Thank goodness for the Pass’s history lesson, because as per the great map leading my way, there was once a town name Maple Leaf in this area; well until 1957 when it was incorporated into the town of Bellevue, yet another mining town of the Crowsnest Pass.
The Maple Leaf settlement began around 1906, a few years after the neighbouring Bellevue. However, Bellevue would always be the more known of the two. The birth of Bellevue was back in 1903; but it wasn’t until around 1910 that it really started making its mark in southern Alberta. By this time, hotels and businesses were flourishing; however, the great fire of 1917 would destroy all but 3 buildings in its fiery path. The true Albertan mentality burst forth and the town soon rebuilt, just to experience more fires and now many of the buildings lining the main street are from the 1920’s.
As with numerous mines across the country, the Bellevue Mine was not immune to tragedies. In December of 1910, 30 miners and one rescuer would lose their lives. Today, the Bellevue Mine is open for tours that take visitors deep into the tunnels to experience what it was like to be a miner at the turn of the century.
As we know from the history of the Pass, tragedies did not only happen deep in the mines, they also happened on the streets in plain sight of innocent by-standers.The train robbery of 1920 provides a great example of this.In August of that year, a Canadian Pacific Railway passenger car was held up at gunpoint by three bandits, near the town of Coleman.The bandits, Russian emigrants, made off with cash in jewelry totalling around three hundred dollars. The police were notified a few days later when two bandits matching a description entered the Bellevue Cafe. Gunfire soon started and by the end of the shoot-out, two police and one of the bandits lay dead in the street while the other escaped to the town Pincher Creek and was later captured.
Driving down the main street it is easy to capture the small town mentality, people talking to their neighbours, hanging out on picnic tables as they reminisce about the past, while historic buildings cast shadows on the street corners.
This day trip from Calgary provides a great insight to the history that fills the Pass, a trip worth completing.
Categories: Alberta Road Trips