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Black Diamond a gem in Alberta’s oil and gas history

Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Canadian Rockies and situated at the crossroads of Highways 7 and 22 is the quaint little town of Black Diamond — a community with a storied history on display for all to see and experience.

Black Diamond takes its name from coal discovered in the area in the late 1800s by government land surveyor James A. McMillan while he was digging an irrigation ditch. By 1899, Ad McPherson and J.J. Cooper had opened a coalmine west of town near the bank of the Sheep River. The mine produced high-grade coal for home use, which was hauled by horse to Okotoks along a rough wagon trail at a rate of about 650 tons per year.

The original mine site is still visible to the west of the highway approaching the Black Diamond bridge.

Ranchers settled in the area in the 1880s and ranching and farming remain the primary industry in Black Diamond. Pioneers, miners and ranchers continued moving into the area and in 1907 the town began to take on the appearance it maintains today with the construction of Herb Arnold’s store and post office at the intersection of Centre Avenue (Highway 7) and Government Road (Highway 22) what is now the Black Diamond Hotel.

The discovery of oil and gas in the neighbouring town of Turner Valley sparked a population boom. By 1929, more than 1,000 people called Black Diamond home. Many oilfield workers lived in tents with their families, but house construction quickly followed. Many stories tell of brilliant gas flares from the Turner Valley oilfields that provided enough light to allow house construction to continue well into the night.

The period from 1914 to 1947 was called the ‘Boomtown Era’ in Black Diamond and Turner Valley as the oilfields formed the heart of Alberta’s growing oil industry. During this period many buildings were constructed or moved from neighbouring communities to meet the high demand for commercial space. Many of these buildings remain today and thanks to the Main Street Project surviving structures have been restored to preserve both their history and functionality. These buildings form the centre of Black Diamond’s commercial sector with many unique shops, restaurants, cafés and art galleries.

Today, Black Diamond is a growing community with many services and attractions. The town boasts schools, library, hospital, campgrounds, walking trails and recreation facilities. The town also includes parks, playgrounds and a community garden.

Black Diamond is also part of the Cowboy Trail (www.thecowboytrail.com) and the Trail of the Great Bear (www.trailofthegreatbear.com).

 

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