Turn of the Century and Cedar Mountain Coal Mine

Times were turbulent in the 1890s. They remind me of today in many ways. The coal mine at Cedar Mountain had to be impacted by the forces that swirled at the time.

We left off in our last articles with photos of the first mine entrance at the intersection of 196th and Maple Valley Highway. Then we moved to my many attempts to reach the second across the river. Now we are going to focus on how they ended up digging the third on the highway side of the river.

Over view map to give you the lay of the land of Cedar Mtn Town & Mines.

Here is a bit of a chronological history of the mine and how I think the turmoil of that time influenced things.

  • July 1884 – first shipment of coal from Cedar Mountain on the newly built railroad. This was the first slope on 196th & MVH.
  • 1885 – John McQuade worked for Colman on the mine. Watch for more on McQuade in future articles.
  • 1888 – that first mine was abandoned and they moved across the river to the second and largest mine entrance.
  • March 1892 – December 1895 – the mine was totally shut down. Why? Was it because they got stuck on the fault again? Or was there another financial cause? A few history facts from those years that could have messed with a mine company.
    • May 1893: A decline in the New York stock market triggered the Panic of 1893, which led to an economic depression second only to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Think lack of coal sales when no one has money.
    • Spring of 1894 – Coxey’s Army, a march to protest unemployment that was largely the result of the Panic of 1893, departed from Ohio on its way to Washington, D.C. A few months later Coxey’s Army reached D.C. and its leaders were arrested the next day. The demands focused on greater government intervention in the economy. This idea would eventually move into the mainstream. The Pullman Strike began, and spread throughout the summer before being put down by federal troops. Labor pressures union or not union certainly can poke holes into any operation for profit.
    • Depression and labor/civil unrest certainly impacted the mine during the mid 1890s. Plus don’t these events sound similar to today?
  • 1896 – they tried again to make viable the second slope.
  • 1896 to 1899 – The Klondike Gold Rush took over Seattle which many of the current and future players at Cedar Mountain participated in. Could it have been inspiration to re-open since the economy of the Pacific Northwest was booming again. (McQuade, Peoples, Cavanaugh & Jones all have record of going to Alaska)
  • 1897 – A third entrance was opened on the same side as the first. The owners were still searching for a profitable vein beyond that big fault running through the coal field. Below in this article you can follow my search on the ground for what I think is 3rd mine entrance.
  • 1900 – Nome Gold Rush – 1899–1909. It is separated from other gold rushes by the ease with which gold could be obtained. Much of the gold was lying in the beach sand of the landing place and could be recovered without any need for a claim. I traced several of those involved in Cedar Mtn to this gold rush too – McQuade, Jones, & Cavanaugh.
  • By 1903 the Cedar Mountain Coal Mine owned by Coleman was reduced to digging only in the third.
  • 1905 or earlier – John Campion became President of Cedar Mtn Coal Company (source – State of WA Report of State Inspector of Coal Mines 1/1/1905 – 9/30/1906 Biennial Report Vol 5.) This gave him opportunity to later purchase this portion of the James M Colman estate.
  • December 1906 – James Colman dies.
  • 1906 – Mine closes again. Edith Cavanaugh says it was due to them getting stuck on the fault. I am sure Colman’s passing and his mines being administered by an estate did not help either.
  • 1906 – Fred & Edith Cavanaugh return from Alaska and developed a dairy farm on the Cavanaugh claim along the Cedar River.
  • 1920’s – it wasn’t until many searched and searched for the coal beyond that dastertly fault did the mine open up again.

Ponder all that history while we get busy searching for the third slope. In early September I went twice on follow up adventures to info I gathered.

Let us start with the photo above. It is of my boot and a big chunk of coal I found on the bank of the Cedar River across from that second mine entrance. One has to get those boots on the ground to really know what the lay of the land looks like now & imagine the past too.

While searching for the original mine I had walked up 162nd Street SE. This looped off of 196th Avenue above where that first mine was sunk. As usual I was thwarted by blackberry bushes and decided it was not worth the scratching and poking. However, I did run into a lady who’s family owned a large swath of land across the street from this brushy area. Her family had carved out an area from the blackberries and were camping on that cleared area.

