Which was first? Veazie or the Railroad?

That is a good question! If one looks at the raw dates it would seem the railroad was first. However, you knew this was coming, my history research makes me wonder if Veazie was first.

Certainly, the area known as Coal Creek was there before the Northern Pacific Railroad came to town. Covered this topic in my article The Elusive Veazie if you want to read up on the early area. Had the morphing of Coal Creek into two towns called Veazie and Birch come due to the railroad or did the railroad come to the area because of the little towns? Shall we jump down that rabbit hole?

Raw Data! Did I spark your curiosity? Of course.

  • 1885 – Railroad track came from the south to Enumclaw. Per the book “Shadow of the Mountain” the town had not been named at the time. So, they decided on Enumclaw which was a name the Indians gave to the mountain. The rail continued to be built to the north and eventually to Stampede Pass.
  • 1886 – The logging began in the Veazie area. (per History of Enumclaw First 6020 years by John & Doreen Anderson) The railroad had begun to push north and roads were forming up.
  • 1887 – The book “There is only one Enumclaw” states the first transcontinental train ever to run over the Cascades pulled into Enumclaw on July 4, 1887. The train ran every 5 days until it was discontinued in the winter.
  • 1890 – On June 23rd the Veazie Post Office opens. John Russell is the first postmaster. Veazie is named for Thomas Veazie of the Veazie and (John) Russell Logging Company.
  • 1892 – On July 28th the post office closes. Per Black Diamond Now article it states “By 1890, the town had a post office only to be closed when no coal had yet been found.” Coincidently, the Birch post office opened in 1892 the same year Veazie was closed down.

Nothing but the facts but facts are cold and miss a lot of what is between the lines. The answer is yes there was a small community in the northern area of what was called Coal Creek prior to the railroad. But perhaps we should instead be asking “Did that community have a small town center?”

I cannot find any mention of Veazie as a town or small community during this pre-railroad period. That makes me believe it was more of a group of farmers spread across the area who banded together to assist each other.

Old Puncheon Road example from Buckley Area per History of Enumclaw – First 6020 Years

An example of this community kinship but with no mention of Veazie as a town was the 1883 request to build a road in their area. The document found on the King County Road Maintenance Map Vault called this Road 109. Here is a portion of the hand written response post survey per a request from the farmers:

The undersigned viewers appointed by your board to view and locate a road as petitioned for by Isaac Wilson and others beginning from The School House on the County Road in the Sec 24, Tp 20 NR6E thence running a Northeasterly direction to the SE corner of Section 14 same Township there following as nearly practical to the Kingsbury Trail to Isaac Wilson’s property in Sec 6 Tp 20. Thence northeasterly to Jack Fountain’s (so called).

Report of Surveyor – August 8, 1883 – The Road from School House to Jack Fountain

Reading through the detailed survey it has the road beginning down in Enumclaw and ending where the bridge crosses the Green River at Franklin. This coordinates with other things I read about the farmers in the area selling produce, eggs and milk to the mines at Franklin (coal was found there in early 1880s).

Nowhere in the over 100 year old documents can be found the mention of any towns except Enumclaw. Lot of mentions about the Coal Creek Road but no Veazie or Birch at this point.

1883 road request Isaac
Wilson

Moving right along to the maps and information that the railroads left for us. I found the first of these Right of Way Plat maps in the King County Map Vault. The map below was labeled as being 1890. I found another version of this map that is dated in the 1920s. The two look nearly identical. That makes it hard to date either map and one must use a bit of skepticism on when these places existed and when they were abandoned or removed.

1890 Northern Pacific Railroad Plat Map

I have learned a lot about these maps from the railroad Facebook groups I joined. The railroad aficionados were so gracious teaching me about all kinds of railroad things. What really stuck with me was that one has to think of these maps like a company’s plant floorplan/map.

Some notes to get you orientated in today’s world:

  • The line connecting the 5 & 6 notations is very close to where 392nd Street SE crosses the tracks
  • Top of this map where the two townships (20 & 21) meet is where 384th Street SE is today.

When we saw Veazie mentioned on the above map, that area became where we focused our search for the first Veazie community, the logging camp, as seen in the photo below.

