On a spring day in 1904 the silence around the sleepy collection of houses in what was then known as the Parish of Northfield, was broken by the shrill blast of a train whistle, which heralded the birth of the village that was named "Minto".
The train pulled up in front of a dull red station which carried the proud new sign "Minto", in honour of the then Governor-General of Canada, Gilbert Elliot, 4th. Earl of Minto. The name was more glorious than the embryo town! The tracks ended in an old field which had been part of the Gilchrist grant and there was very little else in sight other than the station, the equally dull blue roundhouse and, a little further on, the water tank. To fill the water tank a dam was built in the Gilchrist brook and the water pumped, by hand, from there.
Although Minto began with the coming of the railroad, the story behind its final arrival may be of some interest to present-day residents. Previous to the time any coal or lumber from the Parishes of Northfield and Canning was shipped by water through Grand Lake to the St. John River and then to Saint John or Fredericton, some of the coal sold in Fredericton was hauled there by horse and wagon or horse and sled through the Richibucto road.
When the first train whistle blew, it must have sounded very strange to the inhabitants of the few scattered homes in the neighborhood, homes which had been established by early Loyalist settlers and later Irish immigrants. It was not until the anticipated arrival of the railroad that a few streets were laid out adjacent to the station, the King Lumber Company store was built where the Post Office now stands and Kennedy's hotel was built on the opposite corner across from where the Women's Institute Hall now stands.
It was not until 1905 that the first form of mechanical mining was undertaken in this field. This was an open strip-mining operation. The equipment used was a steam-driven clam-shell. The minutes of the Executive Council of the Legislative Assembly show that in 1907 "Twenty-one companies and individual operators engaged in mining at Minto and immediate vicinity."
Because of this increased activity in the coal mines, the population began to grow steadily. Some of those who had worked on the construction of the railway remained to mine coal. Other miners began to come in from Coal Branch in Kent County and from Nova Scotia, Irish and Scots and a few Belgian from Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. In addition to these, and as a result of the immigration policy of the Federal government, many middle Europeans arrived, by 1916 the Minto Coal Company in its annual report listed among its employees 60 Italians, 43 Belgians, 25 French speaking Canadians, 26 Germans and Austrians, 6 Russians and 40 English speaking. Other mines employed men or various groups including Swiss, Spanish, one notable immigrant from Afghanistan, Welsh, Scotch, Irish, English, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Czechoslovakian, and French. The business community grew with, in addition to native born Canadians, Lebanese, Italian, French Belgian, and English store keepers.