My Genealogy and History Page of
 Eastern Collieries of Bienfait Ltd.


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 ** WARNING **
 Old Abandoned Underground Coal Mines can be Very Dangerous,
 Due to Collapse, and Mine Gases (Noxious and Flammable).
 Extreme Care should be taken around them, due to Falls, Sudden Ground Collapse, and Bad Air,
 and in NO Circumstances should People enter into ANY Mine Openings, or Associated Caves.

 The Material Contained on my Sites, is NOT to Encourage Personal Investigation of these Mines,
 But only as a Historical Record of these Long Abandoned Mines.
 Please View these Mines from a Far, Safe and Legal Distance.
  Always Observe Private Property Rights, and Obey ALL Warning Signs. 

Brand: Eastern

Eastern Collieries of Bienfait Ltd.
aka: The Eastern Mine`

Sec 13 and 24

Eastern Mine is shown as C on this map from 1927

C on this map above- 
 49 deg, 08’, 09.31” N
 102 deg, 49’ 21.12”W

Dec 1933 Map
of the "Big 5" Coal Mines near Bienfait

Opened in 1922- closed late 40`s
Mar 7, 1922 article stated a new mine had opened up,
1/2 mile west of town, and it will be called the "Eastern Collieries"
capitalized at $400,000.00
work was to begin within 2 weeks.

Deep Seam Type Mine originally
Later switched to Strip Mining like the newer mines
Only instead of draglines,
 they used cats and scrapers to clear the overburden.

Owned by Herbert (Herb) Wallace,
and his brother, of Estevan.
*Only brother I have found would be John Wallace, b- 1879
Haven't found him in Estevan yet.

President and Managing Director
Herbert (Herb) Wallace
b- Apr 2, 1877 in Tiny, Simcoe Co., ON

Father- Thomas Wallace,
b- Sept 24, 1853, in Toronto, ON
Mother- Charlotte C. Wallace, nee Edwards,
b- Oct 18, 1857, from Wyebridge ON

Father and Mother of Herb living in North Bay ON in 1928
shown there in 1901 census, Thomas a General Merchant, Presbyterian, Scotch
Herb shown as a Grocery Clerk

Mr. and Mrs. Herb Wallace lived on 3rd St. in Estevan, ca 1928

Herb Wallace was elected Chairman of the Saskatchewan Branch
of the Canadian Manufacturers Assoc. Jan 1939
2 other Local Area men on the Executive:
1. Michael "Mike" Phillip Sloan- Chippewa Water Co.
b- Apr 23, 1875
d- Nov 4, 1954
buried in Estevan Cemetery
2. Albert "Bert" E. Turner- Western Dominion Coal Mines, Taylorton
He was Secretary- Treasurer at the mine until he retired in 1948

Herbert Wallace's son Thomas Donald (Don) Wallace,
worked underground, and appears in a couple pictures below.
Don was an ECI alumni, who died in 1961
In July 2009 I heard from Herb's granddaughter Donna Kranyak,
and she was kind enough to share photos and family info.

They also had a daughter Dorothy Wallace
in 1928, she was at the University of Chicago Hospital.

Herb's wife was Jessie  C. Wallace, nee Morris.
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Morris
one of the Pioneer families of North Bay ON.
Jessie moved to Ontario after leaving the west.

Herb and Jessie married Sept 8, 1903 in North Bay ON

Moved to Estevan in 1920, from many years living in Cobalt ON

Siblings of Herb Wallace, all born in ON:

1. John Wallace, b- 1879
(age 2 in 1881 census with Herb, and Mother and Father)
2. Edith Wallace, b- July 24, 1881
3. Ellie Wallace, b- Feb 2, 1884
4. Jennie Wallace, b- Nov 25, 1888
5. Robert Franklin Wallace,
 b- June 29, 1895 Midland ON
d- Aug 10, 1918
buried- Bouchoir New British Cemetery, Somme, France
Robert enlisted in WWI, Jan 11, 1916 in Kingston ON
Reg #304645, rank GNR
was a Single Student, living in Kingston when he enlisted.
Driver, Canadian Field Artillery, Army

An article in an Eastern Canada Newspaper, Aug 20, 1920,
stated Eastern Financial Men have organized capital of $500,000
to form a Company known as Western Collieries Ltd.
and H. Wallace of Cobalt ON. one of the promoters
was the General Manager.
How it became Eastern Collieries Ltd.  is unknown.
The Company had secured 630 acres, and in addition to coal mining,
they will establish a large Brick Pressing Plant.

