it is today.

There are so many wonderful stories about the coal miners in the Valley.

Stop in to the Atlas Coal Mine or the East Coulee School Museum for some of the mining history in the region.

In the heyday of the coal mining boom there were 139 mines in the area.

Upon his arrival in the Drumheller region, Samuel Drumheller was interested primarily in ranching.

Mr. Drumheller's focus was immediately changed when he entered the home of a stranger and saw coal sitting on their stove.

In the instant that Mr. Drumheller recognized the everyday need for coal, his fortune was forever changed, culminating in the creation of Drumheller’s mine in 1912.

Other businessmen who were instrumental in developing the area were Garnet Coyle and Jesse Gouge, who worked together to create the first commercial mine in the Drumheller Valley.

Gouge had learned of the whereabouts of a sizeable coalfield from a chance meeting with a local resident.

Gouge sold his store, and went into partnership with Coyle, opening the Newcastle Mine in 1912.

Another mine was the Midland Mine.

This mine was born out of a partnership between Seneca McMullen and Coyle.

The duo had the sense and ability to successfully market their product throughout Canada. When Coyle sold his shares, McMullen became the sole owner.

Midland was one of the largest coal producers in the area.

Today in the valley you can see the various communities were coal was king.

NACMINE is short for North American Coal Mine; there is the Midland Community, Newcastle and many others.

Drumheller is the Dinosaur Capital of the world and it was the Coal Miners who made Drumheller what it is today.

Frank Moodie was another personality to have a profound effect on the development of the Drumheller Valley.

In partnership with two railway builders, Moodie opened the Rosedale Mine in 1912.

When other mines in the valley shut down due to labour strikes, Frank’s mines remained working.

The Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918-1919 was particularly tough on the Rosedale miners, and for citizens of the whole Drumheller Valley.

In the absence of doctors in the camp, Moodie worked tirelessly to save his miners.

Employing medicines and fumigating material he supplied.

Many credit him for saving their lives, including nearby ranchers and homesteaders who came to him for help.

Some of the other mines in the area included the Monarch Mine, The Newcastle Mine and the Star Mine.

Then there is the Atlas Mine which is now a Historical site at the East End of Drumheller in East Coulee.

The Atlas Coal Mine remained in operation until the early 70’s.

Today, the Atlas Coal Mine has fascinating tours and now you can do an underground mine tour.

The mine is a something that should be at the Top of your “attractions to see” on your vacation list.

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