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Black Diamond and Franklin (King County coal towns), as seen in 1902
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This article about the east King County coal towns of Black Diamond and Franklin is reprinted from The Coast, Vol. 3, No. 2 (March 1902).
Black Diamond and Franklin
Some of the most beautiful scenery on the face of the earth is found within the state of Washington. Not only do the great, high mountains rear their snowy crests far heavenward to pierce the clouds and thereby charm the eye with their grandeur and sublimity, but vast areas of large, tall trees -- a world of wealth by themselves -- cover the mountains and valleys, and unlimited and unexhaustible deposits of mineral and coal lie hidden beneath the surface, which awaken the mind to dreams of wealth and fortune.
Among the localities most favored with opportunities for the pursuit of pleasure and the quest for wealth we find that situated along the Green river, near Black Diamond and Franklin, in King County, Washington. Here the hunter and fishermen can indulge most satisfactorily in his chosen sport.
Here are found unlimited quantities of the finest coal to be procured on the Pacific coast. Here the scenery is resplendent with the grandeur and sublimity of the wonderful handiwork which has formed and fashioned the beautiful and artistic in nature.
Little more than twenty-two years ago the rich coal fields in this locality were prospected and the first permanent settlement made at Black Diamond. Tim Morgan is accredited with being the first white settler. The altitude is about 500 feet above the sea level. Eighteen years ago the railway was built into the place and the mines opened. The commodity is white ash coal and is found in veins averaging six feet in thickness.
Black Diamond today is a bustling and thriving camp of 1,000 souls. It is about thirty miles from Seattle. It has one church, three school buildings, with four teachers and a graded school most admirably conducted, four lodges, -- Knights of Pythias, Masonic, Odd Fellows and Red Men -- two general stores, three hotels, three barber shops, two meat markets, one saloon and numerous social societies and organizations. The people are hospitable and prosperous. There is some farming in the country surrounding. The finest view to be had of Mt. Rainier is the one from this place.
The Black Diamond mines are the nucleus of the business interests of the place. These are under the management of Morgan Morgans, who has been in charge for the past sixteen years. These mines are operated on the slope plan, there being two slopes -- “No. 14”, and “Morgan’s Slope.” “No. 14” slope extends 2,000 feet down and has bunkers with a capacity of 2,000 tons. “Morgan’s Slope” also leads down about 2,000 feet and has bunkers with a capacity of 2,500 tons. At the depth of 1,000 feet in each slope an electric engine is located in the mine which is used to haul the cars to that level from below. From the 1,000 foot level the coal is lifted by a cable operated at the mouth of the mine. Employment is given to over 500 men. The daily capacity of these mines is from 800 to 1,000 tons of coal. Little do we consider the hazardous and severe toil which gives us the coal as we sit comfortably before our fires in the home and enjoy its genial warmth, but there is a human hand operated by a human heart away off far below the surface of the earth in the dark, chilling, close confines of a grimy, little chamber in sweat and toil picking, picking, picking out the coals we burn. That person is our fellowman.
Franklin is located three miles from Black Diamond at the end of the railroad. A Mr. McKay about 18 years ago prospected for and discovered rich coal fields here. July 28, 1885, the first carload of coal was hauled away. Then there were 13 men working; now the Franklin mines employ more than 500. The coal here is of most excellent quality and is shipped largely by the Pacific Coast Company to San Francisco. It is much sought for by steamships, being of the best steam coal on the Pacific coast.
The Pacific Coast Company operates the mines at Franklin. They employ about 800 men and have a yearly capacity of 515,000 tons of coal. There are three veins of coal now being mined which are known as the McKay vein, the Gem vein and the Fulton vein. The Gem vein is tapped by the Gem mine which is reached through the means of a tunnel. This coal is used exclusively on the Pacific Coast Company’s engines and steamers. Franklin mine No. 1 taps the Fulton vein and No. 10 vein and consists of a slope entrance reaching from 1000 to 2000 feet below the surface of the earth. The product of this mine is known as Fulton lump coal and is used for house purposes. The greatest activity is exerted in mining from the McKay vein. This product is a pink ash coal. Lawson slope, reaching down 1,600 feet; Franklin slope, No. 7, reaching down 3,000 feet; and Franklin shaft No. 2, reaching down 1,500 feet, touch this vein of coal, which runs in a six foot vein, and is used extensively for steam coal on the ocean going steamships touching at Seattle. These mines are worked upon scientific principles and are among the most successful on the Pacific coast.
Franklin is situated on the banks of the Green river and has an altitude of 750 feet. The population is 500. An excellent graded school is maintained. Green River Lodge, No. 33, K. of P., with 58 members and one of the best teams in the state, has an organization here and fine quarters in a new hall. The people are energetic and prosperous. Mt. Rainier, twenty five miles away, presents a most beautiful and charming sight from this place.
Here, where the Green river comes dashing and splashing along over rocks and stones, whirling in eddies and tumbling in many waterfalls, amidst scenes of the wildest and most picturesque nature, abound in countless numbers the delicious mountain trout “speckled” and “rainbow” which offer to the fond fisherman a paradise of sport. Who does not relish the small, but sweet and delicious trout which is savored with the sparkling life and activity of many a waterfall? Which has lived and grown in the pure and icy waters from the snowy crests and crevices of the mountains.
Game, too, is plenty along the Green river, both of animal and fowl, and many who have reveled in the sport of capturing from its wildness its’ limbed and feathered, treasures, attest to the high degree of pleasure they enjoyed.
It is to be regretted that the scenery and industry of this district cannot be more extensively by description and illustration set forth. The least that can be said is that it is a most charming and delightful locality where nature draws man near to the infinite and the hazardous employment of the inhabitants draws each other near together in the true and honest fellowship of sympathizing human hearts.
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Coal mines, Franklin (King County), 1898
Courtesy Black Diamond Historical Society
Green River Coal Field, 1880
Courtesy UW Special Collections
Interior of coal mine, Black Diamond, ca. 1900
Courtesy Ruth Ayes Hofto