Bayne: A King County Coal Mining Town

  • By William Kombol
  • Posted 1/23/2012
  • Essay 10017
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Bayne was one of the many coal mining towns that flourished in eastern King County in the early years of the twentieth century and have since largely vanished. Very little of the town, located along the Cumberland-Kanaskat Road east of Black Diamond, remains now, but at its peak Bayne boasted more than three hundred residents, a school, a hotel, a store, 40 company-owned houses, and a succession of coal mines. Unlike many surrounding towns, Bayne survived after coal production plummeted in the 1920s, thanks in large part to longtime miner Jim Bolde, who took over operation of its mine in 1928 and kept it going for another two decades. This People's History was contributed by William Kombol, Manager of the Palmer Coking Coal Company in Black Diamond.

Building Bayne

The first coal mine in the area, originally called the American Mine, commenced operations in 1895 at the base of Lizard Mountain, just north of Cumberland. It closed a year later and became known as the Old Carbon. In the summer of 1898, P. Gibbons opened a mine on the west limb of the Lizard Mountain syncline, which led to the founding of Occidental, one-half mile northwest of what would one day become Bayne.

It was in 1903, when Fred Nolte and R. S. Williams formed the Carbon Coal Company, that Bayne first began to take shape. A new mine called the Carbon was opened, bunkers were built, and a tramway extended to the railroad tracks that parallel the current location of the Cumberland-Kanaskat Road. The original railroad siding, which provided a critical transportation link for shipping the coal, was built in 1908. That siding was named for George Bayne of Oklahoma, who had discovered a coal seam. He and his brother William Bayne helped develop the mines that led to the building of a real town. In 1909, mining operations were taken over by the Green River Coal Company, which within a year reformed itself as the Carbon Coal & Clay Company. A building boom ensued.

Before the hotel, homes, school, and store were built, there was only a boarding house operated by George and Harriet Stonebridge Richardson and their family. They fed 40 men, charging $25 per month for room and board. The men slept in bunk houses and Harriet Richardson tended to their needs. She recalled:

"We got there before the houses were built ... I cooked the first meal in Bayne on a forge -- boiled coffee and fried bacon -- while George worked the bellows. Until the water system was put in, we had to carry water from the well up a ladder and fill two big barrels on the roof."

With two mines, the Daly and the Carbon, and a growing work force, the Carbon Coal & Clay Company built a hotel described by George Watkin Evans in his comprehensive 1914 report on the properties:

"The hotel owned by this company, which is operated for the accommodation of miners employed in its mines, is beyond a doubt the finest hotel in any mining camp in the state of Washington. It is a very attractive three-story building that has well constructed rooms, reading room, lobby, and dining room. This hotel would be a credit to any community. Adjoining the hotel is a small two-story annex in which the help live. The hotel will accommodate 175 men."

Next to the hotel stood the general merchandise store, also described by Evans:

"The Company's store, which is located but a short distance from the hotel, is a large, well-lighted building, 40 by 80 feet, and 14 feet from floor to ceiling. There is a warehouse attached which is 20 by 40 feet. The store is well supplied at all times, with a first-class grade of goods."

About 40 houses were also constructed, 32 south of the hotel, store, and school, and another eight or so next to the Carbon mine tipple and bunkers. It was a short walk to work for the miners. The homes were called "one-a-days" as that was the average length of time it took to build one. The single-story homes had four rooms, one plumbing feature, and one sink. The exterior siding was fir and the interior was sealed shiplap. Coal stoves heated the homes while electricity was provided from the coal mine's power plant. Most homes were 688 square feet in size and otherwise identical.

Mining Infrastructure

In 1914, mine equipment included three 150-horsepower Erie brand boilers providing electricity to the mine and the town's residents. The wash plant featured 250-volt direct current generators with a marble switchboard. The blacksmith shop contained forges, engines, tools, cut-off and rip saws, benches, vises, and many other tools. The small mine office was just 168 square feet. Miners changed and hung their wet work clothes after shift in a spacious 10 foot by 40 foot change and dry house. The mule stable was a two-story affair capable of accommodating 11 head of stock and a year's supply of feed.