162nd curves around the first mine where a nice lady gave me some good clues

What she told me was the mine stretched in a southwest direction and crossed under 162nd into the hill. More relevant to our third hole search was she gave me the lead that another opening was up 196th where a gate blocked the right-a-way. She said it was on King County property but later I would find it was owned by a gas pipeline company.

After I had posted my Jones Brothers History piece I was contacted via Facebook Messenger by Ardi. We talked quite a bit on the phone and she sent me some great info on this 3rd hole. Here is how she started our discussion:

What a wonderful compilation of the history of the Coal Mine found by the Jones brothers. I’d love to talk with you. we moved to Cedar Mountain in 1968 and at that time there were still two sites with openings (rock-filled to prevent kids from going in them) for the mine.

Both of these kind ladies pointed me in the right direction. The first trip there I was not certain if I was in the right place and only took a few photos.

A photo from my first trip of the gas line gate and hillside.

I think there is a mine up there.

At the time of my first trip in early September I only had the first lady’s tip about the mine in the county area. This spot and one further up the road could have matched that description. In fact the second one looked more likely due to how the hillside was steeper. It is also closer to where I had already found a 1920’s slope (we will review that in a later article). Here is what that looks like under the power lines.

Option two of where the 3rd slope of Cedar Mtn Coal Mine might be

I sent these photos to Ardi and she told me it was where the pipeline is. Another clue she gave me to keep in mind is it was on a flat area. That the county filled it in & re-seeded with grass. So, here I go back for round two and a hike up the pipeline right-a-way hillside.

Looking back at my car parked on the roadside from the hillside.

The going wasn’t too bad, just random blackberries and thistles with a lot of long grass and weeds. Only had to deal with burrs and grass seed stuck in my socks instead of thorn scratches and snags.

About half way up on the north side of the cleared land was a cleft in the hillside that looked promising.

It just looked man made to me. Question is was that current or 100 year old workings?

See how this gap in the hill seems to have a square cut out area?
Check out the metal rail overhanging this area

That was when I saw that metal rail sticking out. Sure looked like light gauge railroad track to me. Something that would support coal cars going in and out of a mine. Was this the entrance to the mine here? or a place they could dump the coal cars into a trailer?

Here are a couple better photos of the rail and upon closer look there are two. That sure makes it seem like a railway track of some kind.

View of rail and cleft in the hillside looking for 3rd mine entrance of Cedar Mtn
Yup!! There are two and that means a rail track was here

From there I trekked further up the hill. At a plateau area is a power transmission tower and a big bare spot. Now why is that bare when all around there is thick weeds and briers? Also as the ground slopes away to the north there is some stakes and hay bales to insure there isn’t any erosion. Someone was doing something here and Ardi did say to look for a flat area.

Bare spot found that is potential buried mine entrance

I keep thinking this could be it. When buried the dirt is compacted to insure there is little chance of people like me falling into a sink hole. Or even worse into the mine itself. More over compacted soil does not support vegetation hence the bareness. This is also in line with where I found the metal parallel rails. Here is a picture looking back at that clump of trees where I found the rails.

Behind those trees and down a slope is where the rail track was found

Of course I took a video. This is a 360 degree view of the bare dirt area and the surrounding terrain.

I am not 100% sure this is the mine entrance but I was close. That rail is a big clue left behind decades ago. Time could not completely erase this mine nor could King County Maintenance’s efforts to protect us either.

Put your imagination hat on and think how this looked in 1906 with a big hole in the ground, a light gauge rail moving coal out and miners in, perhaps mules doing the work and hauling the coal down the hillside to the bunkers. Or did that little rail go all the way down the hill to the bunkers and railroad? Which ever from there it was loaded onto the railroad to Seattle and helped fuel homes and big industrial machinery.

Hard to imagine a world run on coal. We have moved to oil, natural gas and hydroelectric forms of fuel. The future is brighter as we push for renewable energy sources like the sun and wind. Times are a CHANGING!!

Next article I will investigate some 1920’s exploratory holes in search of that lost coal vien blocked by a pesky fault. Plus I have some interesting life timelines on the cast of characters who re-opened the bigger mine across the river.

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 years of old coal mine history.

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a town can disappear!

Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County


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