Yellowhead County

Yellowhead Townsite and Mine: Archaeology in Alberta’s Coal Branch

Alberta’s Coal Branch region, southwest of Edson, was once an area bustling with activity, not only due to coal production, but also with the day-to-day goings-on of communities. In its heyday, the Coal Branch supported a population of almost 3,000 people spread out among several towns including Cadomin, Mercoal, Mountain Park, Luscar, Lovettville, Coalspur, Robb, Coal Valley, and Beacon Hill. These communities, though small, had many amenities including stores, community halls, sports fields, schools, churches, and hospitals. Today, many of them have been completely abandoned or are only used for part of the year.

Part of the Yellowhead site, likely during the mid-to-late stages of mine development (Photo Credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta, Edmonton, PR1991.0312 A19987)

Part of the Yellowhead Townsite and Mine which was in operation from 1909-1919 (Photo Credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta, PR1991.0312 A19987)

Yellowhead Mine and its associated “stag camp”, and later townsite, was the first mining operation in production in the Coal Branch. Run by the Yellowhead Pass Coal and Coke Co., the mine began operations in 1909, before railroads or roads reached the area. Since the only way in and out of Yellowhead was by pack trail, the settlement was fairly isolated and difficult to get to. When mining first began, the coal could not be shipped out due to lack of rail access, so coal was stockpiled. The railroad (more…)

Where in the world is …

Marlboro Plant, Marlboro (Evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Marlboro Plant, Marlboro (evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Marlboro? Wildwood?

Earlier this week I travelled to both Marlboro and Wildwood to attend municipal heritage inventory open houses. You might be scratching your head in confusion asking, “Where in Alberta are those communities located?” Both are located west of Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway, in Yellowhead County. Marlboro is 26 kilometres west of Edson and Wildwood is approximately an hour’s drive west of Edmonton. Still not feeling overly familiar with Yellowhead County? A previous RETROactive blog post described the County and aspects of its history:

West of Edmonton, Yellowhead County is located along Yellowhead Highway 16. It encompasses 7,012,000 acres stretching from the Pembina River in the east to the Jasper National Park gates in the west. Travellers that frequent this section of the Yellowhead Highway are likely familiar with the Towns of Edson and Hinton and, of course, the iconic Rocky Mountains. What might be less familiar is that alongside these Highway 16 destinations and nestled off into the north and south of this transportation corridor are reminders of a long and varied history. Trapping, logging, farming, coal mining and more recently oil, gas and tourism have all impacted the development of what is now Yellowhead County. Various structures, cultural landscapes and buildings located in the hamlets of Evansburg, Wildwood, Robb, Cadomin and Brule (amongst others) retain glimpses of this diverse history. Miners cabins, ranches, hotels, industrial remains, barns, schools, churches, a pool hall and a water tower exemplify the range of potential historic places.

Brule Mine Landscape, Brule (Evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Brule Mine Landscape, Brule (evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

The Marlboro and Wildwood open houses were opportunities for community residents to learn about the County’s inventory project. Twenty three different sites were featured (some of the sites are shown in this blog post). Their architectural, social, cultural, historical and/or landmark value was discussed. Attendees responded with enthusiasm and were full of questions about possible Municipal Historic Resource designation, the implications of designation and opportunities for conservation funding assistance. I responded to many of these questions by discussing “designation myths”. (Hmmm … perhaps a great topic for a future blog post?)

Over the coming months, this project will be concluded. To learn more about Yellowhead County’s heritage program, click here.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

Myschuk Barn, near Wildwood (Evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Myschuk Barn, near Wildwood (evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Cadomin Photo Studio, Cadomin (Evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Cadomin Photo Studio, Cadomin (evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Shinning Bank Farm (Evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Shinning Bank Farm (evaluated as part of the the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage inventory project).

Heritage along the Highway

Yellowhead County: Municipal Heritage Survey and Inventory

A municipal heritage survey of approximately 300 sites and a municipal heritage inventory project to evaluate 30 surveyed sites for eligibility, significance and integrity have been keeping the highways and byways of Yellowhead County busy. Throughout 2011 and 2012, heritage consultants and local heritage enthusiasts have been exploring, identifying and learning about the history and heritage of one of Alberta’s largest rural municipalities – Yellowhead County.

The Cadomin Photo Studio was documented in the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage Survey and is currently be evaluated as part of the County's inventory project.

The Cadomin Photo Studio was documented in the Yellowhead County Municipal Heritage Survey and is currently being evaluated as part of the County’s inventory project.

