Jones Brothers & Indian Coal Mine – Hoist Search

About a month ago I returned to the Jones Slope Coal Mine site in McGarvey Park which is on the edge of Renton, WA. June 13th seemed like an age ago but in relation to the age of this area’s coal production it is a blink of an eye.

Serendipity took hold during this visit. Yup the same thing that I use to seek birds and nature moments.  These out of the blue moments propelled my quest forward so much that I would say it verged into the realm of magic or paranormal assistance.

The first magical moment happened after I published the article on the Indian Mine Industrial Complex that was located in the Cedar River Valley.  I got a comment from Black Diamond History.  This was not just a few words of encouragement but a link to a photo on their Facebook page.

Below is what they sent me. It is a very colorful photo of a block of cement with bright graffiti on it.

Fan House at McGarvey Park in 2014 before demolition.

At first I got excited that this was a place I could visit to write about another lost coal mine. I sent some comments back on this old post asking where this was and other questions.  Kind of a shot gun thing since I was having an adrenaline fueled moment.

Not getting instant response to my comments or emails to the author, I took another look at the photo. That was when I had an Aha Moment.  On the right top corner of this block of cement was that deformed tree in “The Hole”. To remind you what that looks like here is a photo of it.

The deformed tree located on edge of “The Hole”
“The Hole” where this colorful hunk of mining past once sat.

I felt magic because this answered my question on what was in “The Hole”.  In my prior post Jones Brothers & Indian Coal Mine – Widening the Search I ended the article with an assumption that “The Hole” was the Water Tank and the Fan House was off close to 174th Avenue SE.

WRONG!!!  It is the fan house and now I could proceed with my next steps (literally) in my search for the Jones Brothers 100 year old hoist and the mine entrance. Also, since this is not the Tank I needed to find that too.

Here is what I did next. I got my 1931 map and calculator out. I created a map scale by using the known tank size of 13′ diameter. (note: I figured the total footprint of the tank to be 26 feet square) A Map Scale is the relationship between distance on a map and the corresponding distance on the ground (thanx Australian Geoscience map page for this definition).

That scale is 1″ equals 83.3 feet.  Here is the well worn map back with my math on it.


Map Scale for 1931 Coal Mine Map of New Black Diamond Mine

From this I calculated the distance between The Fan House, The Water Tank, The Hoist & the Mine Opening (plus a few more spots).

With Map Scale I calculated how far apart the Jones Slope Structures were.

Knowing that my longest Tape Measure was 10 feet and how that would be a big pain in the butt, I figured out my hiking boots length. More math got me to a conversion rate for feet to boot step.  This way I could pace my way to finding things!!

Number of steps between the Jones Slope Structures

Did you follow all that?  No matter since the real magic will begin when I get boots on the ground in my 3rd visit to the site.

With great excitement I drove over to Lake Desire.  Took 174th Avenue SE.  About that same time the radio started playing Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven. I was in bliss as I wove down this lane bordered by green forest. Then wait for it…. YES!!! I had another serendipity moment.

As I neared the end of the road and the gate to the Christian School, a deer wandered out of the woods and crossed the road. He just sauntered along into the ferns and I was flabbergasted by this magic moment.  Was my quest now blessed by this creature of another dimension? Just typing this up took me back to how I wonderful I felt.

Do you believe in Magic? I was thinking my day would be guided and I would not be disappointed.

Two cars with dog walking Ladies had my usual parking spot but that did not faze me.  Parking further down the road I started walking towards the boulder blocked road entrance. Had my special map with my math calculations in hand. As I passed the two ladies and their dogs I told them about my deer experience and how I was seeking an old coal mine.

One of the ladies then said she remembered me from down at the Longacres Racetrack ruins. Ding!!  I recognized her then and got hit with another serendipity moment.  I was at three of them now!! This lady had showed me so many hidden structures at Longacres Racetrack. In this case, meeting her was a confirmation of my quest that day.

Off I went on that high note and quickly paced off the distances to the water tank from “The Fan Hole”. Those steps lead me to that open meadow where I had found coal on my prior visits.

“The Hole” looking across the road. Behind me is where the Tank was.

