Finale Dance of Cedar Mountain Coal

Time to explore what happened once John McQuade brought back coal mining to Cedar Mountain. However, first let us revisit the one solid remnant of the West Coast Coal Company/West Coast Fuel Company. Those are the two names of the largest mine as it was developed by McQuade and his predecessors.

It was back in August while I was finishing up on the New Black Diamond Coal Mine (aka Indian) and the Jones Brothers I wandered down to the little park called Belmondo’s Reach just east of the Jones Bridge. With little effort I ran across the big hunk of cement that pulled tons of coal out of the mine across the river. Here is a link to the article I wrote with more details on that find – Link to info on Cedar Mtn Hoist Find

Just this last week I returned knowing the blackberries and sticker bushes would have died down. Here are a few new photos of the revealed hoist foundations.

Back to the business of documenting the who, when and other interesting facts on this mine of old.

After John McQuade bought the property, found the coal vein again and developed the mine, he set in motion a new chain of owners. The clue I mentioned before is from Edith Cavanaugh in her 1961 Seattle Times article. Here is what she said:

The mine experienced several shutdowns and was reopened about 1920, when John McQuade found the coal seams again. He leased the property to the Pacific Coast Coal Co., which sold to E.R. Peoples. The last operators were Ed Littlefield and his mother, who inherited the coal mine

It is unclear when McQuade bought the property from the Blair estate. As usual this coal mine is full of surprises and muddy waters but my guess is it happened between 1920 and 1926. 1920 is when Edith says he found coal again and 1926 the Metzker map has McQuade as the owner.

According to a paper written in 1984 by T J Walsh called Geology and Coal Resources of Central King County, in 1925 West Coast Coal Company drove a shaft on the east side of the river. I believe the “They” is John McQuade. In his obituary and biography it is stated that he took over ownership in 1926. I think it was earlier but we will go with the flow here. If you look closely at this first map online of this mine K42_A you can see that it has a new slope that goes through the old mine. It gets past the fault and starts first level gangways south and north. They are dated early 1926 which coincides with the above info.

K42_A of West Coast Coal Mine – dated 1926 – old mine is the dashed lines – new mine goes right thru it and is on the bottom of the map.

Once McQuade proved there was coal to be found again in this mine he wasted no time leasing it to Pacific Coast Coal. They were in full blown development of the New Black Diamond and opened it in 1926. Big company in the area with lot of resources to develop the mine. The Jones Brothers and the Campions (estate owners of Colman’s Cedar Mountain Coal Company) had made plenty selling their leases and land to PCCC. McQuade knew it was a much faster ticket to wealth to do the same. I think PCCC got involved in 1927 and leased the mineral rights to the property.

The Washington DNR Coal Mine Maps Database has two Progress Maps of the West Coast Mine by PCCC. They are numbered K42_B1 & K42_B2. B1 was the north gangway and B2 was the south gangway. Both maps were done on grid paper and B2 mentions John McQuade and a sale on March 15, 1928. The date per the mine areas is late to mid 1927. Below is B2’s header for your viewing pleasure.

K42_B2 snip of McQuade note

This B2 map states “Mine Sold fo John McQuade 3/15/28”. The DNR has interpreted this as “Mine sold to John McQuade”. However, the NBD Mine Office Bldg. Landmark Form states that Peoples bought the mine in 1927. Both mine maps are dated 1928 by DNR but in fact the last mining dates in the mine tunnel details are late 1927, which is potentially when Peoples bought the mine.

Most important I think the DNR is wrong and it should interpreted as – the “fo” is not “to” but rather “for”. The r in for is faded and the first letter looks more like a fancy cursive “f” than a “t”. Do these two maps record who owns what diggings at the time of transfer from PCCC to Peoples? I am voting it does. Another question is was it the sale of the lease of mineral rights or was it a true sale of the property?

