Mohawk Tipple

The Mohawk Tipple, visible from Highway 3 on your way to Bellevue, played a key role in the last chapter of the coal industry in the Crowsnest Pass. Please exercise caution if you are visiting the tipple due to the structural integrity of the tipple. Please admire this amazing artifact of industrial history from afar for your own safety.
Directions from the Mohawk Tipple from Burmis, AB.
Legend:
Red: Mohawk Tipple
 
          While not a ghost town, the Hillcrest-Mohawk tipple plays a key part in the last chapter of coal mining in the Crowsnest Pass. Situated on the west side of the Crowsnest 3 Highway, southeast of Bellevue, the Tipple was a symbol of what was to come for the Coleman Collieries Limited. Like the towns in the coal branch, the last coal companies in the Pass such as McGillivray, Hillcrest-Mohawk, and International, who all amalgamated into the Coleman Collieries Limited, saw their demise at the hand of Big Oil. This site is one of the few historical sites within the Pass that is not marked by an information plaque; this is because it is not encouraged to explore the tipple. For your own safety, please do not enter or set foot on the tipple. There are many hazards around the area that can seriously injure you, and the tipple itself has lost its structural integrity that could cause death. Please exercise caution, and admire the Hillcrest-Mohawk Tipple from a distance.
          The story of the Hillcrest-Mohawk operation actually began with a company named the Maple Leaf Coal Company, which started a community aptly named Maple Leaf in the early 1900’s just east of Bellevue. At the time the hamlet had a hotel, couple of general stores, butcher shop, shoemaker, and blacksmith shop Unfortunately one of the stores ran by a Mrs. Rudd, burned down in 1913 (Rinaldi, 1979, pg. 154).  The community used a lot of buildings from neighbouring towns that died out to build their townsite. Jack Gerrard, an engineer for the Maple Leaf Coal Company, moved the Presbyterian Church built by James Lang from Burmis to dismantle it and use the material to build his house. Similarly, when the Passburg mine closed down, the Ukrainian Society took a large building off of the collieries site and used it as their social hall for meetings and dances (Rinaldi, 1979, pg. 154).    
          The Maple Leaf operation was not extensive by any means. The entire payroll for January 1908 was worth $420.25 with nine employees (nearly $10,000 in today’s dollars). On average mine managers made $125 per month, miners $105 per month, 103.5 per month for black smiths, $75 per month for engineers, and $6 dollars per day for carpenters (Rinaldi, 1979, pg. 155). The pay was not glamorous by any means, but the workers managed to survive for the time being. The company managed to build cottages for the miners, an office, boarding house, and cook house to accommodate the operation. Unfortunately the mine closed down in 1912 and all of the aforementioned buildings were removed in the 1930’s (Rinaldi, 1979, pg. 157). Around the time of the mine’s closing, Calgary based proprietorship Carlyle and Johnson created a mining outfit named the Bellevue Collieries and bought out the mineral rights of the Leitch Collieries property from Joe Little on a royalty basis (Wilson, 2002). The idea of buying out this mine was to get at the seams that became the Mohawk mine. Unfortunately financiers were not confident in the prospect and backed out of the investment. In 1921 the Bellevue Collieries liquidated itself and transferred its assets to the Mohawk Bituminous Collieries, which was organized by some of the Bellevue Collieries' original principals (Wilson, 2002). The operation built the Mohawk Tipple on a bluff above the CPR train tracks. Coal carts would be pulled by horse, hauling two and a half tons of coal each trip (Rinaldi, 1979, pg. 157). This method was being used when the gasoline dinky was utilized by most coal operations, showing this operation to be behind technologically and possibly underfunded.
          After nearly two decades of running this small operation, the Hillcrest Collieries bought out the Mohawk Bituminous Collieries to create the Hillcrest-Mohawk Collieries in 1939 (Hatcher, 2005). The operation was originally a room-and-pillar underground mining operation, but after determining that strip-mining would be more profitable they closed the Hillcrest mine and began work on the Mohawk mine as a strip-mine (Wilson, 2002). In 1946 the company built 36 houses to create Moccasin Flats, a community for the workers of the operation, which is now part of Bellevue. By 1947 the Mohawk Tipple was processing 1,000 tons of coal per day from the Mohawk mine. The Hillcrest-Mohawk operation also contracted the use of the tipple to other companies to process their coal (Wilson, 2002). At this point, the entire operation was seeing big margins and a bright future. Unfortunately for them an ocean of oil was discovered in Leduc at the same year, awaking the behemoth that would become Alberta’s oil and gas industry.
          Despite the infrastructural change Canada was experiencing with the larger commercial use of oil and gas, the coal industry in the Crowsnest Pass puttered for a couple more years. By 1951, Hillcrest-Mohawk discovered that their mine was nearly depleted, utilizing their tipple as the only operating asset in the last days of its existence (Decoux, 1952). By 1952 there was an agreement with a few of the coal companies within the pass including; International, Hillcrest-Mohawk, and McGillivray Creek Coal and Coke Company. These companies formed the Coleman Collieries Limited, with everyone except Hillcrest-Mohawk pooling assets (Wilson, 2002). Hillcrest-Mohawk joined the agreement, but demanded to remain as a separate corporate entity with original shares outstanding despite being offered 20% of the company (Wilson, 2002). In 1953, since Hillcrest-Mohawk was supplying only facilities to the Coleman Collieries, they bought $300,000 worth of shares in the Coleman Collieries for $25,000 with a promise that they would build a $500,000 plant that would be able of pressing 50 tons of coal slack per hour to create briquettes for back yard barbeques and CPR fireboxes (Wilson, 2002). By 1955 the facility was completed, costing $136,000 more than what was plan, and only capable of pressing 30 tons of briquettes per hour (Wilson, 2002). After this shortcoming the Coleman Collieries were motivated to get Hillcrest-Mohawk out of the picture, especially since the Mohawk Tipple was independent of Coleman’s operation. As a result, the Coleman Collieries refurbished International’s tipple, making the Mohawk Tipple obsolete.
           The final nail in the coffin for the Mohawk Tipple was the fire in the nearly abandoned tipple in October of 1953. This fire explains the inside of the tipple that seems almost chewed up, with coal chutes in their original positions but with melted holes and debris around the area. It is really quite unfortunate that the Crowsnest Pass did not provide any information on the tipple itself for a roadside attraction, as the tipple still stands proudly today. However it is understandable that the Provincial Government does not want any unsuspecting tourists to explore the ruins and get seriously injured. Today the Mohawk Tipple is not only an awe inspiring sight, it is also hazardous and should be left to its own until proper and safe access to it can open its history once again the public’s gaze.
            