Next is a shot of “The Fan Hole” looking through a curtain of tall grass on the border of the meadow.  This grass was not native and I had figured it came to be from all the straw King County laid down when they removed the relics.

Looking west thru the curtain of grass at “The Hole”. The tank had been in the area behind me.

I walked my 46 steps north and 68 west.  Here is where I ended up.

Found the location of the Water Tank. Walking stick marks where I had landed.

How about a little video to help you imagine how it was and is now.  When it pans to the right that is the direction we will go in search of the hoist. Basically due north of where my walking stick sits.

Looking back to that day I realized how exciting just finding the location of the water tank was. It also explained why this meadow existed and why there was coal there.

Another point to make is that the old road on the 1949 USGS map had the tank on the right side of the road. Since this was on left side of the current road, that means the curent road is not the one on the map below.  It must be off to the east. Made future note to self to take a peek at that.  Also, this map has the Fire King Coal Mine aka Red Devil which I spent a bit of time researching at the beginning of the year.

1949 USGS map of area – note the tank still exists

I now was only 91 steps away from where the hoist was. The Mine Hunter in me was beyond excitement.  Perhaps I did walk up that “Stairway to Heaven”.  I then paced off the steps navigating brush, small downed trees and big ferns.

I ended up in a small area of grass. It had some more of that tall non-native grass but no obvious hoist.  Check out my still shots of this and a 360 video. At this point I was a little let down to say the least.

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In this video at the end it will pan back towards where the water tank was.  It zooms in on the red taped tree that a survey crew left. In the water tank video you can see that clearly for a good reference.

Where is that hoist? Was it removed just like the Fan House and Water Tank? If so was that why we had that tall grass growing here?

The trail to the backside of the rock dump/coal pile actually crossed over where my walking stick marked the 91 step landing spot. Had I walked over the hoist not knowing so in prior visits?

After taking photos, I decided to widen my search area. I reasoned that the steps could be off because I calculated on the map from the center of the structures. Not having the true centers to start from, I could be off 10 to 20 feet.

Next to the grass area I focused on a pile of dead/down trees. I had seen them on prior visits when I was researching the rock pile/dump where I found coal.

Piled up dead trees and stumps covered in brush at edge of road

Off to the left of the photo above was a small dirt pile that I climbed up for a better view of things. Here it is with my walking stick marking it’s crest.

Dirt pile I climbed. The dead tree/stump pile is to the right of this

So here I was on the hill viewing the terrain and magic took me again. Not sure how I found it but I did. The hoist was buried under all that dead wood. Someone had hidden it for almost 100 years from us. This saved a relic of the past from the bulldozers and the hoodlums that tag.

First view of Jones Slope Coal Mine- not easy to see but it is there

The next photo is left of the above view. See the non-natural straightness of this. Plus another clue was it has a little boggy area.  Swamp areas do not happen naturally on a hillside.

Dead wood on  the Hoist created a small trap for water

I can hear you now thinking what is Robin smoking?  I don’t see anything. She must be in a hallucination moment.  “Magic my butt” would be another phrase I hear.

Well check this out!!  Here is the cement to prove I am not losing my cookies.

Cement corner visible – this is the SW corner of the Jones Slope Hoist

I think this video will make a believer of you.  It tells the story of my first moments better than any still.

This might look like a normal street curb but believe me it is the hoist. At the end of this article I will outline additional  supporting research that prove what it is.  For now just saying… this rectangular hunk of cement is in the middle of a wooded park with nothing around it but trails, blackberries, salmon-berries, vines, nettles and ferns.

How about another clue to its existence?  A big Ass Spike!!

More man made signs along with concrete in the woods at McGarvey Park

Next I pulled out a dress tape I carry to measure trees and other things in the woods.  It is 60″ long and very light in my backpack.

With that and a long stick that measured 90″ I figured out how long it was.  Rough calculation is the hoist is apx 12.5 feet long on that side with the spike. Here are two photos of this measuring act I did in the wild.

Stick that is apx 90″ long laying on the south side of the Jones Slope Coal Mine Hoist

To get some perspective this looks to the east and the top of my walking stick is about the middle of this south side.

Next photo is the middle where my stick and the dress tape meet.

