Coal Miners' Registry

by Helen Tilley

After I compiled and edited the book, South Wellington:Stories from the Past, published by the South Wellington Historical Committee in 2010, I received many requests about how to find out who worked at the five local coal mines. Were there any lists of miners' names? I had never found any in the primary resources of archives, museums and libraries where I had done my research. There were lots of records of the companies who owned the mines but no lists of the miners or other employees who worked there, apart from those miners who had died or been seriously injured, mentioned in some years of the Annual Report of the Minister of Mines.

Coal mining contributed much to the local economy of South Wellington from 1884, when Alexandra Mine opened, until 1952, when the last mine, No. 10, closed. Between those years there were three other mines, South Wellington Mine (Richardson and Fiddick Slopes), Morden Mine and No. 5 Mine. When I started compiling my registry, I had no idea how many men the mines employed. I am finding out now that the numbers were substantial. Mines like No. 5 and No. 10 had over 300 to 400 men working above and below ground each day.

I have been interested in the history of South Wellington and collecting information about it for years. In April of 2012, I decided to start a miners' registry for South Wellington, making a list of miners' names extracted from research material I had on hand such as old directories, censuses, voters' lists, Annual Report of the Minister of Mines, newspaper articles, family stories from our book, etc. I soon had over 2,300 entries and I'm adding more all the time. Around 180 of those miners worked at Morden Mine and many hundreds of other names I have found are possible Morden miners but the material I have doesn't say definitively whether it was Morden or another mine also open at the same time in which they worked.

Why am I doing this? The purpose of my list is to recognize and remember the men who worked in our local South Wellington coal mines. They worked under terrible conditions, and some even gave their lives to the job. The registry is a start until, sometime soon (we hope), the Morden head frame and tipple can be restored as a fitting memorial to all Vancouver Island coal miners. I am hoping the registry will be especially useful to genealogists seeking that elusive coal miner in their family or to local historians looking for more sources from which to glean information about our South Wellington coal mines.

A typical entry in my registry includes the mine name, miner's name, job, year he was employed and the source of that information: e.g. Morden / John W Milburn miner / 1916 / mine report 1916 p. 508. This means that John W Milburn worked as a miner at Morden mine in 1916 and I obtained this information from the 1916 Annual Report of the Minister of Mines on page 508.

I would love to hear from you if you have names to add to my miners' registry or if you are looking for a name and wonder if that person worked at any of the South Wellington mines. You can contact me at:
Helen Tilley, shackinthewoods@telus.net, or 250-754-4714. I am also recording names of miners who worked at other Vancouver Island coal mines and hope in the future to have a wider scope for this registry