Chapter Six: Industry

The Coal Mines of Tofield p.98
The Tofield Foundry p.100
Livestock p.102

Chapter Five: Music
Chapter Seven: Organizations, part one 
Table of Contents
p. 98


In 1913, Tofield had three coal mines; the Dobell Mine, the Tofield Coal Company Mine and the Pioneer Mine. The Dobell mine and that of the Tofield Coal Company were strip mines with seams of coal six to seven feet deep. The Pioneer Mine, owned by Jim McDevitt, was an underground mine on the land now farmed by J. W. Thompson. Since the Pioneer had no railway facilities, wagons came in groups so that the combined efforts of the teams could be utilized to haul the loaded wagons up the hills. Wagons came from as far as fifty miles away for coal.

In 1916 McDevitt built a dock (loading platform) on the Industrial Site, (The railway was on the property of J. W. Robinson) and hauled the coal two miles.

The Dobell mine had the railroad and had a small Marion Steam Shovel and a rail track of twenty four inch gauge. Koppel steel cars would strip mine hundred yards a day. The coal was loaded by wheel barrows. Eight to ten cars were loaded during the fall and winter. In the early 1930’s, the Tofield Coal Company bought the Dobell mine.
The Tofield Coal Company was the largest of the three mines. Mr. J. W. Robinson who worked for the Tofield Coal Company for many years says,
“I have a picture of the mine tipple in 1907. At that time, the mine was of the underground type. When I came in 1913, it was a strip mine. In 1912, the management imported a dirt-moving machine called the Lubrecher. It was self-propelled and had a number of buckets similar to the ones used in a grain elevator which loaded the dirt on a conveyor belt and dumped it where the coal had been taken out in the previous year. They also had a steam drag line called the Ledgerwood which followed behind the Lubrecher.

The Lubrecher,, which cost $40,000, was made in Germany. p. 99
Bill Morton was the engineer; he had a First Class British Board of Trade Certificate. He came with the machine to erect it and remained to become manager of the mine. Bill Morton’s father, whom I knew, was Chief Boiler Inspector for Tyneside, England.

In August, 1916, I started to work for the Tofield Coal Company where I was in charge of the pumps — two steam pumps which could deliver two hundred gallons per minute and a portable gasoline-driven centrifugal pump.

In the spring of 1917, Bill Morton and I completely overhauled the Lubrecher and I was supposed to be the engineer in charge of it. However in May, Mr. Morton bought a small shipyard in Quebec. The new superintendent brought his own engineer so I never had the pleasure of running the machine.

Later on in 1917, the Tofield Coal Company rented a steam shovel from Huff’s Gravel Pit, west of Edmonton. We hauled the clay out of the pit with a steam hoist and another hoist hauled it up the dump. They hauled the clay from the shovel with a team of horses; this was a slow process.

In 1918, they converted the hoists into steam derricks. A long boom swung the dirt quite some distance from the coal face. The other derrick was used to load coal into the cars.

Also in 1918, the Tofield Coal Company bought a Marion steam shovel and the three Davenport Donkey locomotives and later bought a Number 14 Davenport.

In 1924, another steam shovel (called a Bucyrus) was bought along with several Donkey locomotives. Finally, in 1930, they had nine Donkeys. In 1942, No. 6 and No.7 Donkeys were sold to the Coal Valley Company where I was working during the year. The small shovel would move 20,000 yards and the big shovel 25,000 yards per day.

p. 100

The largest shipment in one day was 38 cars. From September to New Years’, thirty cars a day were shipped. From then on, the demand slackened. At one time, three travellers (salesmen) were on the road selling Headlight Coal — the trade name used by the Tofield Coal Company.
Finally, the Tofield Coal Company got the stripping done by contract and disposed of the engines and shovels.

After the discovery of oil at Leduc, the coal trade gradually died out. The mine was closed in 1957.
At the peak of its output, the mine shipped over 200,000 tons a year and employed over 100 men.

Mr. Claude Gallinger was in charge and was manager from 1918 till the mine closed down. Mr. Gallinger was not just a manager. He would cut all the brush ahead of the shovels and if they were short of men, he would join the work gang. I have seen him working on the dump and at one time, he was brakeman for me for a few days.

“In 1939, had an accident which terminated my employment at the mine. Looking back on my years at the mine, in spite of the hard work and occasional trouble with the engines, I remember those years as a wonderful experience.”
……….. J.W.Robinson

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The material for this article was made available by Mr. J. W. Robinson.

The Tofield Foundry was built during the 1912 gas boom, on land which was part of the late J.W. Cookson’s homestead, on the corner north of the main C.N.R. track near the Gas Company’s valve station. It was a large two-storey building with dozens of windows. The walls and roof p. 101
were of galvanized iron. The top storey was used as a pattern-making shop and for charging the furnace. The first floor was a moulding and machine shop which had shafting and several metal working machines including a large lathe which was powered by a gasoline engine. They had a large horizontal steam engine to be installed later, which was finally sold for scrap.

Laborers received twenty cents an hour and the machinist received forty cents an hour.

The foundry was under the supervision of Mr. Jobb and had some connection with the Medicine Hat Foundry. It operated for a short time. They had a pattern-maker and moulder and a machinist. They made several items of machinery for the machine shop, including a hoist to hoist the iron ingots to the furnace. When the foundry was dismantled, the Brick Company bought the hoist for their brick machine and they made some small rollers and bearings for the brick plant. The C.N.R. had a spur track to the foundry.

