Nicholas Sheran, born in New York of Irish parents, was the first commercial coal miner in Alberta and, some speculate, in all of western Canada.
In the 1870s, Nicholas Sheran decided to visit two of his friends, A.B. Hamilton and J.J. Healy, the traders who had established Fort Whoop-Up. Nicholas Sheran was actually prospecting for gold as he made his way along the Fort Benton Trail but instead found local deposits of coal. Arriving at the Fort, Sheran began a ferry service for travelers crossing the river and began digging coal in his spare time. He later moved further down the river and established himself at what became known as `Sheran's Crossing'. There he began mining in earnest and thus the Coal Industry of Alberta was born. Sheran’s establishment of the first commercial coal mine in Alberta is commemorated by a plaque in Galt Gardens first dedicated in 1928.
Where exactly was Sheran’s Crossing? As you look out the Viewing Gallery to the west, where Whoop Up Drive Bridge today crosses the Oldman River is the exact location of Sheran’s Crossing. On the west side of the river, just north of Whoop Up Drive, Sheran started his coal mine on the site of what would become Lethbridge.
Sadly, and somewhat ironically as a swimming pool has been named in his honour, Sheran was drowned crossing the river in the spring of 1882. His body was never found.