Lost Road at Cedar Mountain

Way back last year before I got that Veazie bug, I was looking for a road. Not just any road but one that went up from Cedar Mountain to Lake McDonald & Lake Kathleen. Why would I be looking there?

History of Lost Cemetery

A lost cemetery or graveyard is why. How did I even know about a lost cemetery? Long story short many months ago someone told me about a miner killed in a mine disaster being buried at Cedar Mountain.

Who was this person? He was a well respected, man in the Cedar Mountain area. He was John Morris and he died in the Franklin Coal Mine Fire disaster August 24, 1894. His burial at the Cedar Mountain cemetery was documented in a news article of the day.

Seattle PI article – August 27, 1894
Another clip from Seattle PI – August 1894

I had searched quite a bit on and off with little success. Then I found that Don Mason at the Black Diamond Museum had also been looking for this cemetery. He said that years ago some ladies come to the museum looking for the Morris grave. They told the people at the museum that the family would walk uphill to the site.

As I did my research and hiking trips around Cedar Mountain I always thought about where up hill could be. It had to be a secluded spot that no one had looked at in years. That could be anywhere. Plus likely on private property.

One day in frustration I sent out emails to many state and county organizations. I even asked the librarians at the Seattle Public Library for help. From those requests I got two good answers.

The researcher of the Library didn’t find the graveyard but did send me all the genealogy and land records he could find on John Morris. How his wife sold a homestead up by Lake Kathleen and had remarried. The suggestion was he might be buried close to the old home.

My other response was from the Washington State Anthropology department. They sent me an actual report they have on this cemetery/burial. Plus told me about the homestead and likelihood that the grave was there. Swear they talked to the same Library researcher that I did.

Map From WA state Anthropologist

Map Vault and Lost Roads

Still no known location and I moved on to other projects. That was when I dug into the King County Road Map Vault. It was a time machine back into the 1880s, 1890s & turn of the century.

Looking out of the box, I started looking for old roads in the map vault that might lead to this lost burial. Since the Morris homesteaded was up by Lake Kathleen I concentrated on the northeast side of the Cedar River. This is across the Jones Road Bridge and near the lovely brick McQuade house there.

John McQuade House from Jones Road

I was in map heaven in the Map Vault. Everything from written requests in old cursive to rough maps to detailed schematics to large overview maps to aerial photos. One lovely old fashion document I found was The Thomas Lindsay Road Request which was numbered Road 181. It was proposed in 1886 and built in 1887. That number means it was the 181st road approved in King County. It is an oldy. Here is the cover page.

Original request for Road 181 in 1886

And of course the rough map that was included with the cursive written descriptions and requests.

The 1886 map with the distinct pair of hairpin turns

The best part was all the people who signed the petition for this road. One of them was none other than John Morris. Do not be distracted by the spelling of his last name with only one R. The librarian told me it was spelled Morris or Morrison and now we can add Moris. Still same person when you look at the big picture of his research.

Road 181 Petition signatures included John Morris – miner buried near Cedar Mountain

Next let us examine what are called Road Establishment Maps. So much to see on these maps developed sometime in the 1930s to 1940s. They show all roads in the county both closed and still in existance. They were trying to consolidate in one place the different numbering systems used over the decades. Here is a little piece of that big map zeroing in on the Cedar Mountain area. Don’t forget we are looking uphill to Lake Kathleen and McDonald. McDonald is visible at the top on the map below.

Road Establishment Map of Cedar Mtn area

I know you are saying what do you want me to look at. Below is a zoomed in version with a blue circle around Road 181. I also noted where the brick house sits for orientation. So much on this map to research later. More lost roads to be found!

Got to love a now and then comparison. This map below is from King County Imap site. I have marked the brick house location on this too.

Area map from 2022

Lastly we have the 1936 aerial. Not sure when this road was abandoned but I assume it happened between this 1936 photo and the 1950s.

In 1936 our lost road easy to see.

Boots on the Ground Investigations

Here we go. My first investigative trip was a year ago in mid October 2021. I spent a bit of time wandering around the deserted quarry looking for clues that match all the maps. The quarry was not new to me. I had been there in the fall of 2020 trying to access the West Coast Coal mine that is below on the Cedar River. Link to that article – Quest for Mine entrance

I zeroed in on a deep creek bed just at the top of the steepest road of the two that access the quarry. It was on the northern side of the area where the road should be found. Below are a few photos of the road and quarry.

The quarry had modified the small creeks and drainage in this area. They had built berms and large piping to control the flooding from the creek and quarry runoff. The creek was dry so I climbed into it’s bed and started picking my way up stream.

The road appeared to be altered here with a berm and drainage changes.

This little creek had carved out quite a channel. Close to the entrance there were trees that had fallen over this big ditch.

Deep creek bed looked promising since it headed in the direction of the old closed road.

Not too far past those trees I found my first clue, some old concrete pieces covered in moss. A sign that I was in the right area and onto something. Some were still on the bank and others had fallen into the creek bed.

What a great clue but what is this old stuff? My guess it is some kind of bridge or reinforcement of the old dirt road. Possibly it could be an old building near the road? At first I wondered if that little raised flat area might have been the cemetery I searched for. My gut says it is probably not grave stones but can’t completely rule that out.

