Evansburg’s History

The official town site of Evansburg dates back to 1910 with the arrival of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the completion of the railroad trestle across the Pembina River from Entwistle. It was in 1907 that Harry Marshall Erskine Evans, as head mining engineer, had arrived in the area to test the coal along the banks of the Pembina River. Evansburg started as a coal company town, with grocery store, hotel, power and water (pumped from the Pembina and distributed by stand pipes in various areas) all owned and furnished by the Western Canada Land Company. Mr. Evans left the area in 1910, later becoming mayor of Edmonton and chairman of the Alberta Coal Commission and an advisor to the Provincial Government.

The original mining camp prior to 1910 was made up of eight houses, an office, boarding house and a barn, placed in an L-shape on the flats on the south side of the Lobstick River, just east of the present Lobstick Bridge. One of these houses still stands. On the north side of the river, there was a mine shaft. Not much coal was mined and shipped from that original shaft as it had to be hauled by horse and wagon and loaded on cars at the Entwistle railway station across the Pembina. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad reaching the west side of the Pembina made a big difference. In 1912, thirty company houses, including six big houses for the doctor, mine engineer, pit boss, master mechanic, manager and machine runner were built at the present town site. This site consisted of three rows of houses situated in the area between 49th and 50th Street and from 51st Ave. north to 52nd Ave. The streets and avenues in the early days had names, but were changed to numbers in July 1966. Many of these houses still stand in Evansburg, some on their original sites and some moved and renovated. Still others were moved off to surrounding farms.

The mine operations meant that men from England, Scotland and Wales familiar with mining came to Evansburg with their families. There were also several Japanese miners and families, as well as many homesteaders from Eastern Europe. Many of these original family names may still be found in the phone book of the Evansburg / Entwistle area.

Evansburg was booming. A train load of coal was shipped out every day. Mining, lumbering and farming made for a busy new settlement on the Pembina River.

The school opened in 1918. Before that, school was held in one of the company houses in the southern row of houses. High school started about 1923. For grade twelve, students went to Stony Plain. The school population and teaching staff increased in 1946, when a hospital building was moved in from the Coal Branch to become a school dormitory for non-resident students. It housed up to twenty-five students. Surrounding country schools were gradually closed and the children bussed to the centralized school, which is still located in Evansburg, although newly built as Grand Trunk.

Evansburg had very good hockey and baseball teams back then. In those days, all it took to get a good job in the Evansburg mine was to be a good hockey, baseball or football player.

The mine operated until 1936. When the depression came, markets were poor, the mine needed repairs, the power was too far away from the coal face and the airways needed remodeling. It became too costly to extend the coal seams and it was necessary to close the mine. Evansburg was now in a recession. Many of the miners left to take jobs at Drumheller and mining areas in the Crowsnest Pass and Coal Branch. Others took to working in the sawmills and some went farming. The population fell to 121. Since much of the area within the former town site was vacant, it was a common sight to see cows and pigs grazing over the mine site and empty lots. The future of Evansburg was bleak. Services supplied by the mine were discontinued, the houses were sold at $50.00 each or $75.00 for house and lot.

A visible reminder of the mine left behind was a large hill, roughly a hundred feet high and covering about an acre consisting of debris from the mine. Tourists passing through inquired if it were the beginning of the Rocky Mountains. Everyone thought it would be a landmark forever, a monument to the Pembina Peerless Coal Mine.

In 1941, there was a notable change when the Evansburg Creamery was established. This business thrived and the mixed farming in the surrounding area meant a greater demand for stores, bulk sales, machinery sales, etc. In 1965, the creamery became part of N.A.D.P. of Edmonton. With centralization, the creamery was closed. But the building still remains as the home to Wise Choice Recycled Building Materials.

After the closing of the mine, there was very little light in Evansburg except for a few people who had their own lighting plants. Otherwise it was gas and coal oil lamps. This situation improved when Pembina Power Company supplied electricity to the town site in 1951. Early in 1950, the search for oil began bringing improved growth in the town once again with the arrival of seismograph crews.

Up until 1953, Evansburg was a hamlet under the jurisdiction of the Municipal district of Pembina #94. On March 18th, 1953 a petition signed by twenty-six rate payers was submitted to the Minister of Municipal Affairs to give Evansburg the status of a village. The Village of Evansburg was officially incorporated on January 1st, 1954.

The Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1956 and a 1949 Red Ford Truck was converted to a fire truck. Through negotiations with the Edson School Division #12, sewer extensions were made from their line and in 1957, water services were installed as well. Water was obtained from the Pembina River. Wooden water pipes with clay pipes can be seen in the Museum at Tipple Park. As of July 2001, the Entwistle/Evansburg fire departments joined to become the Pembina Fire Services.

The first Police Barracks was a two-story Tudor style house built in 1917 of poplar logs cut right on the spot. It was purchased by the government in 1924 to use as a barracks, first by the Alberta Provincial Police and then by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. A corner of the main floor was renovated to serve as an office, courtroom and jail. In 1938, the old, drafty building was sold and the detachment was moved to Entwistle, but only until 1959. The R.C.M.P. are now housed in a building in the center of town specifically built for the detachment. The first barracks still stands on the south end of Evansburg in use as a family home after appropriate renovations.

The original Evansburg Hotel was built a little south of the present Evansburg Inn on main street, with about fifty rooms for miners to stay in, but not licensed to sell liquor. It burned down in 1922. Rebuilt on the present site as a smaller building with confectionary and post office attached, it passed through several owners until again burning down in1956. A much larger and more modern hotel was built on the site. In 1957 a gas explosion did extensive damage to the hotel, but it was repaired and renovated, as the complete service Inn, Ruby Café and Unique Repeats. At one point in its history, there was a pool hall in the south section of the building.

The first grocery and general merchandise store complete with gas pumps for the few existing vehicles was built in 1917 on the north end of town. It remained a General Store without gas under various owners until 1970 when it became Evansburg Family Clothing. The building as originally constructed still stands and is in use today as Jossy’s. The addition on the north end was the original premises for many concerns in town which now inhabit new buildings, such as the Royal Bank and the Provincial offi ces.

The original café in Evansburg was also located around the area of 50th street and 52ave which was the beginning of the North Road crossing the Lobstick River and going north to Park Court and Rochfort Bridge. Other eating establishments have opened and closed and changed into other businesses over the years. In a thriving town, businesses come and go, change ownership, burn down, are rebuilt, and provide the threads of continuity for the generations. Several of the buildings in downtown Evansburg actually date back to those wild and wooly mining days, or are newer buildings rebuilt on the original sites. 50th street has been Main Street for almost 100 years.

In the 1930’s, a grain elevator was built in Evansburg, but then torn down in 1994, having signifi – cant impact on farming operations in the area.

Through the years, as Evansburg has grown, the huge mine Dump Pile, which was thought of as a “Monument forever”, slowly disappeared as it was used for fi ll for roadways and other things. There is no trace of it today and it is just a memory in the minds of the old-timers. A perfect example of recycling.

If more history of the Evansburg area is desired, it can be found in the history book called Foley Trail, accessible at the Public Library, as well as on display at the Tipple Park Museum, located in beautiful downtown Evansburg, a monument to the Coal Mine that started her.