Front or Dominion Street, Frank, before the slide
Postcards From the Past, PC 819
“At dawn, on April 29, 1903, a huge rock mass, nearly half a mile square and probably 400 to 500 feet thick in places, suddenly broke loose from the east face of Turtle mountain and precipitated itself with terrible violence into the valley beneath, overwhelming everything in its course. “ This is how the report on the landslide describes the terrible events of 107 years ago. 100 people of the population of 600 lived in the path of the slide. Seventy were believed to have perished. Property destroyed included the tipple and plant at the mouth of the Canadian American Coal and Coke Co. Mine, a barn and seven cottages belonging to the company, a half-dozen outlying houses and ranches and a considerable number of horses and cattle. The railway track was buried for 7000 feet.
The structure of Turtle Mountain, looming over the town of roughly 600 people, was unstable and may have been further destabilized by coal mining. The rail line to the town was buried but the quick actions of Sid Choquette, a brakeman, stopped the Crow’s Nest express passenger train that was on a collision course with the tons of rock on the track ahead. It was reported in the newspaper that the trauma of witnessing these events caused Mr. Choquette to suffer a breakdown (“gone crazy” was how the newspaper put it). Even several days after the event, the cause was not known and speculation was that it was caused by a volcanic eruption or an earthquake.
The paper includes some miraculous tales of survival, like that of the Ennis family whose house was rolled over three times but the family survived with just bruises. Some of the miners, who were trapped inside the mine by the slide, were rescued. The Daily Herald of Thursday April 30, 1903, included a list of those who were known to be killed by the slide and includes nine unnamed Russian Polish miners, six unnamed miners from Lancashire, and two unknown miners from Wales in addition to the merchants, miners, ranchers, men, women and children whose names were known.
Dominion Avenue/Front Street after the Slide
Postcards from the Past, PC 432
Some of the oldest newspaper clippings we have in the Community Heritage and Family History collection are clippings from 1903 about the slide. We also have the official report, issued in 1904 by the Department of the Interior (PAM FILE 363.349 MCC). We also have photographic postcards of Frank both before and after the slide. The contrast of what it was and what it became is quite startling. You can look at these postcards in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Collection (the link is in the left hand column) by searching the term “Frank”.
This was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Alberta. The events of that night have remained in the minds and imaginations of Albertans since then. The site remains mostly as it was and serves as a monument to those who lost their lives and a reminder of the power of nature.
Frank, Alberta, nestled at the foot of Turtle Mountain
Postcards from the Past, PC 270