My first trip was over and I shared this with my fellow seekers. So excited I started planning my next trip as I drove home. I planned to climb further up the creek before the rains came and see what is up that way. My road was calling.

In mid November I got back there on a nice fall sunny day. I walking up the creek bed past the old concrete. It got deeper and narrower as I made my way. Soon I climbed out of it since it was becoming a dead end and I was claustrophobic. Time to start climbing up the hill to find the two hairpin curves.

Here are a few photos of that deep creek bed as I looked back at it after I extracted myself.

With the creek behind me I had the first slope to get up. This photo shows that first phase of getting to the crest of the hill.

Looking up to where I hoped to find the lost road.

Tough going here. I had to use trees and shrubs to pull myself up this steep old road bed. Yes one could tell there had been a road here. Then I came to a place that I assumed was the first hairpin. It looked like it was actually a fork. The fork that went straight didn’t seem to continue far. So, I turned to the south. This ended up going to the second hairpin that I quickly discovered had collapsed off the side of the slope.

The road was clearly here but quickly falling away

Since the old road become too dangerous with a cliff and gravel on my left, I scrambled up to the crest. (in the photo you can see the crest tree line – upper right). There I was able to walk along the ridge and look over the edge. From there I could confirm that the second hairpin did not exist now. Nevertheless, what I saw made my heart soar. There was a flat old road covered in ferns still there! Check it out!

Imagine driving along this road in the 1880s!

The next two photos show you how high up this is. One looks in the direction behind me as I took the above photo. Good perspective on how the old road on that side of the crest had crumbled away. The second is the view in the distance. Quite lovely place to eat lunch I thought.

After I ate my lunch up on the ridge I worked my way down by sliding on my butt and carefully retracing my steps. One thing I noticed looking down was a plateau area where the hairpin had slide down that hill of gravel.

The large flat area seen from above

Here was another possible place where that lost graveyard might be and John Morris is buried. Fits the description, up a hill from Cedar Mountain. Lets check it out.

Alas there were no obvious headstones or signs of a cemetery. However, I wonder if this plateau was created to mine the gravel. That would explain the hairpin’s demise. If you look at the 1936 aerial I can’t make out this big flat area. Below is a snip of a current lidar map and you can see this flat ledge quite clearly.

2022 Lidar Map sowing lost road and plateau gravel slide area

One last photo of the gravel slide area from my second lost road trip.

The gravel slide with the apx location of the 2nd hairpin curve above

Time to talk about why it was closed. For sure today this would be a very convenient short cut to Lake Kathleen. After climbing up the old road I could see it was a steep grade with two dangerous hairpin curves on a narrow old road. It was before cars and built for wagons pulled by horses or oxen.

Time has been hard on this scrappy road with the second hairpin now collapsed down the steep bank. This happened either from natural causes like an earthquake (there were bigger ones in 1945, 46, 49 & 65) or perhaps they mined the gravel and eroded the road away purposefully. Even in 1936 this dirt road must have been user beware.

Time for Round three of the search which was in February of 2022. I pondered how to get to the part of it that still existed. On my prior trip I could see it but didn’t climb down to it because I wasn’t sure I could get back up. This third trip I decided the best way was to approach it from another angle. That is from the far side of the gravel slide basically past the eroded hairpin. That should get me on the remaining road bed on the other side of the ridge.

That worked but it was some serious climbing. This next photo is when I got up to the lost road. This is where it continues around the ridge after the eroded hairpin curve section.

On the Road 181 (lost road) looking where the hairpin used to be

Photos don’t do the old road justice. As I walked along it was evident it was a road because of its flatness on the side of a steep hillside. It climbs gently as I went along and had ferns, salal and other small native bushes growing on it.

It is an unusual feeling to be walking in history. That was what I was feeling at this point.

However, it was time to sort out how to get down. Was it the way I came or find another way down to Jones Road where my car was parked. I decided to keep going and look for a good place to go down. I had seen several old roads on maps that intersected with Road 181 and Jones Road. Maybe I would find one of those to head down.

The road decided for me. I had to head down the hill when I came to the end of this section where a second washout had damaged it. I could see the road in the distance beyond the wash out. It hugged the side of the hill and went upward to the crest just south of Lake McDonald. I took several photos of it but none clearly show how it looked. Dang!

Once I got down to Jones Road I found one more interesting thing walking back to my car. In the drainage ditch there was that rusty goopy stuff I call mine goo. What is causing that? Perhaps something up on the hill is draining that rusting mineral water downward. Or there is a mine in this area that is not documented. A mystery to ponder in the future.

I may not have found the lost graveyard yet but I did find Road 181 which has been deserted for decades. Holy Smokes even a year later I feel good about this find.

If you want to read more about my search for Cedar Mountain and other Lost Coal Mines here is a link to my directory of articles. Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a road, a town or a railroad can disappear into the fog.


  1. Hi,

    I’m Kai Dalton, from the Newcastle Historical Society. I’ve been doing research on the logging companies and also some of the minor coal companies in our area. John McQuade and his May Creek Coal Co., as well as the subsidiary/connected company of the Seattle-Issaquah Electric Ry. Co. has been the subject of some f that recent research.

    If you have any info about McQuade (especially his May Creek or other operations!) please let me know at my e-mail. If you have any questions for me as well, don’t hesitate to ask them!


    P.S.: This is a good blog.

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