Coal Locomotive and Crew at Wilkeson, WA 1912
Courtesy: Washington Railroads Historical Society    

 Logging in Washington State 1900  

History of Mining and Logging
in Washington


History of Coal Mining Development Washington State

The earliest recorded discovery of coal in Washington was in 1833 along the banks of the Toutle River in Cowlitz County.

At about the same time, coal was discovered on the Black River, near the present site of Renton, and a mine
was opened there in 1854. A few years later, the coalfields of the Issaquah and Newcastle areas in KingCounty, and the coking coal of the Carbon River and Wilkeson areas of Pierce County were discovered (Moen, 1982). The coals in the Roslyn area of Kittitas County were discovered around 1871 and productions commenced in 1886 (Saunders, 1914). By this time the industry was well-established throughout the coal-producing regions of the state. Annual coal production grew from 5,000 tons in 1860 to 100,000 tons by 1876; by 1888 it exceeded 1 million tons per year. By 1890 coal ranked second inimportance to lumber as an export product of Washington.

In the three decades that followed, coal production increased significantly owing to its use as adomestic heating fuel as well as fuel for the railroads. Peak production of 4.1 million tons was reached in1918. In roads made by competitive fuels, especially heating oils, started in the 1920's. Thereafter, coal use and production fell steadily, as competition from fuel oil, natural gas, and hydropower took effect. In the1960's annual production dropped below 100,000 tons and hit an all-time modern low of 37,000 tons in1970.  

In 1971 the declining trend in state coal production was reversed by the opening of large-scale surface mining operations in Centralia. About 4 to 5 million tons of sub-bituminous coal for power plant use are produced annually at the Centralia mine. Smaller-scale surface mining is conducted in the Black Diamond area of King County. The 1970's also saw the closing of the last underground mine in Washington—Palmer Coking Coal Company's Rogers No. 3 mine in the Landsburg area of King County.

Washington State Department of Natural Resources,
The Washington State Coal Map Collection: A Catalog, Index and Users Guide
Open File Report 94-7 June 1994 
Henry W. Schasse, M. Lorraine Koler, Nancy A. Eberle, Rebecca A. Christie


History of Washington State Gold Mining

The discovery of gold in California in 1848 sent would-be millionaires on a quest for treasure throughout the West. By 1900, major strikes had been made in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, and western Canada. Although prospectors found relatively little gold within the borders of what is now Washington state, their very presence, as they rushed from one rumored bonanza to another, created new patterns of transportation, settlement, and commerce. Miners traveling to gold fields on tributaries of the upper Columbia River in the 1850s stimulated development along the lower Columbia. Walla Walla was the largest town in Washington in the 1860s and 1870s because of its position as a supply center for mines in north central and southern Idaho. Spokane boomed as a result of discoveries in northern Idaho in the 1880s. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 yanked Seattle out of a recession and transformed both the city’s infrastructure and character. Gold rushes were defining events not only for the places where the gold was found, but for the places the miners passed through in search of gold.

The discoveries of gold on the Colville River, made public in 1855, brought hundreds of miners into lands freshly reserved by treaty for the Yakima Indians (who changed the spelling of their name to Yakama in 1994). Yakima Chief Kamiakin (ca. 1800-1877) had been the last of the inland tribal leaders to agree to treaties imposed by Governor Isaac I. Stevens (1818-1862), the first governor of the new Washington Territory. Kamiakin resisted the treaty partly because of his concerns about the increasing number of miners who were crossing Yakima lands en route to the diggings. He signed, in June 1855, only after Stevens assured him that whites would not be allowed to trespass on reservation land.

On July 4, 1889, prospector Joseph L. Pearsall (b. 1855) files a claim for the Independence of 1776 Mine, the first mining claim staked in the Monte Cristo region. This is a region in Snohomish County in the North Cascade Mountains.

Mining created the town of Monte Cristo, which was built below the mines between Glacier Creek and ’76 Creek.  It also solidified plans for the city of Everett, which was to be the location of Puget Sound Reduction Works, a smelter to refine ores mined at Monte. A standard-gauge railroad connected the two locations in 1893. 

The mining venture at Monte Cristo lasted until 1907, bringing investors millions of dollars. Ongoing railroad repairs and the growing cost of extracting the ores ended large-scale mining.


History David Cameron January 2008

History of Washington State logging

Throughout the 19th century, Americans headed west in search of new land and natural resources. The passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 tempted settlers into making the long and arduous journey west by the promise of 160 acres per family on which they could work and live. These plots were often heavily wooded, requiring homesteaders to clear the land before it could be used. Around the same time, the timber supply in the Midwest was dwindling, forcing loggers to seek new sources of "green gold." By the start of the 20th century, the Pacific Northwest was well on its way to becoming the place for quality timber. The region had its first sawmill in the late 1820s and by 1890, logging companies in Washington harvested over 1 billion board feet of timber annually, according to the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest (CSPN) at the University of Washington. CSPN reports that in 1905, Washington became the top lumber-producing state in America and in 1926, the state's lumber harvest hit an all-time high of 7.6 billion board feet (by comparison, 4.1 billion feet of timber were harvested in 2002).

Throughout the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century, loggers lived in remote camps near their work sites. The hours were lengthy, the work difficult and migratory and the accommodations rough. Camps were often infested with lice and other diseases and it wasn't uncommon for loggers to wear the same clothes for months on end. These tough conditions inspired an image of loggers as men of immense strength and might. Over time, labor unions demanded better conditions for loggers and as things improved, wives and families moved to the camps, establishing schools and other community features.

Ax Men: Evolution of the Job. [Internet]. 2010. The History Channel website. Available from: [Accessed 17 Sep 2010].   


























 Monte Cristo, WA  
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