The Earliest Cedar Mountain Bridges

This is the second article on “The Bridges of Cedar Mountain”. What started out as a simple research project became so big that it had to be divided up. To get you started here is a link to Part One which covers the 3 bridges that were built in the current location. Cedar Mtn Bridges from 1930 to today

For over 100 years several bridges have crossed the Cedar River at what is called Cedar Mountain. My research into these bridges was sparked when I found an odd thing while searching for old pilings during last summer’s low water. Was this a foundation to an old bridge? Thus started my quest to sort out all this bridge history.

Walking towards the bridge I found midstream some bushes growing on rocks. This island’s rocks didn’t look like your average rock. It had a cracked and almost cement look.

Now after months of research I have determined this rock like structure is unlikely part of a bridge foundation. First the old bridge drawings and photos show that neither bridge had a center support. Second this little island is a bit too far southeast to be under the old bridges. Maybe it is related but for now we will move on.

Google View of river – rock is circled and too far away to be bridge support

Now that we have that out of the way let us look at the first bridges at Cedar Mountain. I can document two of them with pictures and drawings. Perhaps there is some doubt on how many but that is for later in the article.

To recap some facts – our Cedar Mountain bridges have had several numbers. Currently it is #3165 but in the past it was also #2164A and the very first ones were #160A. This article is about those early numbered ones – #160A.

Deep in the King County Road Maintenance Vault I found this drawing proposing a road called McQuade Road. It gives you a clear view of where our oldest bridges stood.

1929 drawing of proposed Road 2146. See our bridge in the lower center?

Next we have the 1936 aerial of Cedar Mountain. This has the new 1930 bridge with ramp access to the area. You can see where the old bridge approach was at the center of the photo. The road and bridge configurations changed quickly and then the old disappeared from sight.

1936 Aerial of new location of the Cedar Mountain Bridge but also old approach is visible.

Now that I have set the stage we will talk about the two bridges that sat in the original location. Starting with the 1924 to 1930 bridge and then the supposedly very first one built before 1885.

1924 Cedar Mtn Bridge – 2nd Bridge

The trail of the bridges built at Cedar Mountain over the Cedar River is starting to get a bit murkier when we get to #2 bridge. I have this diagram of a bridge but don’t think I have a photo of it. Was it really built? And why was it replaced only 6 years later? Oh and remember how I said that when we get back to the first and second bridges were they really the first pair? Was an older bridge there that left no trace of it’s being? Lot of questions but we will start with the facts I have.

The most solid thing we have was found in the King County Road Maintenance Map Vault. This 1924 diagram fooled me for a long time. I found it in October 2021 in my first round of trying to understand the roads and bridges of the area.

Here is that simple set of drawings done in late 1923 and approved in 1924. This file had three pages. The first two were done in November 1923 and the last page was a final design in early 1924. Let us start with the first diagrams.

Late 1923 drawing in detail of new bridge at original Cedar Mtn Bridge Location
These drawings show a full view and a river view of 1924 bridge

As you can see this earliest 1923 set of drawings did not show the old bridge. It was more about the engineering and the top photo went into greater detail.

Then we have the February 1924 diagrams. First is the full detail.

There are some differences; On both sides there are changes to the approaches and the bulkheads. This made me wonder if the first 1923 plan was to demolish the old and build on top of the exact same spot. It sure resembles the photos I have obtained. But wait… look at this very telling 1924 update view of the bridges side by side.

Wasn’t until I started working on the bridge history did I even notice that this 1924 bridge was beside the old one at the original site. My brain for a long time had assumed that this 1924 bridge was built in the current location.

Back to the first drawings in late 1923 and the 1924 finals. If you look at the overview of the 1923 version the approach is the same as the old existing bridge. In photos of the older 1st bridge there was a curve at both ends of it. This newer 1924 drawing reduced the northeast approach curve and removed almost all of the southwest one. The neighborhood must have said we have to use our old bridge while the new was being constructed. That gave the engineers an opportunity to improve it. Lot of conjecture but that is the best we can do at this point.

I also refer you back to the McQuade Road info above. For what that is worth, that map show us a straight approach of what was left of the replaced bridge.

I end on the 1924 bridge with my question – Did this get built? I tend to think so because of the age of the old bridge and did they even know they would want to move it and rebuild it 6 years later. Lets revisit this after we look at the first bridge.

