Our History

What's in a Name?

In the late 1800s a government land surveyor by the name of James McMillan discovered abundant local coal deposits in this area. By 1899, A. McPherson and J.J. Cooper opened a coal mine just near the west bank of the Sheep River. 650 tons of high-grade coal were produced here annually and shipped by a wagon track to Okotoks. The mine site and crazily tilted coal seams in rocky outcrops are visible today from the 3 km Friendship Trail that connects to nearby Turner Valley.

The Town's Beginning

A mine of this size required workers, who relocated to the area along with ranchers looking for a place to call home. This population influx necessitated a store and a post office, which were established by Herb Arnold around 1907. These buildings were located at the intersection of Centre Avenue and Government Road (Highway 22), forming the core of what is now Black Diamond's main street.

How We Got Our Name

This growing community had yet to be named at this point and there was some dispute as to whether it should be called Black Diamond after the nearby coal mine that referred to the high grade coal as a "black diamond", or Arnoldville after the local postmaster, Arnold. The dispute was settled when Black Diamond was drawn from a hat in 1907.
Black Diamond's Giant Icon
This giant "black diamond" and original reconstructed coal cart, located on our main street in front of the Town municipal office, form a monument paying homage to the town's name sake and coal mining history.

Gas & Oil Boom
The discovery of oil and gas in neighboring Turner Valley stimulated a construction boom in Black Diamond. By 1929, the population surged to over 1,000, with oilfield workers and their families living in shacks and tents.

From 1914 to 1947, the derrick-studded landscape west of town was the heart of Alberta's petroleum industry. The local demand for construction was met by building around the clock in the light of the flares, the glow of which could be seen from Calgary. By the mid-1940's, activity in the petroleum industry had shifted north to Leduc. Black Diamond survived the change, but many businesses and families in the area moved elsewhere and neighboring settlements like Little Chicago, Naphtha and others vanished from the landscape.
Historic Black Diamond monument by Jim Nelson
The Fire of 1949
In 1949, a fire destroyed most of Black Diamond's downtown core. Buildings from the nearby abandoned settlements were moved to Black Diamond and now comprise a large part of the downtown.

Black Diamond Today
Today, Black Diamond is still a small but thriving town. We're prospering through development activity in Calgary's urban fringe, tourism along the Cowboy Trail and growth from within by an energetic local population and business community.

Our Heritage

We've also returned to our roots by re-creating the Boomtown spirit with our historical downtown area. We're proud of our history and are preserving it with a joint project by the town, business and Alberta Main Street Program. Our business owners and residents take great pride in protecting these heritage buildings for the years to come, adding prosperity with great shopping and dining as well as a vibrant arts community. Local artisans, businesses, organizations and our municipal office work together to host, sponsor and participate in an assortment of events throughout the year that celebrate our unique community.