5th largest mine in 1931
Part of the Big Six, time of Sept 29,1931 Strike

Edward Pierce Jr. was Mine Manager at one point. 
b- Jan 1896, Wigan Reg. dist., Ashton in Makerfield, Lancashire, England
died July 30, 1973
buried in Estevan City Cemetery
Obviously in 1931 at least, see below.
There was a Edward Pierce,
Provincial Inspector of Mines for SK Govt., ca 1920,
and he lived in Roche Percee at the time.
He took out a patent for a "Pierce Reaction Heater or Furnace",
in May 1923, claimed to burn Lignite coal, slack coal and mine refuse.
a Mr. E. F. Pierce held the office of the Noble Grand
 in the Oddfellows in Estevan.

Found a Edward and Annie Pierce in Roche Percee,
and they had a daughter Annie "Nancy" Pierce,
 b- Nov 3, 1917 in Roche Percee
On May 10, 1939, she married John "Jack" Garner
and she died in Grand Forks ca July 2001
Annie Garner, nee Pierce attended school
 in Roche Percee and Estevan
She worked in the family owned Grocery Store in Bienfait.
She also worked in Regina
She moved to the US in 1949
Annie "Nancy" Garner - - 1917 - 2001

This was Edward Pierce Sr.,
b- 1873, in Hanley, Staffordshire, England
d- May 25, 1932
1901 UK census- age 28, Coal Hewer in Ashton in Makerfield, Lancashire, England
1911 census coal miner living in Roche Percee
immigrated in 1906, from Liverpool to Montreal
He was on the coroner's jury for the 3 miners
 killed in the Estevan Riot
one of the first school trustees in Roche Percee
married May 12, 1894, at St Thomas, Ashton in Makerfield, Lancashire, England
wife- Annie Pierce, nee Atherton,
 b- June 19, 1875, in England
d- July 29, 1952
immigrated in Feb 1907

all buried in Estevan City Cemetery
Annie was 19, Edward Sr., age 21, Collier,
 when they married, both from Stubshaw Cross
father of Ed Sr.- Thomas Pierce, Collier
father of Annie, Edward Atherton, Collier

Edward Pierce Jr. was also mine manager
at Western Dominion Mine in Mar 1938

siblings of Edward Pierce Jr. besides Annie Garner above:
William Pierce,
 b- Dec 1897 in Wigan Reg. dist., Lancashire, England
Alfred Pierce,
b- Apr  20,1901 in Wigan Reg. dist., Lancashire, England
d- Sept 14, 1964
buried in Estevan City Cemetery
Miriam Pierce,
b- July 1903 in Wigan Reg. dist., Lancashire, England
d- June 11, 1918, age 14 years, 11 mo, she drowned in river.
buried in Taylorton Cemetery
Wilson Pierce,
b- Nov 1907 in SK

A Mr. R. D. Newsome is shown in a picture below,
in the Bienfait Museum, as Mine Manager,
He was a lawyer in Estevan starting in 1924.
He was also an Estevan town councillor in 1930
Practiced law in Estevan until at least 1980
He was also a lawyer in Weyburn.
Raymond Dawson Newsome
applied to PEI Bar in 1919
b- Sept 17, 1894 in Bedeque, PEI
d- Apr 5, 1996
father- Samuel Wesley Newsome
living at 109 Bughton St., Charlottetown, PEI, Nov 9, 1915
mother- Charlotte Jane Dawson
Raymond was in WWI, Rank GNR, Reg #522093
enlisting Nov 9, 1915 at Halifax NS

I know a Francis (Frank) Edward Newsome
 was mine manager at one point here.
He was born in Registration district of Lambeth,
 near London England, Aug 1878,
died July 5, 1945, in Moose jaw Hospital,
funeral St. Paul's United Church in Estevan.
buried in Estevan City Cemetery
He married Mary Elizabeth Densley,
 in the Registration district of Bristol, in England, between Jan-Mar in 1904
They lived in Bienfait for many years, later moving to Estevan.
Came to Estevan from England with his wife in 1906.
He retired to Vancouver in 1942, because of ill health.
He lived for 2 years in Moose Jaw before his death there.
They had one daughter Frances Newsome.
Frank managed the mines at Bienfait, and Crescent mines also.