1884-5 Cedar Mtn Bridge – The First Bridge(s)

Now we are as far back as 139 years and the original location of the bridge at Cedar Mtn. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that one bridge built in 1885 likely did not last until 1924 or 1929. There must be another bridge besides the two, especially considering with the terrible flood of 1911.

After searching for photos and diagrams of this bridge in my usual sources I went to listings of the King County Archives. I created a list of items that mentioned Cedar Mountain Bridges. Then had the archives pull them for me. What a joy the archivist was to work with.

One of the items that caught my eye was a logging truck accident on July 12, 1923 that had photos and County Commissioner documents. Bonus a photo of a broken bridge! Check out what this uncovered.

Let us start with the documentation where the county made the Peterson Brothers Logging pay $1,000 for the repair of the bridge. These are documents – 124.11.303-KCCommish-V24-P550-Jul17-1923 King County Archives, Seattle, Washington.

I have to say I am amazed at the speed of repair this document talks about. The accident was on the 12th and repair had to be started by the 20th. Was this damage to the bridge such that it pushed the new bridge in 1924? Those first drawings were done in November 1923. I will let you ponder that coincidence.

Now the fun part of research! The Photos!

Cedar Mtn Bridge Damage 1923 looking northeast – Item 474.3.3 / Item 36.4.29 . King County Archives, Seattle, Washington.
Cedar Mtn Bridge Damage 1923 looking southwest – Item 474.3.3 / Item 36.4.29 . King County Archives, Seattle, Washington.

Next is a photo of the Cedar Mountain – Issaquah Road mentioned in the Peterson Brothers accident above. And it is road number 160. Yup the bridge is numbered due to this road. Unknown exact date or even where this was taken. I think this is a wonderful view of what roads looked like over 100 years ago. Plus it is the one that lead to the Cedar Mountain Bridge.

Issaquah to Cedar Mtn Road date unknown – Series400-Box23-95-005-0198P001 – King County Archives, Seattle, Washington

The dates of the next couple of photos are a bit fuzzy. They are in the same series as the accident photos that happened in 1923. At first the archivist had mislabeled the accident photos as 1916. She said that the folder contained photos from 1916 to 1923 and hence the mistake was based on that. We decided that the non-truck accident photos are from around 1916. No matter, these are previously unreleased photos of an early bridge at Cedar Mountain. Also they can not be the 1924 bridge.

This next photo is of the bridge from the Belmondo Reach Park side of the Cedar River. It looks northeast toward the Jones Road (aka McQuade connection Road). The approach to the bridge sits over the current levy and is to the south of the private residence on the north side of the park.

This picture was a huge eye-opener to what this part of Cedar Mtn looked like over 100 years ago. I call it Mind Blowing!

Approach to Cedar Mtn bridge Southwest Side of Cedar River -Item 474.3.3 / Item 36.4.29 – King County Archives, Seattle, Washington

Then we have the other side of the river’s approach. Both photos give us a lot of clues on where the bridge sat. The northeast side is just to the south of Jones Road. My guess is it runs right thru a house and yard that is currently there. The sharp curve onto the bridge is another clue to where this bridge sat.

Approach to Cedar Mtn bridge Northeast Side of Cedar River -Item 474.3.3 / Item 36.4.29 – King County Archives, Seattle, Washington

Our next photo from the archives is of a group picnicking under the bridge. They are on a gravel bar that today is covered by the levy and fill work done decades later to protect against serious flooding.

Cedar Mountain Bridge looking downriver and picnic on southwest bank – Series474-Box3-Folder160A-CedarMtBridge-nodate-2 – King County Archives, Seattle, Washington

This photo like the others has many clues to help us location the site of this first bridge. If you look beyond the bridge in the distance you will see the railroad. That is now the Cedar River trail.

The last photo is taken from those railroad tracks seen in the above photo. The photographer is looking back at the bridge. It does have a known date of May 1916. More clues for our boots on the ground research work.

Cedar River Bridge from Pacific Coast Coal Railroad on Southwest Bank looking upriver – Series474-Box3-Folder160A-CedarMtBridge-May1916-12 – King County Archives, Seattle, Washington

This hazy photo of the river and bridge brings us to the terrible flood of 1911. That flood destroyed the bridges at Maple Valley and flooded Renton so bad it brought many changes to how the river flowed through town.

