• Craig Baird

Vermilion Oil Paving The Way To Jasper

Oil pump jack. Photo submitted

Oil has always been an important part of the local industry for Vermilion, at least going back to the 1920s or so. Before Alberta was ever a oil producing juggernaut though, Vermilion was a major source of oil for the province, but it wasn’t always used in a manner that you would assume.

Back in September of 1939, a new oil strike was reported and the oil from that strike was then utilized to pave highways, but not just any highway, the new highway going into one of the most scene parts of the province, Jasper.

It was announced by W.A. Fallow, the Minister of Public Works, based on the analysis by J.A. Kelso, that the oil samples would be perfect for the highway. Over a weekend in September, Fallow and the Minister of Lands and Mines, N.E. Tanner, came to Vermilion to inspect the oil fields and upon their return to Edmonton they were enthusiastic over the oil prospects at the wells in the fields, feeling there would be more than enough for the oil requirements of Alberta roads, limiting the need for importations outside of the province.

The Vermilion oil appeared to be a heavy asphaltic base and that would make it perfect for the use on roads. Fallow would say, quote:

“We could use 50 wells like the first one.”

The oil field was also located at the right place to be utilized, especially when it came to paving the road for the Jasper Highway, which would begin the following year.

The Vermilion well would go to a depth of 1,848 feet and to meet the needs of the province and its road paving, pumping operations would have to go into full operation.

So, when you drive into Jasper, underneath that road at the base, you will likely still find traces of the oil that came from Vermilion in the heart of The Great Depression.

I put out a history magazine that highlights many aspects of Canadian history. It is free and is delivered to your inbox. E-mail me to subscribe at craig@canadaehx.com

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