Veazie & Russell Logging Camp – near Enumclaw

Veazie is mentioned twice on this map. What caught my eye right away was “Veazie Abandoned Station”. Of course our team got excited and picked this as being a very likely site of our V#1 (Veazie first location). My partners in this research, Alan and Phil, searched this area with metal detectors and a neighbor gave us more info as well. We will discuss what was found in later articles.

I have to give Alan credit for sending me on this project. He had been looking for Veazie and asked me to help with research. Just like we did with the Cedar Mountain Mining Camp. Now we are hooked on the Elusive Veazie.

Veazie Abandoned Station was located in the field close to the tower – Photo from railroad crossing at 384th looking south

The second mention on the map is the Veazie Gravel Pit. I first thought that this must be Fell Hill. It is hard to miss Fell Hill and hence my confusion at first. As I looked deeper at the old maps and visited the area, I realized that this Veazie Gravel Pit was not Fell Hill but rather an earlier quarry.

In the Veazie Gravel Pit – Winter 2021-22

To keep it straight for my white paper I marked up one of the King County Establishment Road maps (circa 1930). See how below on that map I noted the 1890 pit, the current Fell Hill quarry and the smaller mound called Haystack. Above on the NPRR Plat map the Fell Hill Quarry would be between the two letters G & D. Just a bit confusing till you see these two places.

Fell Hill from Google Street View – Veazie Gravel Pit is to the left off side of photo

This Veazie Gravel Pit we are assuming was used by NPRR to build and maintain this portion of the railroad from the beginning until mining became advanced enough to use Fell hill. Or maybe the old pit just ran out of good gravel. Guess we will never real know for sure the when and why. Found some interesting things in the pit which we will talk about in the future.

Back to when did Veazie first appear. Was it these two places on the NPRR map? When were they first called that? I just can’t say for sure if it was before the post office or not.

During my research I found another version of the above Railroad Map with an estimated date of the 1920s on the PNWRA site. Below is that second map which is north of the first. It is of section 32 of township 21 R7. (which is above sections 5 & 6 of township 20 R7)

NPRR Plat Right a Way (later date)

What do you see? Veazey! A third place on the NPRR maps and spelled different. The Railroad experts explained this difference like this:

The NPRR spelled their quarry site “Veazey” but the Milwaukie Railroad spelled it “Veazie” in their timetables both before and after the consolidation of 1931 which is an anomaly to say the least because after 1931 they were using the same piece of track

Facebook Group – Logging Railroads of Pacific Northwest

I don’t think that the above is 100% perfect because the Veazie Gravel Pit and Abandoned Station are spelled “ie” but you get the drift that there are two spellings and that might help with the dating of those sites.

In the book “There is only one Enumclaw” it says the railroad crew built the first wagon road into Enumclaw realizing the Railroad’s need for a siding for switching cars.  Settlers at Boise, Birch, Veazey (NP spelling of Veazie), Buckley & Enumclaw began to compete for that siding near their holdings.

We have to remember that the book mentioned above was written in 1976. That explains the spelling of Veazie/Veazey and the mention of all the towns. Nor does it prove that Veazie and Birch actually existed in the mid 1880s as separate named towns of the greater Coal Creek Area.

In the end the siding was put in Enumclaw (Stevenson’s property in section 24) due to the level land and less expense to the RR.  I also think it was related to the fact the train came to Enumclaw first and was used as a construction staging area.  This decision ultimately would determine which of the towns actually became the powerhouse on the plateau.  Veazie & Birch would never become more than spots in the road.

That brings us back to the question – “Which was first – Veazie or the Northern Pacific Railroad?”

We will probably never really know but my best guess is in the late 1880s prior to the railroad’s completion there was logging being done by the Veazie & Russell Logging Company. The larger area of Coal Creek was becoming defined into two separate areas but not necessarily named yet.

When the railroad was finalized they added stops along this area for Birch, Coal Creek and Veazie to service different communities Here is an 1899 Station list that has these three stops on it. Not sure why or who picked these names.

Maybe this proves that they were names the railroad gave to different location where farmers loaded and unloaded their goods. Maybe is the key word here.

Perhaps the real answer is they came at the same time. That the town or group of settlers were there and formed into named communities for greater access to outside markets via the railroad.

History is not always black and white. I think of it as shades of grey. It is a researcher’s conundrum of what came first the chicken or the egg? The town Veazie or the Northern Pacific Railroad?

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

Similar to my other series, I will develop a directory of articles. Look for that link in the future.

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