Coaldale

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Town of Coaldale

Present

Known as the “Gem of the West”, Coaldale has plenty of attractions to offer visitors. Located 12 km east of Lethbridge, it boosts a population of 7,493 (2011 Statistics Canada) with agriculture being the backbone of its economy.

Today, almost every need can be filled by the businesses of Coaldale.

History

Although Coaldale never had a coal mine, it did get its name because of the coal industry. In 1883, Elliot T. Galt, son of Sir Alexander T. Galt, built a residence in the river bottom south of the high level bridge. He named his new home Coal Dale after the family’s summer home in Scotland and to distinguish it from the community Coalbanks (Lethbridge).

When the CPR was constructed to connect Lethbridge with the CPR line at Dunmore, the CPR honoured the Galt family by naming the first siding east of Lethbridge after their home.

The first stop the train made on its eastern run was at this siding, Coaldale.  Around 1905, the Southern Alberta Farms Company owned nearly a township of land including the present site of Coaldale.

Through extensive advertising across Canada and the United States showing hundreds of haystacks from crops grown on irrigation, settlers began buying land and settling in the area.

In the early years, cattle companies located large ranching operations in the area to take advantage of the tall nutritional native grasses that grew in the fertile loam soils.

Soon homesteaders moved to the area and as the sod turned over, fields of wheat, flax, oats, rye and barley became a familiar sight.  The railway brought more settlers to the area and the community became a major service centre for farmers and settlers.

Harry Suggitt, one of the owners of the Southern Alberta Farms Company, encouraged the first church, the Methodist, in Coaldale.  The first school was built in 1908.  In 1916, Mr. Suggitt was responsible for the consolidated school district idea.

In 1917, Coaldale underwent a real building boom: stores, hardware, a post office, a butcher shop, a billards store, hay market shed, restaurants, a laundry and the Ellison Milling Elevator.

In 1919, 25 veterans from the war came from all parts of the world and settled north and west of the community.  This settlement which was a block of farms was called the Van Horne Colony.  Also that year the first Fair and Exhibition was held.

In 1952, Coaldale was incorporated into a town with a population of over 2,000.  In 1964, it became part of the County of Lethbridge.  The Oldman River Planning Commission which was established in conjunction with the County of Lethbridge has done much to establish guidelines and controls for urban and rural growth and in establishing regulations for land usage.

Considered the “Gem of the West”, it was once noted that Coaldale was “the premier wheat producing land in the world”.  Coaldale continues to flourish and grow as the centre of irrigation and to be an agricultural gem in this corner of Southern Alberta.