Photos
  1. Mohawk Tipple Floor Level
    Mohawk Tipple Floor Level
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  2. Coal Chutes
    Coal Chutes
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  3. Looking Outside...
    Looking Outside...
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  4. Inside the Mohawk Tipple
    Inside the Mohawk Tipple
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  5. Graffiti
    Graffiti
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  6. CPR Tracks
    CPR Tracks
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  7. Mohawk Tipple
    Mohawk Tipple
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  8. Crowsnest Pass
    Crowsnest Pass
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  9. Epitaph to King Coal
    Epitaph to King Coal
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  10. Breathtaking Heights
    Breathtaking Heights
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  11. Outside the Tipple
    Outside the Tipple
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  12. Mohawk Tipple
    Mohawk Tipple
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  13. More Graffiti
    More Graffiti
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  14. From the Tracks
    From the Tracks
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  15. Machinery Remains
    Machinery Remains
    Photo by Jason Ferris
  16. Mohawk Tipple
    Mohawk Tipple
    Photo by Jason Ferris
References
Decoux, Vernon. "Dismantling of Hillcrest-Mohawk Mine At Bellevue Gets Under
Way." The Lethbridge Herald 21 Jan. 1952: 3. Print.
 
Hatcher, Colin. "Atlas of Alberta Railways -- Small Resource Railways and Other
Lines." Atlas of Alberta Railways -- Small Resource Railways and Other Lines. 2005. Web. 2 Sept. 2015.
 
Rinaldi, Adie. "Maple Leaf." Crowsnest and Its People. Coleman, Alta.: Crowsnest
Pass Historical Society, 1979. Print. Pg. 155 – 157.
 
Wilson, D.M. "Amalgamation and the “Demise of Mining", “Crowsnest Lake”,
“MapleLeaf Coal Company.” Crowsnest Highway. 2 Feb.
2002. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. .
    
Photos taken by:
Deadwood Imaging (Jason Ferris)