Georgetown

A short-lived mining community at the foot of Mount Rundle that was ran by the Canadian Anthracite Coal Company just after the Antracite, AB operation. Today the coal mining settlement has become an extreme dirt-bike track and frisbee golf course. 
The area of Georgetown is within the red box. It is found by following the Georgetown Interpretive Trail at the Canmore Nordic Centre
             The route to Georgetown is a leisurely hike from the Canmore Nordic Center. On the way to the deserted hamlet you pass by extreme dirt biking tracks and Frisbee golf courses where many locals and tourists flock to enjoy the beautiful weather in the Rocky Mountains. One thing I found curious on the hike was the lack of knowledge of Georgetown’s existence from the locals. Frankly, even the information center had little to no information to offer about the town, other than its trail map that gave a very rough idea of the location of Georgetown. Even amongst the confusion and the different interpretations of how to reach to town, we managed to find it quite quickly by following the dirt bike tracks until we reached the Georgetown interpretive trail. Once you have reached the interpretive trail you keep following the seemingly endless path until you reach an open area with two interpretive plaques, a wildlife area, and what seems to be a whole lot of nothing. If you stick to your left and go up the small hill you will see signs for different dirt biking paths. Take the furthest left path and you will find remnants of old building foundations, and a lot of overgrowth covering anything off the bike trail.
            Georgetown started in 1912 when the Canadian Anthracite Coal Company finished its operation in Anthracite and opened a new seam 5 km from Canmore, just east of the present Banff National Park boundary (Fryer, 1982, pg. 18). The difference between Georgetown and Anthracite is that Georgetown was meant to be short lived. The town did not die because of the poor quality of coal or difficulty mining; the main problem was the financing and timing. Looking in hindsight, WWI was just around the corner and money was already tight with moving the operation from Cascade Mountain to Mount Rundle. However despite these difficulties, Georgetown’s working conditions were much better than at Anthracite or Bankhead since the unions finally won the long-awaited eight-hour day, which was reduced from 10 to 12 hour shifts. Wages still remained low with a miner making $3.00/day and a labourer making about $1.10/day (Fryer, 1982, pg. 19). The town of 200 people had a great sense of community spirit, with many card games and parties, and local orchestras playing at the community hall. Georgetown reflected modern Canadian multiculturalism in the community with the town consisting of Germans, Italians, and Poles (Fryer, 1982, pg. 19).
            The amenities in Georgetown were quite extensive given the size of the community. There was a community hall for entertainment, a company store that stocked necessities, a bunkhouse for single men, cookhouse, one-room school, post office, and mine offices (Bachusky, 2013). Space was allocated for a planned hotel, which never materialized. Comfortable one or two room houses were rented out to the married workers for $1 per month, which had working electricity, running water, and a cold water faucet, but no indoor toilets (Fryer, 1982, pg. 19). The company had a policy with the store where workers were only allowed to shop there. Many families held this rule in contempt and snuck supplies from Canmore in the night along the back paths into town to avoid shopping there. Georgetown did not have its own police unit or doctor, but Dr. Richard Worthington of Canmore would come to take care of the local medical problems, while the Canmore detachment of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police maintained law and order in the town (Fryer, 1982, pg. 19). After the town closed down the houses, community hall, and company store was moved to Canmore, where the community hall was eventually tore down to make room for a medical clinic.
            As I discussed earlier, the downfall of Georgetown was due to timing and financial reasons above anything else. When analysing the geology of Mount Rundle there is a massive coal deposit at the foot of the mountain. One of the most noticeable characteristics of the coalfields around Canmore and Georgetown is the asymmetrical syncline running parallel to Mount Rundle and the Three Sisters. However, mining was extremely costly in this area due to the thickness of the seams, like the coal deposit from the Kootenay Formation, which consists of sandstones, siltstones, and coal, which is found in its entirety the foot of Mount Rundle (Stephenson, n.d.). The coal also contained large quantities of methane, which also made mining a lot more dangerous. However, after WWI broke out in 1914 the market for coal dwindled along with the British capital financing the project. The financial trouble Georgetown was in caused its quick downfall only 3 years after its formation in 1915 (Buchusky, 2013).
            Contrary to some other sources, not much is left of Georgetown. The only remnants of Georgetown are a few interpretive plaques and a couple of old building foundations that can be seen off of a single dirt biking path that is to your immediate left once you climb a short but steep hill. Every other part of Georgetown is overgrown with moss, broken branches, and other brush that obstructs the casual observer. However, the topography of the area shows that there once was a thriving community of hardy and modest miners that was only to be left as a memory.
 
    
Photos
  1. One of the few foundations...
    One of the few foundations...
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  2. Canmore, AB
    Canmore, AB
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  3. Unidentified Building Foundation
    Unidentified Building Foundation
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  4. Overlooking Georgetown
    Overlooking Georgetown
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  5. Moss over Coal Slack Heaps
    Moss over Coal Slack Heaps
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  6. Georgetown Overgrown
    Georgetown Overgrown
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  7. Inside Georgetown
    Inside Georgetown
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  8. Georgetown Interpretive Trail
    Georgetown Interpretive Trail
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  9. Metal Scrap
    Metal Scrap
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
  10. Informative Plaque
    Informative Plaque
    Photo by Phillip Van Hooft
References
Bachusky, Johnnie. History of Canmore Alberta Canada.
2013. Web. 28 June 2015. .
 
Fryer, Harold. "Georgetown:" Ghost Towns of Southern Alberta. Surrey, B.C.:
Heritage House, 1982. Print. Pg. 18 - 19.
 
Stephenson, Gerry, Steve Cameron, and Virginia Odegaard. "Coal Geology: A
Brief Overview of Coal in Alberta with a Focus on the past Coal Mining in the Canmore Area." Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. Web. 8 July 2015. .
Photos Taken by Phillip Van Hooft (TRUNK Studios)