In November 1911 the weather was rainy in the lowlands and heavy snow in the mountains. Then the pineapple express came through and melted the snows. The dam built by Seattle on the upper Cedar River was pushed to the limits. Lot of finger pointing happened afterwards. Some said it was caused by bad city engineering. Others said it was river dredging by the Milwaukee Road done when they built a rail line through the watershed in 1907. That shifted the river’s course too close to the bridge carrying the pipelines. Nevertheless, this flood destroyed the bridges at Maple Valley and flooded Renton. The population of Renton basically ran to the hills. Then Seattle had a water famine. Lot of unhappy people.

I researched quite a bit around the fate that day of our little bridge at Cedar Mountain. Have not found any solid evidence that tells us it survived or not. My belief is the fear from the 1911 flood pushed for a new bridge and ultimately was part of why later bridges were moved to the current position.

Moving back in our time machine we have two items that will give us more info on this original location. The first will be familiar to many. They are the lovely Timber Cruisers from 1907-8 period of time. The second is a road improvement project called the John McCoy Road. That cleaned up what had been an old meandering wagon road into something like we have today in Highway 169.

The first snip below of the Timber Cruiser is a good overview of Township 23 Range 6. Focus on that spot where a Coal Mine is pointed out.

1907 Timber cruiser of Cedar Mountain area & bridge

These map books contain detailed maps of each section. Next is the one for section 29 showing us the Cedar Mtn area. The town or rather coal camp of Cedar Mountain started in a spot to the south of the mines. As the mines opened and closed that town dwindled and eventually the population migrated northward. On this map I have marked the original store and school locations. That area coincides with our 1889 photo of the town. Next I have marked where the second store was located in the now King County Park.

Due to this migrating north there has been confusion on where the original 1889 town photo was located. If you want to read more here is a link to Where was Cedar Mtn

1907 Timbercruiser map of Cedar Mtn area with notes. The bridge is in the original position south of the current one.

When it comes to the bridge and the roads, this map clearly shows the bridge location. Also it shows that in 1907 the road crossed back and forth over the railroad.

Next are 1907 maps by John McCoy and the other landowners of the area to move the road.

His proposal moves the road to the west of the railroad and eliminates five crossings. The railroad agreed to this since it took a lot of risk off their rails. It replaced all these crossing with a road that connects the new road to the bridge at Cedar Mtn.

This map from the USGS in 1900 shows the winding road. I have circled the 5 eliminated crossings and it clearly shows how the road was before this change.

1900 USGS map – shows how the Renton-Maple Valley Road looked before John McCoy petitioned for a change.

Then we have the drawing of how the intersection with the bridge across the river would look after the change.

1907 John McCoy map from King County Map Vault with proposed road corrections & bridge intersection

I have to say that this map is not 100% perfect on how the bridge sat on the river. That was not the focus of it so they did not have to keep it in scale.

This next map is a close up of the railroad crossing from this proposal. The over simplicity of the river continues on this map too.

1907 John McCoy road petition – railroad crossing intersection with the Cedar Mtn Bridge.

I place this crossing a bit north of the current entrance into Belmondo Reach Park. Not only is the bridge depiction incorrect but the railroad spur is off slightly as well. It should be at more of an angle heading towards the mines.

This quest to document the bridges of Cedar Mountain turned up even more info when I searched for why the first two bridges were numbered 160A.

In the King County Road Map Vault I found several documents dated 1885 that proposed roads connecting to Cedar Mountain. The first one of mention is signed by Annie Jones, mother of the Jones Brothers who found the Indian Coal Mine. Deep in the documentation of road 53 is Annie Jones requesting this road change and that it will end at the McAllister Bridge or crossing. That was May 11, 1885.

1885 request for road 53 from Newcastle area to Cedar Mtn – Annie Jones bond of $500.

This means to me that the bridge was built before 1885. Rightfully, I had assumed that it must have been built in conjunction with the first mine. Or for the new railroad connection to Cedar Mtn in 1884.

The reference to McAllister by Annie Jones, other road projects that name the McAllister or McCallister Coal Mine and the map of land owners below left me confused. This land that McAllister had would become Cedar Mountain Coal Company sometime before the 1907. The Anderson map marked the land as Cedar River Coal Company.

I doubted the date of this map 1889 map below. When I went searching I found the Seattle Library had the following description of what it contains.

