The Town of Hinton and surrounding areas, are located within the ancestral and traditional territory of the Indigenous peoples of this area. This land has been and will continue to be home to the Plains Cree First Nations, Nakota First Nations, Denesuline First Nations and Saulteaux First Nations of Alberta as well as the Metis.

These traditional territories are also located within and neighbouring the boundaries
of Treaty 6, a vast area encompassing large portions of central Alberta and central Saskatchewan, an area in which we live, work and play each and every day. Treaty 6 was first signed at Fort Carlton, Saskatchewan in 1876 and within its Alberta boundaries, roughly central and north central Alberta, includes the reserve lands of 18 First Nation Bands who call this land home.

There is little known recorded history in the Hinton area previous to late November of 1810, when explorer David Thompson arrived in what we know today as Hinton, Alberta. Thompson camped here for two days and for an additional 25 days west of Hinton, prior to embarking on his journey to reach the Columbia River through the Athabasca pass. Today, we remain influenced by the travels of Thompson and the mapping he did of the area.

The Aseniwuche Winewak Nation, representing people of a rich heritage and history with bloodlines descend from Cree, Iroquois, Beaver, Sekani, Assiniboine, Ojibwa and Shuswap share some histories here after being removed from the Park area that has become Jasper National Park, before being moved north towards Grande Cache as part of the Switzer Park establishment. We encourage you to visit their website and learn more about the nation and its history.

In the early 1900s, newcomers began to settle in the Hinton area, founding a community. Hinton was named for William P. Hinton, Vice President and later the General Manager of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR). Hinton was the “end of rail” for the GTPR and the small new community bustled with activity, growing to a population of around 500.

Photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives NA-279-2

Hinton’s economy has largely developed due to the natural resources in the surrounding area. Coal mining became an important staple in Hinton’s economy, along with a pulp and power mill that was opened in 1955. Due to these industries, Hinton saw new growth, not only in population, but in its wider economy and land area. Today, many Hintonites work in, or have family members who work in coal-mining operations, at the pulp and paper mill, or in oil and gas operations. Over the past few decades, Hinton has become home to numerous locally-owned businesses not only in natural resource development, but also hospitality, outdoor tourism and recreation, and many, many other services.

Photo Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Alberta

The Old Towns of Brule and Drinnan

By Stuart Taylor

The attached image is from the University of Calgary Archives and Special Collections (taken in 1928) of the Drinnan Coal Mine near Hinton. In the photo is Andy Wilson, the first manager at the mine who also served as the postmaster at Drinnan from 1934 to 1939.

The old ghost town of Brule was founded in 1912 and in its heyday, barely a decade later, the mine boasted 720 employees (Edmonton Bulletin 1922), 80 houses, two hospitals (one was an isolation hospital for the Spanish Flu), two schools, a church, a large hotel, a nearby dairy, a race track, a golf course, badminton and tennis courts, a covered hockey/curling rink, a ball diamond, a dance hall and even a pool hall. And then just as
suddenly, it almost vanished.

How times have changed. Back then the majority of houses rented for $10.00 per month and $.50 per month for light bulbs (power was a luxury). And though miners’ wages sound low, around $.40 per hour, they’d still earn the month’s rent in about three days, leaving lots of pocket money. Though it was hard work and not without risks; the 1920’s saw about one fatal mine accident a year in Brule. But it all came to an end in 1928 when
the steam-engine-quality coal that had fueled the boom, including during the Great War, suddenly ran out.

Within four years, by 1932, the town was almost completely abandoned, even most houses were disassembled and shipped elsewhere. For a few years there was only one family left, that of local outfitters Thomas and Clarisse Groat, along with Forest Ranger Thomas Coggins, who moved there in 1930. After 1945 all that remained was a few buildings, concrete foundations and structures, and the old cemetery. Others moved in in the later years. The village of Drinnan disappeared in a rather different way. It was
centered on what is now Athabasca Avenue and Drinnan Way, just south of Switzer Drive and seems to have been established by 1925, and was named after Bob Drinnan, a Dominion Mining Engineer.

If I am not mistaken, he would be the same Bob Drinnan after whom Mount Drinnan was named. (For those unfamiliar with it, Mount Drinnan is south of Hinton and west-north-west of Luscar.) Apparently at one point the town’s Bob Drinnan had a coal prospecting camp near the mountain, and he later became manager of the Cadomin Mine. (If anyone has information to confirm or refute this association please let me know.) The precise date of Drinnan’s founding is unclear. But I checked with the postal archives and found that the Drinnan post office opened in the summer of 1930 and remained opened until the late summer of 1945. Early postmasters included John Davidson, Andrew Wilson, George Finlay and Margaret Ceal.

Drinnan prospered sufficiently that it was formally incorporated as a village in January of 1957 by an Order in Council signed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The initial village election was set on the first Monday in March and the first meeting of the village council was supposed to be on the second Monday in March. But then the end came… sort of.
In April of that same year of 1957, the town of Hinton and the village of Drinnan were formally amalgamated by an order signed by Premier Ernest Manning. The order also established a Board of Administrators for the new amalgamated town that included: Benjamin Hoy (Chief Chemist), Fred Hansen (Oil Agent), Ivan Sutherland (Assistant Superintendent), Roy Lisogar (Hotel Proprietor), Boyd Ford (Baker), W.D. Isbister (Municipal Inspector) and Raymond Fuller (Garage Proprietor).

So Drinnan lives on, except in name. And Brule lives on too as a Hamlet
with a population of about 165, with its inhabitants enjoying its very laid-
back ambiance.