If you've been following this year's series on ghost towns, I'm sad to say it's over but I'm also glad to be starting something new. For our November/December issue we featured Lille in the Crowsnest Pass. You haven't heard of this once booming mining town? It's actually one of the more popular ghost towns in the area. With this popularity comes a flood of stories, news articles and Google searches, all about Lille. Some stories are credible, some not. This is where the fun part comes in.
The ghost towns we featured included: Retlaw, Woolford, Whiskey Gap, Kimball, and Travers. Retlaw was one of the other ghost towns that a lot of people had heard of. Therefore, I received lots of information on it. Retlaw is close to Lethbridge, and the church there is still used today.
What I found while working on the ghost town series is that the more popular a town is, the more information we could find on it. Greg Ellis, the former archivist at the Galt Museum & Archives was my trusty sidekick for most of the ghost town stories. He provided me with information about the towns from old Lethbridge Herald articles, books written specifically about ghost towns, history books, and any other juicy tidbits he could dig up. My problem came about when Lille had conflicting information in two separate articles. One article from Ghost Towns of Southern Alberta Volume 2, said "Bernhard" coke ovens were built with special bricks from Belgium, while the other story from Crowsnest & It's People said "Bernard" cooking ovens were built with imported bricks. I would think Bernard coke ovens sounds more correct than Bernhard but I can't just assume these things. You know what they say about assuming. So I sent an email to the Galt Museum and they cleared up that conflicting information. They were definitely called Bernard coke ovens.
The second problem I came across was from a 1951 Lethbridge Herald newspaper that said the hotel, hospital and school at Lille were sold and dismantled. However, a story I read in Ghost Town Stories of Alberta, and a website I was using for research, said that the buildings were left in Lille and were now ruins that people could visit.
The world's not going to end if there's conflicting information. It's just a pain in the butt. Greg actually retired from his job at the Galt Museum while I was working on this article; so again, I sent his assistant Trish an email asking to clarify some of the things I was worried about.
I guess all I'm really saying is you would think with more information you would be better informed to write about a topic. But that's not always the case. Sometimes with an enormous amount of information in front of you, you really have to sift through the garbage to find the gold.
While I'm here I also want to say "Thank you" to the Galt Museum & Archives for always responding to my vast amount of emails and questions. The museum is such a great resource for these history articles, and I know they have a ton of requests from other people as well, so their help is very much appreciated.