Note my walking stick is up against the concrete that is not very visible due to all the moss and vegetation.

I moved around to the front (East Side) of the hoist. Found it is not a perfect flat square surface. It has wooden stakes and a rough cement apron on the northeast corner.

East side of hoist which would face the mine entrance is not a straight line of cement.

Video always does a better job of showing you what is what. I have to warn you my camera abruptly cuts off at the end. The battery died!!!

When the battery died in mid filming you could have heard my cussing from afar.  However, this is why I carry two cameras plus my cell phone. My secondary camera is a small pocket size which is great for quick shots while walking as well as a backup when my Nikon gives it up.

Here are a few shots of the front of the hoist with that smaller camera.

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After hunkering down in that cave of bushes at the front I moved back to the south side that originally caught my eye. Here I scraped moss and leaf debris to expose more of the concrete edge next to the swampy area in the middle.

Edge of Jones Slope Coal Mine Hoist exposed

There is a spike sticking up there but my photo did not show it well. This next photo shows even more exposed concrete edge.

Measuring time on the south edge

This next photo is around the corner to the west side of the hoist. Here you can see my tape and how the ends of the trees that were hiding this are laid like lumber. This was not a natural windfall pile of wood.

The west side of the hoist looking east at wood hiding this relic

The going is tougher on this side so my measuring is not as good but roughly this confirms the rectangular shape versus a square.  (12 feet x 9-10 feet) The transformers base on the map is more square so this eliminates this from the equation.

I then walked away. It was time to go and I took one parting shot. It leaves you saying. “Who would have guessed a historical ruin was there?”

A 100 year old hoist is hiding in that pile of brush and wood.

In searching for old mining history I have learned to continue to question one’s finds and assumption. I call that positive doubt and questioning that can lead to a better truth. In the case of finding this hoist I have doubts. Here are a few questions answered by research done since this visit.

Is this the transformer pad and not the hoist?

I have not done a good search for the transformer pad but two things make me think it is the hoist.  One is the shape. On the 1931 map the Transformer is square. This ruin is rectangular not square. Hoists are usually rectangular with the shorter side facing the mine entrance. The bolted machinery and drum that winds up the steel cable works best on this kind of shape.

Second I paced off the distance from “The Fan Hole” to this structure and it meets my map calculation.

Why is this so small compared to the 1931 mine map and smallish to support this large mining operation?

This question haunted me quite a bit until I found two answers/clues in the additional material Ken Jensen sent me.

First one is a 1929 mining thesis paper he got from the University of Washington archives.  It was written by Simon Harry Ash to get his degree in Mine Engineering.  Here is what he wrote about the hoist up on the Jones Slope.

Ash Thesis 1929 – Jones Hoist

His mention of how they continued to use the temporary hoist makes me believe that this is the one built by the Jones Brothers in their original exploration.  This would explain the crude cement on the apron and it’s smaller size.

The second clue has to do with my assumption that the map showed just the hunk of concrete as the hoist.  Ken told me about a map feature King County has with 1936 aerial photos. When I looked at the site from this time period, I see the four structures clearly.  The tank is even marked on the map. The hoist structure is a building.  Doooohhh!!!  Of course the hoist would have a room to protect it’s machinery.  It was bigger than the actual cement piece for many reasons.  Here is a snip of that aerial.

Jones Slope 1936 Aerial King Co Maps – Hoist House is above the G, Tank is under the triangle & the fan house is below the tank.

Lot of magic and research went into finding this Jones Slope Coal Mine Hoist. Time is not on our side when seeking relics and ruins.  However, would it be so rewarding if it was easy? In this case would it still exist if they had not hid it decades ago?

I still have a lot more to share.  My next article will be a trip and investigation on June 26th where I search for the mine entrance.  The Jones Brothers have been elusive but with the help of others I have gathered enough for another article as well.  I am not done with the Indian Coal Mine yet.

If you want to read more about my search for lost coal mines here is a link to my directory of articles.

Shoot me any questions or better yet any information you have to add. This is a never ending deep dig into 100 year old coal mine history.

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed.

Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County

If you are interested in the Longacres Racetrack Ruins here is a link that will get you started on that series of investigations.   Longacres Link

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