Be sure to check out the upcoming exhibit in the lower gallery, Treasure Maps, featuring maps from the Galt Archives cartographic collection. Treasure Maps opens on February 7th and runs until April 30th.
This post features the business of the namesake of the Galt Museum & Archives, Alexander Galt and the difficulties he had in getting coal to market from Lethbridge in the early years of his mining operations here. This post also features the Knight Sugar Company, that arranged for development of land with the Galts' interests, providing irrigation and a mill to process sugar beets locally.
North Western Coal and Navigation Company
|The Alberta at Medicine Hat, 1885. Galt Archives 19738150000.|
In 1879, the mine of Nicholas Sheran at present-day Lethbridge was seen by Elliott Galt, who soon interested his father Alexander, then Canadian High Commissioner in London, in the possibilities of coal mining in western Canada. The Galts soon formed the North Western Coal and Navigation Company, and began mining at Coal Lease No. 4 with Elliott as general manager. Though the area was rich in coal, little infrastructure existed to get the coal to market. In 1883 the company commissioned three riverboats – the Alberta, the Minnow and the Baroness – to transport coal to Medicine Hat. However, the Belly (later called the Oldman) River proved unsuitable to navigation due to its many sandbars and a strong current. During 1883 only 180 tons were transported and in 1884 they managed 2,278 tons. After these two seasons, it was clear that the only viable solution to transporting coal to market was by rail. Galt’s company completed a narrow gauge railway to the main CPR line at Dunmore, near Medicine Hat, in 1885.
In 1901, Utah mining magnate Jesse Knight sent his sons Oscar Raymond and Jesse William to investigate land available for purchase in Southern Alberta. They acquired 30,000 acres and set about putting the land to work. Jesse soon entered into a contract with the Canadian Northwest Irrigation Company and the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company to purchase an additional 226,000 acres. In exchange, Knight was obligated to build a sugar mill for the 1903 harvest and keep it in operation for at least twelve years. The town that emerged around the mill was named Raymond, in honour of the son that Jesse Knight’s older son that had put in charge of the operation of the mill and his ranch. The introduction of irrigation to the area and success of the sugar factory soon brought 1500 residents to the town. Raymond Knight sold his interest in the company in 1917 to help his father manage his growing interests back in Utah.
|Exterior of the second Raymond Sugar Factory, ca. 1930. Galt Archives 19740030000-056.|
By Sven Andreassen
Sven Andreassen is a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia's Master of Archival Studies program. He volunteered in the Galt Archives in 2013 and curated this exhibit.