In 1903 a new townsite was laid out a few kilometres west of Blairmore to service a new coal mine operated by the International Coal and Coke Company. After the names Paulson’s Camp and McGillivray Hill were rejected by the post office, the new town was called Coleman after the daughter of the mine owner A. C. Flumerfelt. A feature of the town was the mine’s 100 (later 216) coke ovens located at the edge of town, which operated from 1906 to 1952. The town grew rapidly, surpassing its neighbor Blairmore as the largest in the region. Coleman boasted a successful opera house from 1908 until it burned down in 1948.
Emperor Pic and the death of Constable Lawson. Because of its proximity to the BC border, Coleman saw much conflict between the Alberta Provincial Police and the rum-runners during the Prohibition of 1916 – 1924. The Pass’ most famous rum-runner, Emilio “Emperor Pic” Picariello, confronted Cst Lawson in front of the APP barracks after learning that his son had been injured by Lawson during a rum-running incident. An argument ensued, shots were fired, and Cpl. Lawson was killed in front of his young daughter, the only witness. No one is really sure who fired the fatal shot, but both Picariello and his companion Filumena Lossandro were eventually convicted of murder and executed just months before the repeal of prohibition in Alberta. Lossandro is the only woman to have been executed by hanging in Alberta.
Coleman persevered through strikes (1911 and 1932), floods (1923 and 1942) and fires (1948). As the coal mines in the region gradually closed, Coleman’s commercial importance waned in favor of Blairmore. Coleman joined four other local towns in amalgamation into the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass in 1979.
Coleman’s mine site, commercial area, and streets lined with miner’s cottages has been designated a National Historic Site by Parks Canada. While strolling down its historic streets, visitors can read the many interpretive signs and building plaques, see the ruins of its coal plant and coke ovens, and visit a regional museum where you can obtain a Coleman National Historic Site booklet. Many of these sites are identified on the Heritage Driving Tour map. Flumerfelt Park, named after the first mine owner, is the trailhead for The Miners’ Path, a pleasant heritage trail once trodden by miners on their way to work.