The Pittsburg of Canada

Caption included with photo: “This block of coal, being from top to bottom of the seam, was banded with wood at the mine, hauled 25 miles to Brooks C.P.R. station over prairie trail taken to Regina over freight train unloaded on to a wagon, hauled to the exhibition grounds and placed on stand, bands removed and stood intact without a crack or break as seen in the photo. – C.R. Westgate” (Glenbow Archives PA 2346-40)

Following the takeover of the Bow City Collieries properties and townsite by the Prairie Coal Company Ltd. in 1911, promotional efforts to exploit the coal banks along the Bow shifted into high gear.

The Prairie Coal Company Ltd. was based in Regina, and promoted themselves as a group of “reputable and well-known citizens of Saskatchewan.” These included managing director Charles R. Henderson, who also held the charter for the Bow River Collieries Railway Co.; B.C. Moore, secretary-treasurer of the company, and brother of William (Daddy) Moore, one of the first ranchers along the Bow River south of Bow City; and Charles R. Westgate, formerly an officer with the Bow City Collieries Ltd, who joined the Prairie Coal Co. Ltd. following the takeover.

The Prairie Coal Company Ltd. published a number of promotional packages between 1911-1913 designed to attract investors to their properties along the Bow. One flyer directed towards potential American and British investors praised the property’s many merits, including its proximity to major markets, the quality of the coal, and the potential profitability of the townsite. Central to all these arguments was the impending arrival of a link to the property by rail:

“This property has been awaiting the coming of the railroad. The railroad that will put Bow City on the map will be built in 1912. With this development, I predict for this company a leading position in the industrial life of Western Canada, whose shares will in a few years become so valuable that they will never find their way to market.”

A booklet entitled  “Bow City: The Pittsburg [sic] of Canada”, promoted Bow City as “A PERFECT TOWNSITE”, located  “in the centre of Coal and Gas area which within generation will be the MANUFACTURING HEART OF CANADA.” Included was the requisite reference towards the impending arrival of the Bow River Collieries Railway (this time on July 1, 1913), as well as speculation about the arrival of Canadian Northern Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway lines. “NO CITY IN THE WORLD HAS GREATER NATURAL RESOURCES”, the document concluded.

British investors were courted in another booklet entitled “Western Canada’s Black Diamond Wealth”. Drawing a comparison to Kingston-on-Thames–an ancient market town and suburb of London along the River Thames–readers were told that Bow City was “[s]omething that British Investors could trust”::

“Bow City is not one of those cities of the plain that is settled by a few farmers followed by clever real estate agents who seize hold of any kind of development to inflate land values and make money out of the manipulation of lots on the market, and then pay no attention to the utilization of any natural advantages that belong to the district. Bow City is a location where every resource exists for becoming a great hive of commercial, agricultural and industrial life. That is the distinguishing feature of Bow City, otherwise, it would but be one more sub-division to be added to the thousand and one that are now on the British market.”

The company also engaged in a memorable publicity stunt in 1911, hauling a chunk of coal weighing 5,800 lbs. via wagon 25 miles across bumpy prairie trails to Brooks, where it was shipped by rail to be put on display at the Regina Fair. According to a 1956 interview with Gordon Westgate in the Calgary Herald, the fair was the last time anyone saw the giant lump of coal – it never was returned.

With single lots selling from $300-$1500, and pairs from $500-$1300, the Prairie Coal Company Ltd. townsite at Bow City was beginning to garner attention from investors across North America and Great Britain.

Originally posted on ForgottenAlberta.com.

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