This atlas shows early land ownership for King County, Washington, providing names and property boundaries of original purchasers, grantees, claimants, etc.

So, could this be a recording of the original land claims on the property not that this is just 1889. Lot to digest and we cannot just take things on face value when working the mystery of Cedar Mountain.

1889 Cedar Mtn area with McAllister ownership area TW23 R6 – his property is on the left side of map and river

All along we were told that James Colman was first to mine there. Surprise! A story we believed was true from the Cavanaugh’s turned out to be partial fact at best. Kind of ground breaking in my circle of history searchers.

The information we are finding of pre-1884 Cedar Mountain mining is growing. Who were the McAllisters and/or the McCallisters? What about the investors from San Francisco and the Prince Alfred Ship that sank with 3 tons of specimen coal? Lot of grey fog that needs to be swatted aside. Stay tuned for more on what we find in a future article.

Now let us go back to what drove the bridge’s first number 160A and the road also numbered 160. This road was proposed by John Dormer. It goes from the McAllister Bridge at Cedar Mountain over the hill towards the Squak Road and ends where Washington Coal Company was mining on the west side of Tiger Mountain. It is another 1885 request to the county to develop a road.

Let us start with the very basic map followed by the cursive written request document.

1885 JOHN DORMER RD COUNTY ROAD NO 160 KC Map Vault (bridge CM 160A) MAP
1885 JOHN DORMER RD COUNTY ROAD NO 160 KC Map Vault (bridge CM 160A) Petition

One more note on this Road 160 and how it has an obvious purpose to connect two coal mines. I have also written about this Tiger Mtn coal mine location. Washington Coal Co. was only the first of many who mined there. Here is a link to that post for more information. Caroline Coal Mine aka Tiger Mtn Mines

While composing this article, Kai, a fellow searcher sent me a Pacific Coast Railroad Mainline Right-of-Way and Track Map from 1916. To my delight someone drew the bridge at Cedar Mountain on it. Not only did they note the old location we have been talking about but there are two bridges drawn. WTF!!!

Before I go into what this means here is a snip of that map found on the King County Road Maintenance Map Vault.

1916 Pacific Coast RR Map – Two Bridges????

I have pondered these two bridges drawn on this 1916 map. It is possible these were added at a later date. Not uncommon to see this practice on historic maps and documents. Here are several scenarios this could mean:

  • If the bridges were added at a later date such as 1924, then it could be documenting that 1924 replacement bridge discussed above. That has two side by side bridges in its drawings. The bridge on the right has a similar approach to what we see in the 1916 photos. If that is the old bridge then is this the new one built in 1924?. However, the left bridge on the railroad map is not aligned correctly to use the existing approaches. Remember how we talked about how they were going to straighten out those approaches. Maybe this is showing us that but I am not really convinced it is the 1924 bridge.
  • If the drawings were done closer to 1916 then could this be that elusive first bridge. The one I keep talking about that seemed unlikely lasting until 1924. Going back to what about the 1911 flood concerns?
  • Another thing going for this theory is how the left bridge is located close to the old coal mine bunker. Not sure which came first the bridge or the bunker but they are linked in that 1884-5 period of time very closely. If not earlier.
  • I find the timing of this map in 1916 a bit of a coincidence that a number of the photos I received from the King County Archives were dated 1916. Does that point to a new bridge built around that time. That those photos were taken to document a new bridge.

As I have said over and over the number of bridges could be more than the five we have documentation on. This map gives us a small bit of information supporting our conjecture that it is improbable the 1884-5 (or earlier) bridge lasted three decades. It is still not a smoking gun but it does lend our assumptions some form of credence. Not sure we will ever bring this earliest bridge out of the fog but you know I will continue researching and digging.

Time to move onto showing you what the area looks like today where these first bridges stood. Due to that volume of material I have, decided that it would be best to do a separate post. Yes my bridge project is going to be three chapters now. So, stay tuned for that.

But because I can hear you shouting… “NO! Don’t leave us hanging!” here is a current photo transposed with the 1916 photo. A bit of a teaser.

2023 photo from under the 2002 Cedar Mtn Bridge with 1916 bridge approximate location.

This next photo was taken in February 2023 standing in about the same location as the photographer from the 1916 photo.

When I get the third part complete I will update this article with a link here.

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 bridge, a road, a town or a railroad can disappear into the fog.


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