My Dad Phil Gent worked underground at this mine in the 30's.
In his life history book he wrote:
"A Job was waiting for me at the Eastern, with or without horse.
On Nov 1, 1931,  I started to be a Coal Miner.
Ed Pierce was Manager,
and Herb Wallace was Assistant Manager.
A month had gone by since the strike
 and there was still lots of trouble in the air. 
Some miners got their jobs back, some were shut out.
James Anthony (Jim) Thompson
b- ca 1908
d- Sept 27, 1932
buried in Bienfait Cemetery
(Howard Day's wife's brother)
 was a hard working driver underground
spoke his mind to his bosses and fellow workers.
He went down the mine to take timbers etc. south of the mine.
The mine wasn't working that day but he was doing his job.
I happened to be above ground fixing a barn for my horse
 not far from the shaft, when I heard 3 gongs.
This meant a man is coming up on the cage.
Then I heard 3 more gongs.  This meant trouble!
I opened the 2 big doors.
Four men were carrying Jim's body on a grain door.
An inquest was held and it was called foul play.
Jim had been struck on the back of the neck.
Someone had to volunteer to go down into the mine from 6:00PM to 6AM.
Pete Wendel (cousin of the Gesell family) volunteered.
He went down with 2 revolvers and a flashlight to look for trouble.
All shafts and entries to the mine were shut off.
The area on top was guarded. 
Pete came up near 7 o'clock the next morning.
We went down to work and Pete's pigeon-toed marks were all over the workings
so he had been on the move.
He had found nothing, so Jim's death was considered an accident.

Sept 28, 1932
My next job was above ground.  I had to haul bug dust
with a horse and cart to the prairie.  I played out 2 horses each day.
Then I hauled nut slack to fill boxcars.
We worked with shovels 10 hours a day- 2 men, loading 30-40 ton.
Sometimes we went back after supper to finish loading the car.
The Company got that car loaded for less than 3 bucks.
I then went underground again. 
Conditions were such that the difference between being 6 feet under
 and 110 feet is you have a light at 110 feet.
The risk was there all day.
You had an entry 8 feet wide, with a 6 foot car on the rails.
You are between the horse and the Coal Car,
going like hell with sprags in the wheels to slow them up.
When we were extra busy and were pushed there were accidents."

He goes on to write-
"One of my worst nights underground. I was tanking water with a horse.
The horse knew it was unsafe, he was very jittery.
 Everything in that section was about to cave in.
Three men were trapped behind a 6 to 7 foot wall of clay, right beside us.
They finally all came out and we all ran when all 10 rooms caved in.
The horse sense of the horse saved us all."

Another close call-
"Was on the cutting machine with Herman Widdifield (future brother-in-law),
12 hours a day and work like hell.  Machine went berserk,
we were covered with slack, our lights had gone out
and the machine was still working. Got out of that one!"

And Sick time off work??
"Another time I knocked my head on the roof of the mine when my horse kicked.
 Had to go a mile for help and was all red with blood and black from coal. 
Taken to Dr. and had stitches in head.  Next morning, back to work."

Just west of Bienfait, north of Hwy 39
We lived on the Sherman / Gent farm,
just south of this mine,
on the south side of Highway 39 at that time.
This company owned the mineral rights under our farm in 1940.
Note- Highway 18 to Bienfait, goes on a NE angle just North of this site,
and the new Highway 39, now turns south before this area.
The part of Hwy 39, shown in the 2004 picture below,
is a long abandoned portion of this Highway.
Highway 39, south from the corner of our farm, 1 mi S. of Bienfait,
is now closed for strip mining (2007-2008).
The mining company got approval to close the highway
to Roche Percee, from this old corner, to the new Highway 39.

