More Mysteries Surround the Cedar Mountain Mines

My search for the pre-1907 #3 mine entrance has become an even bigger mystery. Here we have a mine forgotten by most for over a century. With a few leads from locals and multiple investigative trips I have zeroed into the probable site at the pipeline right-a-way. Now I have a few concrete finds and a whole lot of questions to share. At this point I must give a disclaimer.

The lay of the land does not lie but what I think it all means is only my guess and not to be confused with solid history facts.

To get you started I suggest you read my prior post from October of 2020. It was published under the title Turn of the Century Mining at Cedar Mountain. Click here to get up to speed.

This area is up 196th Avenue SE a little bit from the intersection with the Maple Valley Highway. I have three good leads that told me a mine opening used to be visible in this location. For those that like to get orientated I have a few photos of the gate and the view from there.

The gas pipeline gate to the land of mystery
Across the street from the gate you can see the Highway and the River

Overview of Cedar Mountain Mines

I re-read the Cedar Mountain section of the old 1912 book “The Coal Fields of King County” by George Evans. It says that there were three slopes and one drift. That means we have 4 mine entrances before the mine closed in 1907. Here is a recap of what we know of the 4 mines dug by Cedar Mountain Coal Company.

  1. Original mine and bunker building was located just off of the 196th Ave SE and Maple Valley Highway across from the Jones Road Bridge over the Cedar River around 1884.
  2. Around 1888 the first mine (at 196th) was abandoned and this new 2nd slope was sunk across the river for about 500 feet. This mine was closed in the early 1890s. Later in the 1920s it was redeveloped with a new slope and became the biggest producer of the group.
  3. In 1897 another new mine was opened on the same side as the 1st mine. This is the mine I am currently concentrating on and this article covers. Was it a slope or a drift is one of the questions pending.
  4. Depending on if #3 is a slope or drift, then #4 would be the other. And where is this #4 mine? Close to #3? or over by #1?

Check out this map to get your head around where and what we are talking about. This hillshade style map gives you a clear look at the ground under all the vegetation. I have added boxes and arrows showing where all the features and landmarks are located. These marked spots will make more sense as you read on. Suggest you come back to this map as needed.

Cedar Mtn #3 Mine Area in Hillshade

The Hanging Rails

My original search of the area found a hard to dispute historical relic. Who can argue with a pair of narrow gauge rail hanging out of a hill over a man made cut? Something was happening here decades ago.

View of rail and cleft in the hillside looking for 3rd mine entrance of Cedar Mtn

Recently one of my Ghost Town Hunter friends Brett and I went up there to re-inspect the rails. He is an expert on railroads so he wanted to see the old rails up close. To my amazement Brett & his dog climbed up the dirt bank lickey split. Next thing I know he is showing me that there is another man made cut that leads out the other side of the hill. OMG how super cool.

Up above old rail looking down into that man made cut.

We started to ponder how this rail was used. The most likely use was they rolled carts down to this site and dumped the contents into a bigger wagon or cart. From there they trucked the coal down to the old bunker at the 196th intersection. Our estimate is this all happened before gasoline powered trucks. It must have been run by steam and/or mule/oxen power.

Looking at the Rail cut exit shrouded in brush. A big metal power tower is behind me.
View when you exit the rail cut of a big Electric Tower. Behind that built up mound is one of the possible mine entrance sites.

Here is the video I shot a few days after Brett and I discovered this new man made cut attached to the rail. It starts at the spot overlooking the rails and moves thru the cut until you come out looking at the transformer tower.

Let us go back to where we saw the rails hanging (that original spot I found). I pushed past the trees heading away from the grassy right-a-way and found a small flat area. It was probably a larger area and had direct access to the mining area by the power tower. However, now a huge berm of dirt from construction of the tower blocks that access now.

Standing in the small clearing – the daylight is coming from where the rails hang over the dumping cut.
The flat area overlooking the road below. Remember that developed road was not there 100 years ago

Where is the #3 Mine Entrance?

Next we will look at where I think the mine entrance might have been. First I want to point out the reason I was fixed on that spot behind the power tower. If you look at the hillshade map you can see this bowl carved into the land. Does that look like a mine entrance to you?

On my second attempt to get to this area I scrambled thru the brier and came out above the bowl. It was more of an open forest area and I was able to peer over an embankment to view the area.

Check out my not so exciting photos of the ferns, trees and babbling stream down in the bowl gully. What is odd is the creek seems to originate from this bowl, then runs behind the power tower but just disappears when it gets to the pipeline grassy area. My close up of the water shows it is not rusty as one would expect.

I have identified another potential location for this mine out on the pipeline right-a-way. I found it looking at old google aerials. Could this creek be emptying into that? Will let you know what I find when I go back.