The bunkers and washery building was one of the more impressive structures on the grounds. Forty feet by 104 feet in size and standing five stories tall, it was equipped with a Phillips cross-over automatic tipple for dumping the loaded coal cars as they were pulled from the mine. The bunkers could hold 500 tons of coal and three Pittsburg brand jig washers cleaned the nut coal at a capacity of 40 tons per hour. A moving picking table with a rock crusher allowed slack to be removed and carried away by a 250-foot long, 40-foot high conveyor to a refuse pile.

The facilities were served by branch rail lines of both the Northern Pacific and the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railroads. The town also fronted the Cumberland-Kanaskat county road. Nearby, the Little Falls Brick Clay Company of Tacoma established a large plant for manufacturing and firing bricks, which only added to the prospects of booming Bayne.

Boom and Bust

In 1910, Bayne was seemingly set for decades of prosperity as coal production expanded and miners' wages rose. Three years later, an 18-year-old from Milford, Massachusetts, moved west to stoke the mine's boilers. His name was Jim Bolde.

Coal production grew throughout Washington during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Typically, more than half the state's output was exported, while the rest fueled a growing local economy. Railroads, steamships, power plants, industries, businesses, and homes all relied on coal to generate electricity and heat. In 1904, the Pacific Coast Coal Company consolidated ownership of mines in Newcastle, Issaquah, Black Diamond, Franklin, and Burnett. The Northwest Improvement Company, a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railroad, produced huge quantities of coal from its Roslyn mines to fire the locomotive boilers of trains moving goods east and west and up and down the coast.

The independently owned Carbon Coal & Clay Company in Bayne never had that kind of consolidated market power, but its mines grew nonetheless. At their peak in 1917, more than 75,000 tons of high-grade coal was mined from catacombs 300 feet underground. But competition was tough with nearby mines in Cumberland (Eureka, Fleet, Hyde, Independent, Navy, Ozark, and Sunset), Durham, Elk Coal, Hiawatha, Kangley, Kummer, Occidental, and Pocahontas all competing in a volatile marketplace as price, quality, and dependability dictated production.

When World War I ended, coal prices fell worldwide, as did production. Coal mine operators tried to cut wages, which resulted in a series of bitter strikes and lockouts both locally and nationwide. In 1921, strikes nearly destroyed the town. By 1923 coal production had dwindled to only a few thousand tons per year. It looked like Bayne might face the same fate as nearby Franklin, which folded in the early 1920s.

Jim Bolde Takes Charge

But one man had grown up in the coal mining business in Bayne. He knew the mines as he knew his multiplication tables. He knew every piece of mining equipment and could operate them. He knew each tunnel of the underground coal workings and could perform any duty at the mine. Jim Bolde, who in the 15 years since his arrival as a teenage boiler stoker had become master mechanic for the Carbon Coal & Clay Company, took over operation of the Bayne property in 1928. He started small but gradually grew the business, which he rechristened the Carbon Fuel Company.

Bolde took an active interest in every aspect of his new mining property -- sometimes too active. At one point Bolde became suspicious that dynamite was being stolen from the mine's powder house. According to Gene Emry, who grew up in Bayne, Bolde set a trap with a shotgun that would discharge when someone broke in. The trap backfired and Bolde lost a leg, wearing a peg the rest of his life. Some recall that Bolde closed the mines in the early 1930s to get rid of strikers, but most remember him as a man dedicated to his employees and to the town. Don Windsor related how Bolde financed the Bayne Wolverines, who won the state amateur baseball championship in 1939. Lorraine Windsor, Don's wife, told of Bolde buying every child a Christmas present and charging residents only $10 per month for rent, which included electricity and water.

One day, Jim Bolde made the short trip to Cumberland and met Rose Malatesta, of nearby Veazie, who worked in the town's only hotel. On September 11, 1932, friends from far and wide came out for the couple's wedding, which was held at the Bayne Hotel complete with a brass band and huge sides of meat barbequed on spits over open fires. Rose Bolde described her husband in a 1967 interview in The Seattle Times:

"Jim never made much money. He could have, but he was always helping people instead of getting rich. He was rough all right, but he had a heart of gold and everyone knew it."

