The town of Lawson, also known as MacKay or McKay, was established in 1896. Lawson quickly became a thriving mining community. However Lawson's legacy would be forever associated with disaster. On Sunday morning, Nov. 6th, 1910 at 6:40 a.m., an explosion occurred at the Pacific Coast Coal Company’s Lawson Mine, Black Diamond, completely wrecking the mine and killing sixteen men. The Lawson Mine was more than 2,000 feet deep, makingit one of the deepest in the world.
The accident was investigated, however it was impossible to reach the bottom of the mine slope, thus the cause of the accident could not be learned. This mine was subject to mine fires from spontaneous combustion and was watched very closely for that reason.
Eight years earlier the lives of eleven men were lost in an explosion. Many plausible theories were advanced. One was that a fire broke out, igniting a small body of gas, this in turn igniting coal dust, causing a dust explosion. Another, that the overlying strata caved and caused concussion enough of itself to wreck the mine, or that a cave forced out a large body of gas, the concussion or compression damaging one of the miner’s safety lamps, and gas being ignited in this manner.
The bodies of five of the sixteen miners killed in the explosion were never recovered. These mining pioneers are entombed today somewhere on the sixth level of the mine.
The mine was abandoned by the Pacific Coast Coal Company following the explosion considered too expensive to repair. The financial and emotional toll of this disaster ended the thriving community of Lawson. The buildings and homes were moved to different locations throughout the area.
Special Thanks to Don Mason of the Black Diamond Historical Society for his assistance and accompanying us on this site visit.