West of Edmonton, Yellowhead County is located along Yellowhead Highway 16. It encompasses 7,012,000 acres stretching from the Pembina River in the east to the Jasper National Park gates in the west. Travellers that frequent this section of the Yellowhead Highway are likely familiar with the Towns of Edson and Hinton and, of course, the iconic Rocky Mountains. What might be less familiar is that alongside these Highway 16 destinations and nestled off into the north and south of this transportation corridor are reminders of a long and varied history. Trapping, logging, farming, coal mining and more recently oil, gas and tourism have all impacted the development of what is now Yellowhead County. Various structures, cultural landscapes and buildings located in the hamlets of Evansburg, Wildwood, Robb, Cadomin and Brule (amongst others) retain glimpses of this diverse history.

Miners cabins, ranches, hotels, industrial remains, barns, schools, churches, a pool hall and a water tower exemplify the range of potential historic places documented and evaluated in Yellowhead County’s heritage survey and inventory projects. Throughout 2011 and 2012 an extensive but not exhaustive survey was completed. Upwards of three hundred potential historic places located in all corners of the County were photographed and geographical, architectural and historical information was recorded for uploading to the Alberta Heritage Survey database.

Currently, thirty of the three hundred surveyed sites are being evaluated to determine if they possess significance – in other words – why are the sites important to area residents? Did they have a lasting impact on making the community what it is today? The sites will also be evaluated for integrity to ensure they still possess the ability to communicate their significance. The results of this analysis will be written up into Statements of Significance and Statements of Integrity. Yellowhead County staff, combined with the services of a heritage consultant and the County’s Heritage Advisory Board, will see this project through to completion.

Yellowhead County Heritage Advisory Body Back L-R: Gary Conger, Shawn Berry, Brian Broughton, Pat DiMarcello. Front L-R: Cheryl May (Heritage Coordinator), Marshall Hoke (Chair), Debbie Charest (Director of Community and Protective Services).

Yellowhead County Heritage Advisory Body – Back L-R: Gary Conger, Shawn Berry, Brian Broughton, Pat DiMarcello. Front L-R: Cheryl May (Heritage Coordinator), Marshall Hoke (Chair), Debbie Charest (Director of Community and Protective Services).

The municipal heritage survey and the inventory project will allow applicable municipal staff, councillors and residents to better understand the older places that make their communities unique and vibrant. Essentially, these projects will serve as a foundation for establishing a local heritage conservation program and will contribute to sense of place and community identity.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

“How is Yellowhead County going to accomplish this?”

Yellowhead County, a large rural municipality west of Edmonton that stretches between the Pembina River in the east all the way to the Jasper National Park gates in the west, is currently embarking upon a Municipal Heritage Survey.

Over the coming months the County will identify and document a broad range of potential historic places within the County’s boundaries. With Yellowhead County spanning an area of 7,012,000 acres you might be asking, “How is the County going to accomplish this?”

1) Under the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program (MHPP) Yellowhead County has received cost-shared funding. All municipalities in Alberta are eligible to apply for cost-shared funding to assist in the completion of a Municipal Heritage Survey, Municipal Heritage Inventory and/or a Municipal Heritage Management Plan. These projects are designed to assist with the identification, evaluation and management of historic places. Municipalities throughout Alberta have participated in MHPP and learned about the rich historic resources that make their communities unique and livable.

2) Yellowhead County staff, combined with the services of a heritage consultant and the participation of area residents, will complete the Municipal Heritage Survey. The survey will systematically document resources through photographs and record geographical information, design features and construction and historical information.

3) Perhaps most importantly, the County’s Heritage Advisory Board will provide advisory assistance to staff and the consultant throughout the completion of the survey. In September 2010, Yellowhead County Council passed a bylaw establishing a Heritage Advisory Board. This Board, comprised of area residents, has been tasked with the job of advising Council on matters pertaining to the development and maintenance of a heritage program. For instance, the Board will be able to:

  • assist in the implementation of heritage initiatives (i.e. the Municipal Heritage Survey);
  • facilitate community heritage awareness through partnerships and educational initiatives; and
  • advise Council on proposed Municipal Historic Resource designations.

This committed group of volunteers has the important job of providing public input and expertise to Council so that informed decisions about Yellowhead County’s heritage can impact current residents and future generations.

Back L-R: Gary Conger, Shawn Berry, Brian Broughton, Pat DiMarcello. Front L-R: Cheryl May (Heritage Coordinator), Marshall Hoke (Chair), Debbie Charest (Director of Community and Protective Services).

Do you have questions about how your municipality can participate in the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program? Contact program staff to learn more.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer