June 25th, 2018

Heritage in the Hat: Dauntless Cement Factory had a short lifespan

By Medicine Hat News on January 7, 2017.

Doubtless you’ve heard of Dauntless? It was a village just southwest of Medicine Hat, located on the the rail line to Lethbridge. Its lifespan was 1912 to 1961 when the legal subdivision was cancelled. Although it is now a ghost, it was once a major cement plant.

Prior to the First World War, Medicine Hat was one of the fastest growing communities in Canada. Real estate speculation was rampant. Construction was booming and so was the need for building materials. Leigh Hunt of Hunt Engineering of Kansas City proposed to build a new cement factory near town and Canada Cement Company was also looking to manufacture here. In fact, it acquired land just north of the Medicine Hat Brick and Tile for a factory but decided to throw in with Hunt at his chosen location and called it Dauntless.

The plant required natural gas and several wells were drilled. Clay was sourced locally from a quarry in Robinson Coulee, about five kilometres south. Well water was pumped into a water tower on Crown Hill, although there were plans to bring it from the city. The limestone was likely brought in by rail from the mountains or from Manitoba. This was no small operation, with up to 500 men employed and 27 rail cars of cement a day planned. The 400-foot-long reinforced concrete structure for the offices, shop and warehouse was the first completed in 1913. The rotary kiln at 10 feet in diameter and 85 feet long (600 tons!) arrived on site in May 1914, the largest in Canada.

The village started with 100 lots and more planned. A post office and rows of company houses were built to house the workforce. A store, a school, a doctor’s office, a theatre, a pool hall, a bakery and a lawyer’s office were all in operation and AGT had a phone line into the train station.

By the middle of the war however, men were being recruited from all industries and construction slowed. Work had stopped at the plant, and in 1917 the post office closed, a sign of things to come. In 1918, 500 lots were taken back by the Municipal District for non-payment of taxes. By the middle of the 1920s, only 16 houses were left. The plant equipment was salvaged in the 1930s and ’40s for scrap value. A school continued to operate until 1944, serving the surrounding area. Today, nothing is left of the village of Dauntless and its cement factory but foundations, a hulking concrete building and the memories of a few oldtimers.

Malcolm Sissons is the Chair of the Heritage Resources Committee. This column relied heavily on research conducted by Henry Rodermond.

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