Jordan Valley Coal Mine incorporates on August 2, 1918.

  • By Janet Oakley
  • Posted 2/14/2010
  • Essay 9264

On August 2, 1918, a trio of Granite Falls and Everett businessmen files incorporation papers for the Jordan Valley Coal Mine. Its purpose is to "carry on a general mining business in the United States the District of Alaska and Dominion of Canada" (incorporation papers, 1918). Soon the company digs tunnels near the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River, puts in machinery, and starts to take out coal. Additional finds in 1922 will increase the number of shafts, but the enterprise struggles to reach full production.

Starting a Mine

Prospecting for minerals and ore was not new to the settlement known as Jordan. After zinc, with gold and silver deposits, was discovered 1,000 feet north of the Jordan swing bridge in 1900, the Washington Zinc Mine was incorporated. However, legal issues and poor roads hampered its development. The discovery of coal seams next to the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River around 1918 seemed a surer bet, and the Jordan Valley Coal Mine was incorporated in early August of that year to work those seams.

In 1919 the company hired A. Michser, an experienced miner, to take charge of the work and to make the claim a working mine. Two years later, a local newspaper described the progress made: “The workings show two feet of clear coal but other veins on property show greater thickness ... . The work has been proceeding ... for the past year with a crew of three or four men” (Arlington Times, June 3, 1921). In the end, six seams were located and worked on.

Gangways and shafts were built with hopes that 60 tons of bituminous coal could be taken out for the Granite Falls School District before it opened in the fall. At the time, however, the only way to get the coal across the river to the road was by bucket and cable. The company proudly announced that it had 1,700 feet of cable to do this. Five months later they were still digging and planning how to get the coal out. On November 24, 1921, the Arlington Times reported:

“The Jordan Valley Coal Co. has recently added to its equipment by purchasing 800 feet of inch cable for a tram cross the river: a double drum hoist, a fan and 600 feet of galvanized pipe to afford a ventilating system. The company plans to mine and deliver across the river at least ten tons of coal per day.”

Before they could put a tram in operation, the company had to erect bunkers of 50-ton capacity. Prepping and building was a constant activity. By December 22, 1921, work on bunkers on the east side of the river was underway, and the company could begin mining and delivering coal.

“The new power plant which will operate a hoist, ventilator fan and aerial tram across the river is working nicely. The cable for the tram is in place, and with a beast ready for stoping ‘black diamonds’ will soon be coming from the mine in a business like procession” (Arlington Times, December 22, 1921).

At about this time, the mine narrowly escaped flooding, with the water reaching a point two feet above the bottom of the tunnel. However, they still planned to take out coal in a matter of a week.

In mid-February 1922 a new seam of coal more four feet wide was discovered on homesteader Oluf Holmstad’s property. The discovery was made on a crosscut from the original shaft, at a depth of 132 feet. The company immediately announced that it was strengthening its financial position by selling additional stock and would sink a new shaft. Apparently the original entrance was not convenient for removal of the coal. Work continued on the mine with plans to have the coal transported across the Stillaguamish River to awaiting trucks “as soon as permission can be acquired from the county commissioners” (Arlington Times, March 22, 1922). The goal continued to be 10 tons of coal a day for use in Arlington. Six men were now employed by the mine, and a cookhouse was contemplated, but it appears from contemporary newspaper reports that the mine was not quite up to full production.

Picnics and Bridges

Between the beginning of 1923 and the end of 1924, the Jordan coal mine seemed constantly under updates and construction. News accounts told of new capital raised and a slate of officers elected. A Mrs. Fowles, secretary of the company, said that more than $25,000 had been put into development work and acknowledged that it “has been a long uphill struggle to finance and develop the mine” (Arlington Times, Aug 2, 1923). Fortunately, the public continued to show interest in its progress, turning out 200 strong in the rain for a picnic given by the company in September 1923. The buildings at the mine were complete and heavy steam machinery in place, but no one could go into the mine because the pipe for pumping it out still hadn’t been installed.

In June 1924 the Jordan swing bridge was widened and revamped to carry 10-ton loads across the river. Most of the work was done by Holmstad's brother, Ole Eliason, and two nephews. A year later, Oluf Holmstad was in court, suing the coal company over contractual matters. The court found the company in default after it failed to appear, and awarded Holmstad the coal on his property “free and clear of any right, title, estate, lien, claim or interest therein of the above named defendant." The company was “barred and foreclosed from having or claiming any right in and to said premises” (Cause No. 23150, 1925).

It is not clear whether the mine ever got to full production. After investing several hundred thousand dollars, development stopped. "Local resident Bill Glundberg, Ole Elisaon's grandson, remembers that people often went over to the mine and got coal for their homes. During the 1940s, people came to see the workings out of curiosity. Years later the main shaft was filled in, and today, 100 feet past a barn that was built near the site, the Jordan River Trails swimming pool covers it, leaving little reminder that a coal mine was below. 

Sources: History of Snohomish County, Washington, ed. by William Whitfield (Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1926); “Developing A Real Coal Mine at Jordan,” Arlington Times, June 3, 1921; “Improved Coal Mine,” Ibid., November 24, 1921; Untitled article about new coal discovery, Ibid., February 2, 1922; “Jorden Mine Producing,” Ibid., March 22, 1922; “Build Bunkers at Coal Mine,” Ibid., December 22, 1922; “... Modern Machinery to Be Installed,” Ibid., August 2, 1923; “Rebuilding Jordan Span,” Ibid., June 25, 1924; Janet Oakley interview with Bill Lundberg, November 22, 2009; Janet Oakley interview with Marilyn Christiansen, November 22, 2009; Janet Oakley interview with Eldene Lundberg, November 22, 2009; Oluf Holmstad vs. Jordan Valley Coal Company, Snohomish County Superior Court Cause No. 23150,  April 22, 1925, Northwest Regional Archives, Bellingham, Washington; David Cameron et al., Snohomish County: An Illustrated History (Index: Kelcema Books LLC, 2005); Emma Eliason, “The Early History of Jordon River Trails,” typescript in possession of Lundberg family, Jordan, Washington.

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