Before we move on to who is E.R. Peoples, I have a little more on the land deals between McQuade & PCCC. Bill at Palmer Coking sent me this 1929-30 property map for PCCC. It outlines what they owned, leased or combination of surface and mineral rights.

New Blk Diamond ownership Map from Palmer Coking 9-15-2020 pg1

The West Coast Coal Mine is found on this map where “29” for section 29 is found. It is covered by the yellowish hatch coloring. If you go to the legend you will find first the PCCC owned property “Title in Fee Simple”. That yellowish hatch color is noted as “Surface Only, Mineral leased”.

I read from this that PCCC bought the surface property outright but still owes McQuade lease fees on any mineral found there. Hence the “Sold for John McQuade on the K42_B2 map above.” By the way McQuade sold the mineral rights to PCCC for quite a bit of the land he bought from Blair Estate. See the dark grey color area? Cagy guy. Kept the best land in lease to keep paying him and his family. Cash flow Baby!!!

Peoples is an interesting character. I did my usual research of him looking through the census and records on file from my favorite genealogy site. He like McQuade and the Jones Brothers had made his fame and money in Alaska. However, as you will see in my recap below he was not a miner but a merchant and undertaker.

He was born August 28, 1871 in California and from 1898-1916 per his obituary was involved in transportation business on the Yukon & Tanana Rivers, Furniture business in Skagway & Mercantile in Fairbanks.

In 1898 he moved from Ilwaco (on the Washington Coast) to Skagway with wife Estelle. He was a furniture maker and undertaker at the time. Until 1901 he ran Peoples Mortuary in Skagway on 8th and Broadway. From 1900 to 1901 he was the Mayor & on the City Council of Skagway.

Tragedy struck in March 11, 1901 when their two-year-old son, Edgar, died of tuberculosis. The couple then moved to Eagle, Alaska with Frank Woodruff. Eagle was one of the first incorporated towns in Alaska and was a jump off for miners to the Klondike Gold Rush. By 1910 according to the census he was a merchant in Fairbanks.

In 1916 he came to Seattle from Alaska and in the 1920 census was listed in Seattle with no occupation at his home listed as 330 – 39th Seattle. In 2020 this house is valued at 3.5M, it is 4,760 sq in size and was built in 1900 overlooking Lk Washington. Think it all the way to the lake but sold the lot bordering lake & another home was built there in 1925. Perhaps that funded the coal mine along with his Alaska gained wealth. He had done well to say the least.

E R Peoples House today in 2020 – 100 years later

By 1930 the census has him listed in Seattle as a coal mine owner residing at the same residence as 1920. He Died July 9, 1936 of a Heart Attack per Seattle Times Obit which was published on July 10th.

Since his only child had died in Alaska at a young age his sister, Carrie Littlefield and nephew inherited the mine. Ed Littlefield (his nephew) ran the mine until it’s closure in 1944. At several points he tried to sell it but each time it was returned to him. Carrie died in 1959 and Edgar in 1976. They along with Edgar’s wife Bertha and young daughter Sally are buried at Acacia Memorial Park in Lake Forest, Washington.

About this time coal lost it’s luster. Both the West Coast Fuel Company (Peoples-Littlefield name for Cedar Mountain Coal Mine) and the New Black Diamond Coal Mine shut down. They were bulldozed shut, the buildings decayed and were dismantled. Only the memories and ghosts reside there now.

Carrie Littlefield died in 1959 and Edgar in 1976. They along with Edgar’s wife Bertha and young daughter Sally are buried at Acacia Memorial Park in Lake Forest, Washington.

I know I promised this would be the final article on Cedar Mountain Coal Mines. However, in the last couple of weeks I have received from several sources new information around the town and McQuade’s home. Of course I am still digging around and one day might even get down to the main mine site. So, stay tuned for at least one more round in the future. Guess it is time to find a new mine area to research!!

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 (Cedar Mountain) can disappear!

Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County

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