July 30, 1905: Daniel Corbin, a Washington railway entrepreneur, gazed upon an 80-metre thick seem of high-grad bituminous coal in southeastern British Columbia. This find led to the formation of the town of Corbin, where, in 1935, workers would wage a long and bitter strike that culminated in the writing of “a page of unparalleled police brutality in Canadian history.” (Quote from Ralph Wootton, official for United Mine Workers of Canada, April 30 1935)
‘Coal Mountain’ illustrated by Nicole Marie Burton and produced by the Graphic History Collective, is about the Corbin Miners’ Strike of 1935. The story remains relatively unknown outside of academic circles.
To read the first Chapter of Coal Mountain for free, visit the GHC Blog!
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains of eastern British Columbia, Corbin was a company town of 600 in its first years. There was no power and now plumbing, and the only way in or out of the town was the railway.
Soon, families joined the miners. Miners without families stayed in the company boarding house for about a dollar a night – incredibly expensive housing costs for the time.
On the morning of April 17, 1935, the Corbin miners strike came to a head with a massive confrontation of miners, their wives, and Corbin Collieries company men, accompanied by B.C. provincial police.
Miners’ wives formed a front-line human shield ahead of the strikers. Linking arms, they refused to allow the company men to re-open the mines that had been closed for months.
The company, assisted by baton-waving police, lurched forward, slamming their way through the strikers and their wives. The brutality exerted on the miners’ wives prompted their husbands, behind them, to rush forward, making it impossible to clear the crowd.