Up behind and above the bowl is more of that meadow like forest area hillside. The odd thing is that I found more than a half dozen holes dug up there. They seem to be about 3’x 5′ in size and all had a pile of typical dirt and rock next to them. Not a drop of coal was visible. Maybe a little digging will find something interesting.

The Man Made Road Cut

I have more mysterious features to share!! The next one is a cut out narrow roadway. If one walks up the pipeline right-a-way you will come to where the rail cut exits. From there a trail meanders along the artificial berm created by the builders of the power line. Once you clear that and head into the woods again you come to a larger flat area that would be a good turn around. It sits overlooking a steep cliff with a view of 196th below.

My first trip there late last year I pushed thru the brush and found this deep road cut that is about 10 feet deep and wide enough for narrow gauge rail and/or wagons. On the right is a big hunk of land that faces the cliff overlooking 196th. The cut over the years has become grown over with cedar boughs and bushes plus has a few small fallen logs. One can still navigate it with a little determination.

Roadbed cut that is another clue to our mine mystery
An obstacle to climb under in this man made cut
Looking down into the cut from that piece of the original hill

Hanging Steel Cables

I followed this man made cut and it popped out into a meadow area big enough for another turn around space. There was more cliff looking down at 196th Avenue SE and a trail across the face of that cliff. I took this trail since it would take me back to where I started. Then I found another artifact of the past. As my friend Alan says, we do this partly so we can touch history. This day I got my fingers on history.

I found old steel cable. Now what was it doing there? To this day we still don’t know for sure. Was it old cable used in the mines? or later they rigged it to remove equipment when they closed it down? or was it left over from logging the area? Love to hear other’s ideas on what this might be.

What the heck did that cable attach to above? Originally I had hoped that a hoist was on top of the knoll. On the hillshade map I swear I saw a square looking thing there. Another day I went back on a quest to get to the top of that hill.

Not an easy feat. The cut side is too steep and the cliff side is a cliff that I would not want to fall down. I decided on a spot near the beginning of the cut where a couple cedars had lots of hanging branches. Using those branches I pulled myself up. Here is what I found up there!

The cable continued upward toward the top of this hill
More rigging was carefully wound up for future use
There is no hoist or cement foundation holding the cable up here.
WTF – the cable is wrapped around an old stump!!

Can you hear my surprise to find that they used an old tree to sling this cable over the cliff? Let us go back in time. This stump must have been more substantial but now decades later the stump has rotted away. They used that in the early 1900s (about 110-120 years ago) and over the years nature has broken down that old tree. Still don’t know what or why the cable is here for but the age of the stump sure helps date when it was strung. The mine closed around 1906 – 07 and this must be from that time period.

On the map above you may see my reference to a dead deer in the road cut. Found a doe who had been killed with an arrow rotting away on my second trip to the cut. Then when I showed the cut to Brett, he charged up the cut and told me the deer was completely gone except a few bones. The critters had not let her go to waste. Sure made it easier to navigate the area and sure smelled better.

The Old Road Off the Hill

That day when I investigated the potential mine entrance in the bowl, I had traversed the slope trying to avoid the blackberries. I ended up on a small bluff above the meadow/turnaround that is at the northern end of the road cut. I climbed down and here is what I found by walking away from the dead deer cut. More narrow road leading to 196th.

Coming down that steep road I had come full circle and walked back up 196th to my truck parked at the pipeline gate.

Connecting All the Pieces

Please go back to that Hillshade Map posted at the beginning of this article. Check out where all these finds are located and how they might be interconnected. Brett and I talked about how these pieces are related and conjectured a bit. First I want to point out the definition of conjecture:

an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information

We think a rail came down from the mine to where the hanging rail is. At that spot the minerals (coal or other) was loaded into a wagon/cart that would transport it to the bunker and railroad. Those wagons/carts were returned up the steep hill to the cut under the hanging rail and they did it all over again.

To go into more detail, we assumed this was before petroleum powered machinery. Since it was around 1900, likely powered by mules or oxen pulling coal cars on narrow gauge or just packed earth roads. They could have used steam powered donkeys that were often used in logging to control the carts from the mine to the loading zone. And possibly the return route was eased by steam power too.

The following map is a way of visually demonstrating our “conjecture”.

Here is a legend of the different color arrows and stars:

Blue arrows – route of coal from mine to loading zone to bunker.
Brown arrows – route from bunker of empty cars to loading zone.
Brown Star – my guess of #3 mine entrance
Blue Star – other potential mine #3 site.

This map identifies two potential locations where #3 Cedar Mountain Mine could be. One is where the bowl feature I photographed and the second yet to be investigated on the grassy pipeline area. It is difficult to know because the land having been disturbed by the construction of the power lines and gas pipeline. That has covered up so much.

Lot of mystery around this area. But I am never surprised on what I keep finding on Cedar Mountain. It is an enigma; a forgotten ghost town right on the edge of our suburbia. It is a story that has been forgotten and deserves more 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. Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County

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

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