Coal Mining in Washington

Map of the King County Coal-Fields
Map of the King County Coal-Fields

The second most important article of export from Washington is coal. The first discoveries were made in the Cowlitz Valley in 1548, whence several barrels were shipped to Cal. to be tested, but which was condemned as a poor quality of lignite. Lewis’ Coal Discov., MS., 8, 13; S. I. Polynesian, v. 2, 7; Morse’s Wash. Ter., 518., ii. 57. About that time, or previous to 1850, a Frenchman named Remeau discovered coal on the Skookum Chuck, which created considerable interest at Olympia, and was the motive which inspired the first idea of a railroad toward the Columbia, a survey being made by J. W. Trutch in the autumn of 1852. In 1849 Samuel Hancock, while trading with the Lummi, was told that they had seen black stones at Bellingham Bay. Subsequently he found coal on the Stillaguamish, but was forbidden to work it by the Indians who told him of it. Hancock’s Thirteen Years, MS., 145-9, 74; Olympia Columbian, Oct. 16, 1852.

In 1850 H. A. Goldsborough explored several affluents of Puget Sound and found croppings of coal on a number of them, of which an analysis was made in Feb. 1851, by Walter R. Johnson for the secretary of the navy. About this time the P. M. S. Co. employed agents to explore for coal in Oregon and Washington, one of whom, William A. Howard, afterward in the revenue service, together with E. D. Warbass, made an expedition from the Chehalis up the coast to a point north of Quinault. Meanwhile William Pattie, an English subject, who was looking for spar timber among the islands of the Haro archipelago, found coal at Bellingham Bay in Oct. 1852, and took a claim on the land just south of the town site of Sehome as subsequently located. Two other claims were taken adjoining by Pattle’s associates, Morrison and Thomas. They succeeded in negotiating with a company called the Puget Sound Coal Mining Association. From 1860 to 1879 there was an average annual yield of thirteen thousand tons. Another coal deposit was discovered in 1862 on the Strait of Fuca not far from Clallam Bay, by J. K. Thorndike, and in 1867 was organized the Phoenix Coal Mining Co.

The earliest attempted development of coal west of Admiralty Inlet was by Dr R. H. Bigelow, who partially opened a coal vein on Black River, known as the Bigelow mine, lying about ten miles southeast from Seattle. There was no means of getting coal to navigable water without expensive improvements in roads and barges, and the mine was abandoned. About 1S67 S. B. Hinds & Co. of Seattle purchased the claim, and sunk a shaft to the vein, a distance of 70 feet; but the mine never became productive of marketable coals.

East of Seattle several discoveries were made about 1550, some of which have proved valuable. David Mowery, a Pa German, found coal on his claim in the Squak Valley, fourteen miles east of the Sound. With W. B. Andrews, he took out a few tons, which were disposed of in Seattle. At a later date, William Thompson also mined in this coal to a small extent, when it was abandoned. Lewis’ Coal Discoveries, MS., 1. A claim of l60 acres of coal land eleven miles southeast of Seattle was taken up in 1863 by Philip H. Lewis, and work begun upon it in the following year. Lewis was born in Illinois in 1828, and came to Oregon from California in 1851. His example was followed by Edwin Richardson, who took a claim next to him, while Josiah Settle claimed another quarter section adjoining. Richardson changed his location more than once, finally fixing upon the one later worked by the Seattle Coal and Transportation Co. The original owners opened a road in 1867, and brought out one hundred and fifty tons in wagons, which was sold for ten dollars a ton at the wharf in Seattle, and burned on some of the steamers that plied on the Sound. The mine was then sought for, and a company consisting of Daniel Bagley, George F. Whitworth, P. H. Lewis, Josiah Settle, and Salucius Garfielde, called the Lake Washington Company, was formed. Bagley purchased the Richardson claim and a portion of each of the other two, Whitworth owning a part of Lewis’ claim. Clarence Bagley and Garfielde took up some additional land, which went into the company organization. The object of the new arrangement was to get a rail or tram road from the east side of Lake Washington to the coal beds. A company was formed, and an act passed by the legislature of 1866-7 incorporating the Coal Creek Road Company. Wash. Stat., 1866-7, 202-3. The road company was composed of W. W. Perkins, John Denny, Henry L. Yesler, John J. McGilvra, C. J. Noyes, C. H. Hale, and Lewis C. Gunn. Capital stock $5,000, with power to increase to $500,000. In Aug. following the mining company incorporated as the Lake Washington Company, with a capital stock of $500,000, with the privilege of increasing it to a million. Lewis withdrew from the mining organization, after which it sold out, in 1870, to Reel Robinson, Amos Hurst, and others, residents of Seattle, for $25,000, all the land that had been put in Icing included in the sale, the new organization styling itself the Seattle Coal Company. Under the new management there was a tramway built from the mine to Lake Washington, and a wooden road on the west side of the lake to Seattle. A scow was built for transportation across the lake; a small steamer, the Phantom, was constructed for towing. In 1872 Robinson sold to C. B. Shattuck and others of S. F. for $51,000, and capital put in; since which the Seattle mine has produced well, and been a profitable investment. The company had steam towboats on lakes Washington and Union, the Clara and C7eka/i6, connecting with the tramway from the mine across the isthmus between the lakes, and from Lake Union to the wharf in Seattle. The flatboats were run upon trucks across the isthmus, and thence across the second lake, to avoid handling. Meeker’s Wash. Ter.; McFarlan’s Coal Regions; Goodyear’s Coal Mines, 106-7; Seattle Intelligencer, Sept. 11, 1871.

