The sawmills
One early industry in the Beaver Hills with its rich old forests (as the fires did not burn down all of the trees) were the sawmills.

  • R.P. Ottewell in partnership with Alex Rea ran two mills, one near the west end of Cooking Lake and the other on the north side of Old Man Creek, just south of the present Yellowhead Highway. Mr. Ottewell was the engineer and Mr. Rea the sawyer.
  • Elk Island Park was rich in poplar, tamarack and spruce. About 1900, Mr. Alex Kelsey of Ypres Valley set up a mill attracting settlers bringing logs from miles around. The Kelsey Mill squared logs and cut roofing lumber.
  • Ludwig Prochnau of Josephburg designed and built his own lumber mill in 1918. It remained in use until 1970.
  • The John Ball family (John Sr. & Sons) ran three mills at varying times around Cooking Lake, along the Pembina River, and lastly on John Ball's homestead where Sherwood Park stands today.
  • Where the hamlet of South Cooking Lake is now, Mr. Chadwick established a mill around 1900 using the heavily timbered forests around it for wood supplies.
  • Bill Stewart set up a steam-powered mill further south near Ministik Lake which ran from 1902 to 1912.

Coal mining

Coal mining was another employment opportunity for some homesteaders.

  • Enoch Caverhill started an early coal mine in the 1890s south of the North Saskatchewan River.
  • The Keith and Fulton Mine opened in 1902, and the Daly and Lindsay Mine later that same year.
  • The Great West Coal Company started in 1903, and employed up to 200 miners.

All of these were located south of the North Saskatchewan River between Highway 14 and 17 Street.

  • The Fraser-McKay Mine opened in 1904 (Byers Brothers) and closed in 1941.
  • The Ottewell Coal Company No. 1 also opened in 1904, and employed up to 30 men.
  • The largest producing mine in the Edmonton area was the Black Diamond Mine; it operated from 1903 to 1952. The entrance to this mine was just to the south of Strathcona Science Park exhibits building entrance.
  • The Marcus Coal Company (1917 to 1940) was located just south of Highway 16 east, near the Alberta Research Council, and employed up to 115 men.
  • The new Ottewell mine (1932 to 1950) produced more than 10,000 tonnes annually, and was located west of 34 Street and south of the Baseline Road.
  • The Red Hot Mine (1931 to 1951) was also a good producer; it was located at the south side of the Capilano Bridge.
  • The last producing coal mine in Strathcona County was the Whitemud Creek Mine (1952-1970), and was found just north of Whitemud Freeway, at the west side of the creek.

As oil came on line in the 1950s, the coal mines in the area gradually closed.


The current chapter of Strathcona County’s resource history opens with the February 13, 1947 discovery of oil at Leduc Number 1, just a few kilometres to the southeast. What better place than here in Strathcona to refine and manufacture that oil?

Imperial Oil is the first to come, transplanting a refinery from Whitehorse in 1948. In 1951, British American Oil builds another refinery nearby. Together they create the nucleus of Refinery Row.

Today, dozens of petrochemical companies dot the landscape in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland. Home to 75 per cent of western Canada’s refining capacity, they contribute to a strong tax base . . . and provide jobs for thousands within Strathcona County borders and beyond.

Last updated: Wednesday, September 02, 2020
Page ID: 41151