History feature — When strikes and Uniontown came to Newcastle

September 6, 2015

NEW — 6 a.m. Sept. 6, 2015

Early Newcastle was a coal town. That meant that everything — land and buildings — was owned by the coal company and the only jobs were associated with mining, separating, washing and delivering the black diamonds.

Conditions were hard and dangerous. As one account from that time noted, “There was a man killed in the mine last night. Mr. Oakley (a director) sent the coal car, with others in it, whizzing down into the mine. He fell out and it ran over him.”

As a result of these conditions, unions arrived and strikes became fairly frequent.

BackTrackingThe Knights of Labor representing 50 of the 250 workers was on the scene. It operated from 1881 until 1891 and was noted for being anti-black and anti-Chinese.  Read more

The law comes to Newcastle

April 30, 2015

After watching western movies and TV shows, one might believe that justice in the “Old West” (Tombstone or Dodge City) of the 1880s was meted out by stints in territorial prison, hangings, or gunfights with marshals Wyatt Earp or Matt Dillon.

The process of law was very different in Newcastle, however.

BackTracking

The mining community of the early 1880s had a well-established legal process of constables, courts and justices of the peace, as well as a practical system of crime and punishment based on fines rather than imprisonment. A coal miner in that period might make only $2 or $3 a day and the loss of those earnings was a big motivator to follow the law. Read more

The origins of the China Creek name

April 2, 2015

Within Newcastle we have the China Creek and China Falls neighborhoods, China Creek Golf Course, and of course, China Creek itself. Did you ever wonder how those names came to be?

When the original mining town of Old Newcastle was established in 1863, the primary source of drinking water was a little creek to the south that began up on Cougar Mountain and emptied into what is now Lake Boren.

It was normally a gentle flow of water, but during heavy rains the creek would overflow and created a large flood plain to the north of the current lake. The lake was bigger and deeper than it is today, and also was swampy on the Eastside.

Chinese workers came into the area in the early 1870s, primarily to work on the railroads, but some came to Newcastle and worked for the mining company. Read more

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

2014 was a year of change for Newcastle

January 2, 2015

In 2014, the city of Newcastle celebrated a birthday, lost an icon and set the stage for the future. Here are some of the top stories of the year, in no particular order:

Newcastle pioneer Milt Swanson passes away

Family, neighbors and community leaders gathered Jan. 25 to honor the life of Milt Swanson, a titan of Newcastle history and a man with an unceasing, warming smile.

The Newcastle pioneer, born and raised in this community, spent all of his 95 years in the same area, 90 of which were in the same company house that still stands at the edge of town near the Cougar Mountain trailhead. Read more

Newcastle’s history shaped King County as we know it

January 2, 2015

In 1853, the area around current-day Newcastle was heavily forested with 10-foot diameter trees, a multitude of streams, and many gorges and valleys. It was also home to wildlife including cougars, bears, raccoons, bobcats and deer.

In that year, a couple of explorers found something that would change that landscape forever — chunks of coal along a creek (later to be named Coal Creek).

The first coal wasn’t mined until 10 years later, but when it began, it was in earnest. In the 100 years between 1863 and 1963, the Newcastle coal mines produced 10.5 million tons of coal.

The coal was of good quality, and the proximity to Seattle made it an important commodity. In 1870, Seattle had only 1,107 residents, but because coal was being shipped to San Francisco and the growth of the port, that number grew to 42,837 by 1890, only 20 years later. Read more

‘Little giant’ makes history come to life

October 3, 2014

By Greg Farrar Rich Crispo, Newcastle councilman, stands next to a display case with Milt Swanson's coal miner helmet and an information poster honoring the late 95-year-old Newcastle native's contributions to preserving the city's history. The Renton History Museum's Newcastle retrospective exhibit is on display until Feb. 7.

By Greg Farrar
Rich Crispo, Newcastle councilman, stands next to a display case with Milt Swanson’s coal miner helmet and an information poster honoring the late 95-year-old Newcastle native’s contributions to preserving the city’s history. The Renton History Museum’s Newcastle retrospective exhibit is on display until Feb. 7.

The first thing visitors see upon walking into the Renton History Museum’s Newcastle exhibit is, appropriately, a tribute to a man that means so much to the city’s history. Read more

Get to know your city

October 3, 2014

The city celebrated its 20th year of incorporation in September, but locals know, at least they should, that Newcastle’s story goes back much farther than that.

Newcastle’s coal-mining history dates back to the mid 1800s, when the city was second only to Seattle in population.

The Newcastle mining site operated for about 100 years, until the mid-1900s. Workers extracted nearly 11 million tons of coal during that period.

Vestiges of that history remain scattered across the city in the form of landmarks such as the Baima House, a century-old company house that used to house miners and their families, and the Newcastle Cemetery, the final resting place for a number of Newcastle pioneers. Read more