There was a grain elevator nearby owned by a German company. In the early thirties the elevator burned down. One morning when Mr. Robinson was doing chores at 5 a.m., he noticed smoke coming out of the elevator roof and turned in the alarm. Exactly five minutes later the fire brigade was on the scene under Mr. Pete Leberkmo [Lerbekmo], the fire chief, but the building could not be saved.

In 1928, the C.N.R. had a colonizing plan to bring in settlers. These Dutch families arrived in two colonist cars in which they lived on the spur track for ten days or two weeks until they found accommodation. They had thirty-three children ranging from babies to teenagers who swelled the school population so much that an extra room had to be built at the school in the basement. They were clean, good-living citizens and grand singers. One family lived in Dr. Tofield’s house (now occupied by Mr. Ray Henriksen of Calgary Power). A few worked at the mine, others on farms. A number took up farms at Neerlandia and did well. Others worked in the city.

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p. 102


The raising of livestock has always been a very important part of life in the Tofield district. As far back as 1900, it was not uncommon to see herds of more than a hundred cattle; several of the early settlers had herds of this size. Not only cattle, but horses, too, were kept in large numbers; Charley and Eugene King at one time had two hundred head of horses. At this time, there were large areas of open land because much of the area granted to the C. P. R. by the Canadian Government had been bought by speculators but left unfenced. This open land with its covering of “prairie wool” provided excellent conditions for horses to run out all winter and remain in good condition.

In these days, the country was referred to as “open range” which meant that crops, rather than animals, must be raised behind fences. A legal fence was a three-strand barbed-wire affair; the bottom wire was 18″ off the ground, the other two strands were 16″ apart. The crop grown in this enclosure was not to be planted closer than eight feet from each fence.

But as settlement increased, the law was changed to meet changing conditions. Now it was the stock which must be fenced in; this was the herd law. When the open range was no longer available to cattle owners, the size of the herds began to decline.

Even during the era of the open range, the cattle had hardships to endure, perhaps the chief of which were the mosquitoes which plagued them all summer long. Towards evening, cattle owners would light smudges; the cattle, grateful for the relief afforded by these smudges would crowd close, hating to leave the first one started even though the herdsman lit several more.

Some of the big cattle raisers, hearing of the Barr Colonists’ arrival in Lloydminster in 1903, gathered about sixty head of cattle and drove them to Lloydminster p. 103
to sell to the immigrants. This venture was quite successful.

On their way home from Lloydminster, the cattlemen met a young English fellow from the Barr Colony walking along the road followed by a cow. Stopping to talk to him, they found that this lad had walked to Calgary and back, just to accompany another young Englishman who had decided to return to England and was boarding the train at Calgary.

In answer to questions, the lad explained the presence of the cow. He said that he had been the consumer for the cow’s production. He had milked her into the three-pound lard pail he was carrying and this milk had been his only food since he had started for home. His cow had served him in other ways as well. When a stream had to be crossed the lad would turn the cow’s head towards the water, tap her on the back and, after she entered the water., grasp her tail. Across they would go! In 1903 they would have had some fair-sized streams to cross on their long journey. But they made it!

Previous to the arrival of the railway, stock from the Tofield area had to be driven to Edmonton to reach a market. When the railway came to Tofield in 1909, the method of marketing stock changed. The stock was sold to local buyers and brought to town on regular shipping days. Or an owner could ship a carload of his own.

In 1928-9, Ed Hicks, while working for Imperial Oil agent, George Agnew, had an idea and in a Mercury of that year, a notice appeared saying that he had made a deal with the Beaver Lake Stock Association to truck their stock to Edmonton. In the Sept. 9, 1931, issue of the Mercury Ed informed the public that he had purchased a truck and could be hired for all kinds of hauling, including stock at 35¢ per cwt. Trucking soon became the favoured method of shipping stock and since the stockyards were used less and less, they were finally dismantled.

p. 104

Among the first breeders of purebred cattle were: T. R. Henderson of the Dobell Coal Co. and Stuart Hall both of whom raised Shorthorns. Later, Claude Gallinger became famous for his Killearn herd. The Mercury in the spring of 1931 records Gallinger’s purchase of a Shorthorn bull at the Edmonton Spring Sales. He bought the females for his herd by type as well as by breed so developed a herd of a distinctive type. He imported bulls from Scotland to improve his herd and when, in 1944, he had his first sale of two-year-old bulls, buyers from all over the continent attended. Killearn breeding became famous. One report in the Mercury stated that Killearn bulls had won nineteen top honours in State Fairs in the U. S. A.
In 1932, Earl Moore and son John came to the Tofield district and brought with them a herd of polled Herefords. In 1967 John Moore is still carrying on the work begun by his father.

In the fall of 1940, C. J. Kallal and Sons bought their first registered Herefords which became the nucleus of their famous herd. They have been highly successful in the Edmonton and Calgary bull sales and have won many awards from shows in Western Canada as well as at the Toronto Royal.

Other Tofield breeders have built up excellent herds of purebred Herefords. Among these are found: E. Geoglein and Sons., M. C. Wood, C. J. Moos, Joe Brown and Sons. Stanley Brown with his herd of Polled Angus has also brought honours to the Tofield district.

All of these breeders have won ribbons for prize animals as well as adequate financial return for their efforts. In doing so they have won favourable publicity for Tofield but they have made other contributions to the district of even greater value. The results of their pure breed livestock breeding programs are evident in the improved quality of local livestock attained p. 105
through sale of good bulls and heifers in this area. One has only to attend a 4-H Calf Club Achievement Day to note the improvement in the quality of the calves over the last twenty years.

So, in 1967, the scene has changed. Where once vast herds of buffalo roamed, feeding on the “prairie wool” and wallowing in shallow ponds, now herds of sleek cattle feast on tame grasses behind retaining fences.