The Turtle Mountain – Souris Plains Heritage Association has released a short documentary entitled “Turtle Mountain Mud: Manitoba’s Coal Mines”
Many people in the Deloraine/Goodlands area are quite familiar with the story about how John and Ole Nestibo’s discovery of a coal seam while digging a well on the Henderson farm, resulted in the only successful attempts to mine coal in the region.
Using archival photos, footage of the site today, and an interview with local historian and educator Bob Caldwell, the documentary traces the history of attempts to mine coal in the Turtle Mountain region. The story begins with the early, but failed attempts in the late 1800’s, but the main focus is on the side-by-side Henderson and Salter mines that operated in the 1930’s. It was those two mines that provided much need depression-era jobs and much appreciated cheaper coal for the region.
Early Attempts - 1880 - 1910
The first discovery of coal in the area was also the result of a well-digging operation a few kilometres south of Boissevain in 1879.
Over the next 25 years several mines were located on the western edge of Turtle Mountain where deep creek beds allowed access to a coal seam.
But there were problems from the start. Water seepage was a big issue. Despite high hopes, determined effort, and considerable investment, bringing this low-grade coal out of the earth and on to market just didn’t pay.
So the coal stayed in the ground – for a few decades longer.
Re-Discovering the Coal the 1930’s
The depression changed everything. Drought brought crop failures; the stock market crash brought low farm prices and unemployment. Cheaper coal would be popular, and cheap labour was available.
So when the Nestibo brothers found what appeared to be a good supply, they quickly made a deal with the landowner, Mr. Henderson, to start a mine.
Within weeks, 40 tons of coal were removed and sales were being made at $2 a ton.
It was a good start. The next year, the Nestibos decided to work the same deposit for Tom Salter, whose property sat right alongside the Henderson Mine. George Cain took over operation on the Henderson property.
Thus, for several years, two side-by-side mines produced coal and provided jobs for the community.
The documentary is available on YouTube and is for sale at the Municipal Offices, Museums, Libraries, Melita New Era which sell our Vantage Points Series or call Bill Warren at 204-634-2482. Visit our website at www.vantagepoints.ca for more details.