The Corbin Coke and Coal Company began operations in 1908 after a sizable coal seam was discovered in the Elk Valley. The “Big Showing” contained nearly a million tons of coal
Corbin miners endured low pay, isolation, harsh winters and unsteady work. The 1908 – 1909 winter was especially difficult because heavy snowfalls further isolated the community, causing dangerously low food supplies.
In 1935, after many years of labour unrest, disagreements between the miners and the company resulted in a bitter strike. The strike could not have happened at a worse time. Like many coal suppliers, Corbin Coal lost its contract with the CPR when the trains switched from coal to diesel in the 1930s. An underground fire was blazing at the onset of the strike and there was little manpower to fight it. In desperation, the company called in the provincial police to seal off the single access road and cut off power to miners’ homes.
After three months of failed arbitration attempts and an announcement by Corbin Coal to bring in non-union workers, on April 17, 1935 miners took their “last stand”.
That morning, a heavy snowfall blanketed the road to No. 3 mine. Unwilling to remain idle while union breakers took their jobs, miners organized a mass protest, forming a human barricade and armed themselves with rocks and tools.
It quickly became clear that neither side would back down. As the gap between union members and police narrowed, one of the protesters hurled a rock at the caterpillar operator hired to clear snow along the route, knocking him unconscious. Chaos broke out with police charging ahead to meet the crowd. Officers beat miners with clubs and batons; the miners fought back with hammers, and the women stayed on the line. The caterpillar was still running with no one at its helm and it drove into the crowd crushing and scattering people out of its way. The strike ended only when police reinforcements arrived and arrested 14 strikers.
By early May 1935, with prospects looking bleak, Corbin Coke and Coal operations were shut down completely.
To reach the cache:
From Cranbrook, follow Hwy 3 past Sparwood and turn right at the Coal Creek Collieries sign: 49 40.276 N 114 46.732 W.
Follow this paved road for approx. 25 km. When you see the first house on right, turn right onto the dirt road (Barnes Road) and park. You are now very close to the cache.
Cache contents: logbook, pencil and misc. sundry items.