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.”

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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.

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Mining past lives in today’s cemetery

April 1, 2011

Just a short distance from the hustle and bustle of Newcastle City Hall, one can be transported back in time. The Newcastle Historic Cemetery offers a window into the town’s mining past.

Newcastle began as a company-owned mining town, explained Pam Lee, who has been involved with the Newcastle Historical Society since its beginning. She said that the land and the mines were originally owned by the Pacific Coast Coal Co.

The Newcastle Historic Cemetery, just northwest of Lake Boren Park, is a moss-coated reminder of the city’s coal mining past. By Kelly Humphreys

During the late 1800s, the 2.2-acre cemetery was created to serve as a final resting place for the immigrant miners, whose ethnicities varied from Welsh to Italian. Also buried there were the families of those in the surrounding town.

No gravestones are apparent as you enter the cemetery; one has to venture up a short hill to truly see the site. A variety of grave markers are spread throughout the moss-covered grounds. Those made of stone are still visible today, casting shadows over the root-bound landscape. Some are shrouded by the many trees that encompass the area.

A paper flyer detailing the history of the cemetery can be viewed on a bulletin-board upon entering. According to this document, there were once wooden grave markers that were swept away in a fire in the early 1900s.

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