Jim continued working side by side with the miners who dug his coal.

Mines opened and closed as increased competition from California oil wells and Columbia River hydroelectric dams ended most coal sales to locomotives and power plants. The depression years of the 1930s were difficult for smaller, undercapitalized firms. While the early operations at Bayne used electric hoists to pull coal cars out of the mines, from the 1930s into the 1950s mules were often used. George Costanich was a coal miner who told a story of a particular mule named Jack:

"I worked as a mule-skinner for Bolde when I started working in mines. On second shift one night I dumped all the loaded cars and was ready to go back inside. I had a whip and hit the mule on his butt a few times, but he wouldn't move. I didn't see Jim as he was sitting on some timbers off to one side. I hadn't seen him as it was a bit dark. He said, 'Georgie, you shouldn't hit Jack with a whip and swear at him. You have to talk nice to him.' So he gets by the mule's head and was saying 'Come on Jackie, get up.' This went on for about a minute. Then Jim started swearing and picked up a two by six inch lagging and hit Jack between the ears and said, 'You black S.O.B., when I say 'Get' you better move.' I flicked the whip and he started to go. I said, 'Jim, is the lagging better to use than a whip?' He really got to laughing. Jim was a nice guy. But that's how he was." (Lagging is a coal mining term for the rough-cut two inch thick boards used to hold up the roof of an underground coal mine.)

Bayne's End

All good things must come to an end. Coal mining in Bayne ceased around 1950. With the miners gone, Jim and Rose continued to rent the old company houses to gyppo loggers, and later to construction workers who helped build the Howard Hanson dam. But with little rental income the cheaply built houses slowly deteriorated. By 1967, the year Jim Bolde died, most of the old company houses had roofs of moss and were abandoned.

Today, little remains of Bayne save for two or three of the original homes remodeled beyond recognition. The hotel, store, school, and mines are all gone. Old coal slag piles still dot the hillsides. The railroad is little used except to stage empty rail cars. The Welsh, Italian, and Czech miners who lived in Bayne and dug the coal are all gone. But for the families with surnames like Cinkovich, Costanich, Coutts, Ernise, Kranick, Manson, Parkerson, Richardson, Stonebridge, Tobacco, Zapitul, and many, many others, the memories of Bayne will never fade away.


George Watkin Evans, "Geologic Report on the Property of The Carbon Coal & Clay Company, King County, Washington," Seattle, 1914; Evans, Washington Geological Survey, Bulletin No. 3: The Coal Fields of King County (Olympia: E.L. Boardman Public Printer, 1912); George Watkin Evans to N. D. Moore, Vice President, Pacific Coast Coal Company, June 13, 1928; "Geologic and Coal Resources of the Cumberland, Hobart, and Maple Valley Quadrangles, King County, Washington," Geologic Survey Professional Paper 624 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969); Morda C. Slauson, One Hundred Years Along the Cedar River (Seattle: Shorey Book Store, 1971 facsimile reproduction); Black Diamond: Mining the Memories: An Oral History of life in a Company Town, ed. by Diane and Cory Olson (Black Diamond: Black Diamond Historical Society, 2003); "New Brick Works," Enumclaw Courier, October 15, 1909; "New Coal Vein Opened by Operator at Bayne," Enumclaw Courier-Herald, June 14, 1935; Kenneth Evans, "Pacific Coast's Highest Grade Coal Produced Near Enumclaw; Carbon Mine Increases Output," Ibid., October 16, 1936; "Remembering the Existence of Bayne," Ibid., May 29, 1996; "Bayne Train," Ibid., August 15, 2001; Marty Loken, "Bayne's Once Vital Life is Buried in Time," The Seattle Times, December 17, 1967, p. 45;  Barbara Nilson, "Jim Bolde and Bayne Were Synonymous," Voice of the Valley, November 16, 2006; William Kombol, "When Coal Was King," Ibid., November 25, 2008, December 28, 2010, January 4, 2011, January 11, 2011, January 18, 2011, January 25, 2011, February 8, 2011, February 15, 2011; William Kombol telephone interview with George Costanich; email from George Costanich to William Kombol; email from JoAnne Matsumura to William Kombol.

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