Monthly Archives: January 2010

Newcastle Coal Miners’ Cemetery, Part II

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Part II: Stories, Stones, and Symbols
 
Note: This article is the second half of Newcastle Coal Miner’s Cemetery.

William T. Scott, coal miner

 

Newcastle Cemetery headstones bluntly attest to the difficult mining life and temporary respite offered by various brotherhood communities. Thanks to the ring of trees protecting the site, most of the carvings have escaped the inevitable Pacific Northwest erosion. 

William T. Scott’s stone is one such survivor. 

“Death to me short warning give, Therefore, be carefull how you live. Prepare in time and do not delay, For I was quickly called away…” 

Scott’s membership in both the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) and the Knights of Pythias, is also clearly marked. The Odd Fellows are denoted by the three chain links signifying friendship, love, and truth… 

I.O.O.F. chainlink emblem

 

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Snapshots: Ada’s piano

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Lakeview Cemetery

Little is known about this marker raised…

“…In sweet memory of Ada, beloved wife of W. H. Plachy.

July 10, 1869 – July 22, 1895”

Ada was 26 years old when she died. Her husband was a civil engineer and the first water pipeline surveyor for the Seattle area.

Note: the piano shown is listed as a forte piano that retains some of the earlier harpischord sounds. This instrument was the forerunner of today’s piano.

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Newcastle Coal Miners’ Cemetery

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Part I: The Hidden History

Photo courtesy Bob Cerelli

The next time you fly into Seattle at night, look east beyond the twinkling street lamps and Interstate 405’s golden traffic ribbon. Smack in the middle of evening suburbia is a vast, ragged expanse of pitch black.

There are no lights here and if local legislators keep getting their way, there will never be lights.

This emptiness is a silent reminder that for 100 years – from 1863 to 1963 – over 11 million tons of coal were excavated from these hills, earning Newcastle, Washington the nickname, “The Pennsylvania of the Pacific Coast.”

It’s a practical matter, really.

A mere twenty years ago, “The Office of Surface Mining was still sealing off dangerous openings – a total of 166 mine subsidences. One opening  required fifty yards of concrete to create a plug over the top. Some sink holes were as large as 100 feet in diameter. At the other extreme, many holes were so obscured, an inclined tree might be the only clue to the hidden danger. Due to all these underground cavities, the county does not issue new building permits in the vicinity of the mines.*

Old coal tunnels, odorless swamp gas, and the occasional cave-in simply make it too dangerous, although up until the 2008 market crash, some real estate developers thought otherwise.

Today, the area is thickly crisscrossed with trees, vines, birdsong, and hiking trails wandering past the now, very securely sealed mine entrances…

Sealed mine entrance

…and the occasional swamp gas vent.

Swamp gas vent

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