The discovery next in point of time and importance to the Seattle coal was that of the Renton mine. David Mowery first made the discovery, but not thinking well of the coal, sold the claim to Robert Abrams about 1860. It was not until 1873 that it was again remembered, when E. M. Smithers, on his adjoining claim, found pieces of coal in a small stream on his farm, and following up the indications, tunneled into the hill where they appeared, striking at the distance of 100 feet two horizontal ledges of pure coal extending into it. Having demonstrated the contents of his land, he sold it for $25,000 to Ruel Robinson, who also purchased the adjoining lands of Abrams and McAllister. A company was at once formed, with a capital of $300,000.

A number of mines have been prospected, and a great abundance of coal found to exist on the east side of the Sound. Among others was the Cedar Mountain mine, on the same ridge with the Renton; and near the junction of Cedar and Black rivers the Clymer mine was discovered at an early day on the land of C. Clymer. On the Stillaguamish, the Snohomish, and the Skagit Rivers, coal was known to exist. La Roque’s Skagit Mines, MS., 21. It had long been known by some of the early residents of the Puyallup Valley that coal was to be found there. Eastwick’s Puget Sound, MS., 3. The first actual prospecting was done by Gale and two half-breeds named Flett. This small company took a mining claim in 1874, drifting in about sixty feet, on a vein discovered on Flett Creek, a tributary of South Prairie Creek, which is a branch of the Puyallup. During the same season E. L. Smith of Olympia, a surveyor, discovered coal about half a mile north of the Gale mine, on land belonging to the Northern Pacific R. Co., which led to an examination of the country over an area of twenty-five square miles in the coal district.

It is conjectured that the region about Steilacoom is underlaid with a coal deposit. But it is farther south than this that the actual discoveries have been made. In 1865 a vein was found upon the land of Wallace and P. W. Crawford opposite to and two miles above Monticello. The construction of the Northern Pacific railroad from the Columbia to the Sound revived the interest in the coalfields of the region south of Olympia. J. B. Montgomery, contractor upon that road, in 1872 purchased nine hundred acres of coal lands near the Chehalis River between Claquato and Skookum Chuck, and two miles west of the road. It was proposed to clear the obstructions from the Chehalis sufficiently to enable a steamer to tow barges from Claquato to Gray Harbor for ocean shipment, but this scheme has not been carried out.

In 1873 the Tenino mine, within half a mile of the Northern Pacific road track, was prospected by Ex-gov. E. S. Salomon and Col F. Bee of S. F. The Olympia and Tenino R. Co. took shares, and called it the Olympia Railway and Mining Co.

Another mine near Chehalis station on the Northern Pacific was opened in 1875 by Rosenthal, a merchant of Olympia.
A mine known as the Seatco, situated on land owned by T. F. McElroy and Oliver Shead of Olympia, near the Skookum Chuck station, was opened in 1877. In the autumn of 1879 it had a daily capacity of fifty tons.

Coal-oil has been discovered in some parts of these extensive coal regions. George Waunch, of pioneer antecedents, sent samples to Portland, in 1868, from the Skookum Chuck district. It was also found in the Puyallup Valley near Elhi in 1882. The annual production was estimated in 1880, for the whole of Washington, to he 161,708 tons.



MLA Source Citation:

Bancroft, Hubert H. Bancroft Works, Volume 31, History Of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845-1889. San Francisco: The History Company. 1890. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 16 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/washington/coal-mining-in-washington.htm - Last updated on Aug 16th, 2013


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