Remembering historian Milt Swanson and his stories

March 5, 2015

Whether Newcastle residents know it or not, March 29 is a significant date in the city’s history. On that day, in 1918, Ernest Milton Swanson was born. Milt, as he was known, was born and raised in Newcastle, and is single-handedly responsible for protecting the city’s history.

A founder of the Newcastle Historical Society, Swanson knew more about Newcastle’s history than anyone, because he actually lived it. Swanson died at the age of 95 in January 2014. In this month’s history feature, Newcastle City Councilman, and history buff, Rich Crispo recalls his favorite Swanson stories. Read more

From coal mines to golf

February 6, 2015

File Scaffolding and landscaping equipment sit in front of the clubhouse March 1999 as opening day approaches for The Golf Club at Newcastle.

Scaffolding and landscaping equipment sit in front of the clubhouse March 1999 as opening day approaches for The Golf Club at Newcastle.

As you line up your approach shot to the par-3 fourth hole on Coal Creek, did you ever wonder how The Golf Club at Newcastle came into being? Read more

Baima House is important remnant of Newcastle’s past

October 4, 2013

By Bob Cerelli Newcastle's Baima House is one of the oldest buildings in King County. The property's owners, Pam and Gary Lee, have fixed it up as seen in this recent photo.

By Bob Cerelli
Newcastle’s Baima House is one of the oldest buildings in King County. The property’s owners, Pam and Gary Lee, have fixed it up as seen in this recent photo.

If walls could talk, the Baima House would tell quite a story, one that spans more than a century, and includes moments of revelry, sadness and even mischief. Read more

City secures grant for cemetery

July 5, 2013

One of Newcastle’s best kept secrets is hidden along 129th Avenue Southeast. Travel down the road nestled between the Newcastle Library and Valley Medical Center, and you will eventually come upon an important relic of the city’s past.

There is arguably no greater symbol of the city’s rich coal mining history than the Newcastle Historic Cemetery, which serves as the resting place for many of the miners.

The 2.2-acre cemetery was established in the late 1880s. King County designated it a historical landmark in 1982, and the city of Newcastle took ownership of the site in 2001.

Read more

Test your Newcastle history knowledge (Part 2)

February 28, 2013

At the 2012 Newcastle Days celebration, the city’s rich history was celebrated with the festival’s theme, Return to Newcastle. One of the components of the celebration was a trivia activity put together by Mayor Rich Crispo.

Crispo compiled a list of 120 questions that highlighted the history of Newcastle. Each vendor booth had a question, and prizes were awarded for correct answers at the end of the day.

Rich Crispo

Rich Crispo

In our October issue, we printed 16 of those questions. Below we’ve printed 10 more of the questions, which bring forth interesting facts about the history of the Newcastle community.

Read more

A coal-mining life

August 2, 2012

Milt Swanson, 94, maintains local history through memorabilia, historical society

By Greg Farrar
Milt Swanson, history buff and artifact keeper, sits at the grade-school desk his mother Esilda Swanson used when she went to school in Newcastle.

Not many people can say they’ve lived in the same house for 90 years.

But then again, most people can’t say they’ve lived 90 years period.

Milt Swanson has. And then some.

Read more

1940 Census shines light on city’s industrial history

May 31, 2012

For historians around the world, including members of the Issaquah History Museums, April 2 was a big day.

Executive Director Erica Maniez had her own personal countdown going for that particular Monday, because after finally fulfilling the mandatory 72-year waiting period, records from Newcastle and surrounding towns recorded in the 1940 U.S. Census were released by the U.S. National Archives.

Contributed by Issaquah History Museums This handwritten U.S. Census sheet from the Newcastle precinct enumerated by Emma L. Taylor recorded the ages, birthplaces, employment information, education status and other information for the federal government in 1940.

“It was interesting to see some of the old familiar families, and how the next generations down were living in their own households,” she said. “I’ve noticed quite a few people that I’ve known since I worked here who have since passed away, but I did know some people here that are still living.”

Read more

The Ant that could

March 2, 2012

First steam engine made the Newcastle-to-Seattle coal run more efficient

The successful export of coal and the early success of this town called Newcastle are, quite simply, inexorably linked.

But exactly how the coal was extracted from deep within the coal seams of Newcastle and transported to the awaiting economic lifeline of Seattle’s shores — especially as full mine operations started in Newcastle in September 1871— was far from easy. The loads were transferred a whopping 11 times from start to finish.

Photo courtesy of the Renton Historical Society and Museum The Ant, the first steam engine in the Puget Sound area and second in the state of Washington, was shipped from San Francisco to the Seattle area in the winter of 1871 to enable the transfer of Newcastle coal from Lake Union to the Elliot Bay area.

The coal from Newcastle was generally San Francisco bound after being loaded onto ships in Seattle, but the Puget Sound area would get something in return from the Bay area — its first steam railroad system.

The Ant, brought up from San Francisco in the winter of 1871 to enable the transfer of coal from Lake Union to the Elliot Bay area, would be a major improvement to further Newcastle’s ability to export coal, local train expert Russ Segner said.

Until the addition of the first edition, coal was transported by a series of various modes of transportation, including hauls by mules, horses, trams and flatboats.

“Mules were the sole motive power underground,” writes Richard K. McDonald and Lucile McDonald in “The Coals of Newcastle: A Hundred Years of Hidden History.”

Read more

Newcastle woman searches for answers in her past

January 6, 2012

Maternal, paternal Italian lineage sparks interest in genealogy

In 1981, Vickie Baima Olson took a trip with her father to the tiny village of Piano Audi, Italy, where her great-grandparents were born.

The trip would change how she would come view her family, and herself, for years to come.

“We went to a cemetery where a lot of the headstones had the same last name as mine,” Olson said. “They put pictures on their graves there. There was a picture there of a woman, and I thought, ‘My gosh, she looks like she could be my twin.’”

Vickie Olson’s father’s side, the Baima family, emigrated to Newcastle to mine coal in the area as early as 1900. Photo contributed by Vickie Baima

That moment sparked an interest in Olson, a third-generation Newcastle resident, and her family since.

As a longtime humanities and social studies middle school teacher for the Issaquah School District, Olson said she’s always been interested in research and learning more about the past.

In 2000, Olson said she got serious when it came to uncovering her roots. She started learning more about her family through records, such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage documents and others through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Center in Bellevue, online and through family testimonials.

She’s even started to learn the Italian language.

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Moonshine memories still linger in Newcastle

October 9, 2011

The revenuers came to arrest Frank Martin’s dad in 1948.

Rumor has it that this still, displayed during the annual Newcastle Days, once belonged to former Newcastle resident Lee Martin. Lee’s son, Frank Martin, estimates that between the 1940s until the early 1950s, he helped his father make almost 10,000 gallons of moonshine near their Newcastle home. Contributed

Alerted by a disgruntled neighbor, several cars filled with federal agents anxious to find an illegal moonshine still swarmed up the Martins’ dirt driveway that Saturday morning in Newcastle.

“They tore the place apart trying to find something,” Frank said. “They searched the chicken coop, looked in the pig pen, checked the garden — they even inspected our furnace.”

The agents even questioned Martin.

Read more

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