Tipple Located SE 1/4
  Section 24- Township 2- Range 7- West of the 2nd Meridian
They owned the mineral rights for Section 13 and 24

This Picture is a brief description
 of the Coal Mine Tipple

Coal ad ca Nov 30, 1932
Price of coal in 1932

In my Dad's history-
"In April (Dad wrote- date unknown, but after 1936)
(the magazine on page 3 says 1939)
 the Eastern Collieries had a fire.
It burnt 3 box cars and the tipple, and the fire went down the shaft
and started a fire in the deep seam.
That was the end of my work underground.
It took Herman (Herman Widdifield), Mike Novak, Jim (his brother Jim Gent)
and himself, to fill in the 100 foot shaft with dirt, by wheelbarrow!
Sixteen horses died in the underground fire."
My dad quit mining in 1942, and went farming full time.

Eastern Mine is shown as C on this map from 1927
Shown as the large Orange C on this map above
Click to enlarge thumbnails

Eastern Mine site, ca 2004

My Mom and Dad's first House at Eastern Collieries

Mom & Dad's house at the Eastern Mine

Known as the Deepest Shaft Coal Mine in Saskatchewan

Most Photos below at the Bienfait Museum

The "Old" Eastern Mine Tipple 1920-21
This tipple Burnt down in 1925
Rebuilt between 1938 and 1940

Picture of the remains of the 1925 fire,
 taken in 1938

The "New" Eastern Mine Tipple 1940

Same picture as below
with a new caption now

Parting for gathering of Coal
for delivery to Shaft Bottom
Raymond Dawson Newsome, Mine Manager
 shown in center of picture

Eastern Mine
Showing Under Cut Machine
in shearing position
Workers L/R-
Jim Duncan, Jim Gent, Don Wallace.
Jim Gent was my Uncle

Eastern Mine,
Stripping with Cat and Scraper
ca late 40's
Stripping the dirt off the Coal
"new" Eastern tipple in the left background.

Eastern Mine,
Stripping with Cat and Scraper
ca late 40's
Stripping the dirt off the Coal
"new" Eastern tipple in the left background.

Using a small Cat to move a loaded
CPR Box Car loaded with Coal.

Eastern Mine, shovel loading coal
into a truck for delivery to the Tipple.
Using Strip Mining methods here.
Caption says 12ft Seam.
ca late 40's
Lorain 75B Diesel powered shovel
approx 1.25 yd bucket
made by the Thew Shovel Company in Lorain Ohio.

 View the pictures above
in better quality
at the Bienfait Museum

My Dad, Phil Gent's Pay slip
Dec 1938 from this mine
He earned $31.95 for the MONTH of December.
.30 cents/hour
From that they deducted $14.50
His take home for the month= $17.45
plus the $3.75 worth of coal he probably bought
for use at home.
Dr Fairbairn's fee was $2.00 a month.
Tough to make a living at those prices.

found a Aug 24, 1939 article with this fellow listed:
John R. Kerr
b- Dec 1873, in Ayrshire, Scotland
d- Aug 23, 1939, at Passburg, AB, age 65.
buried in Blairmore cemetery, Pincher Creek Co. AB.
Described as Pioneer General merchant
of Passburg and Bienfait.
He came to Canada in 1903.
Resided first at Bienfait and Estevan
where he held an official position
with the Eastern Collieries.
He moved to Passburg in 1906,
where he was Manager of the "Leitch Collieries Ltd." Coal Co., Passburg AB.
which operated until 1915.
Aug 1919 the whole company was being liquidated.
It was incorporated in 1907.
some sources say he was Pit Boss at the mine.
With his brother William Kerr,
he prospected the Passburg mine, for
William Lemond Hamilton.
(see my Crescent Mine page for his history)

In 1910 John and William Kerr, opened a store in Passburg
which operated until 1938.
seen his name as Jack Kerr as well.

John (Sr.) married, Annie Kerr, nee Runciman
b- Dec 1893
d- 1932

Had 3 children:
John Kerr (Jr.),
b- Oct 1907 in AB
member of the RCMP,
living in Prince Albert in 1939.

James "Jim" Runciman Kerr
b- Feb 1905 in SK
living in Coleman AB in 1932

Mary Kerr
b- aft 1911 in AB
at home in 1932

his brother William "Bill" Kerr
b- Dec 1878 in Scotland, living at home 1932,
June 1, 1908, William Kerr was Postmaster at Passburg AB.
and he had a number of other brothers and sisters.

family history in Local History Book: Crowsnest & It's People - Pincher Creek
I don't have this book, and have never seen a copy of it



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Apr 12, 2012

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