If you’d like to learn more about the coal mining town of Franklin during its peak, 1885 until 1919, we’ve got you covered. Here you’ll find a list of web resources (and a couple of books and a thesis, too) that will quickly get you up to speed.
The last tour this year is Saturday, March 1, 2014. Come to the Black Diamond Museum at noon to sign up and for orientation. We’ll be leaving at 1 p.m. for Franklin (about three miles). A $5 donation per adult is suggested. Seniors, veterans, and children under 12 are free.
Bring boots, an umbrella, and an imagination.
Black Diamond and Franklin, as seen in 1902 This article about the east King County coal towns of Black Diamond and Franklin is reprinted from The Coast, Vol. 3, No. 2 (March 1902).
African Americans used as strikebreakers at the Franklin coal mines starting May 17, 1891
On about May 17, 1891, African Americans arrive at Franklin, Washington, to start working in the Oregon Improvement Company coal mines. The Oregon Improvement Company has recruited them from Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee with offers of good paying jobs and free transportation. It is not until the train arrives at Franklin that the black workers realize they are being used as strikebreakers. The white strikers then do as management has planned: They make a racial issue out of an economic one.
Coal mine fire at Franklin suffocates 37 miners on August 24, 1894
On August 24, 1894, 37 miners die fighting a fire in the Oregon Improvement Co. coal mine at Franklin. The following day, a coroner’s jury rules that the fire was caused by “party or parties unknown” who “did willfully, knowingly and maliciously cause said fire with intent and purpose to do great injury and damage to the lives of the miners and property of the Oregon Improvement Company.”
Franklin Mine disaster (August 24, 1894): A Compilation of contemporary sources
This People’s History consists of contemporary newspaper accounts of the Franklin Mine Disaster of August 24, 1894, and portions of the investigative report by the official state mines inspector. With a death toll of 37, this was at the time the second worst mine disaster in Washington state, exceeded only by the Roslyn mine explosion two years earlier, in which 45 died.
A coal miner’s story—Mike Babcanik’s week trapped underground (1914)
This is an account of a coal mine accident that occurred on February 16, 1914, in the Cannon coal mine, near Franklin, about two miles southeast of Black Diamond, located in east King County. Coal miner Andrew Chernick died in the accident. His partner, Mike Babcanik (1876-1942), was believed dead but survived for seven days trapped underground.
Bess the mule: a coal mining story of 1914
The story of a mistreated mine mule named Bess. Bess worked 24 hours a day without a rest at a Pacific Coal Co. coal mine in Franklin, in east King County. The revelation of the mule’s condition came when a reporter went to the mine to cover the accident.
Smith, John James (1869-1910): Enumclaw doctor, banker, and civic leader
J.J. Smith was employed as a doctor by the coal company during the early years in Franklin, a mining town east of Black Diamond. The elementary school on Griffin Avenue in Enumclaw is named “J.J. Smith” in his honor.
Evans, George Watkin (1876-1951): Washington coal mining engineer
George Watkin Evans started working in the Franklin coal mines on January 9, 1888, at the age of 17. Evans would eventually become an internationally renowned consulting mining engineer.
Black Diamond History Blog
Something about Franklin
January 8, 1891
Two miles beyond Black Diamond, on the Columbia & Puget Sound Railroad, is the Oregon Improvement Company’s Franklin Mine and the town of Franklin on the Green River.
Correspondence between J.C. Ford and H.W. Cannon
November 10, 1903
On November 8, 1903, a locomotive derailed at the Franklin Wye. “Damage not serious except the killing of two men,” reported Pacific Coast Co. VP-GM J.C. Ford to Chairman H.W. Cannon.
Veteran coal miner talks to Central Council
October 1, 1925
W.T. “Bill” Thomas, a miner in Franklin in the late 1880s, described the occasion when he, with sixteen others, were entombed in the Franklin Mine behind a raging fire.
New-type explosives close last mine in Green River Gorge
By Wini Carter, March 27, 1971
Three explosions on the morning of March 27, 1971, reverberated from the deep canyon of the Green River Gorge, closing a shaft and destroying a bridge leading to the last operating coal mine in the Franklin area.
Planned blast closes Number 10 coal mine
April 1, 1971
We have another article, this one from the Enumclaw Courier-Herald, about the closing of the Number 10 Franklin coal mine tunnel and airshaft in 1971.
History of the coal mines in Franklin
By Chuck Holtz, January 1977
This blog post summarizes the early history of the coal mines of Franklin.
November 13, 1981
Miner Frank Grens, about the only resident left in the old mining area of Franklin east of Black Diamond, puts on a pot of coffee in his one-room shack, formerly a miner’s wash house.
Dr. James Tate Mason
Did you know that Dr. James Tate Mason, the founder of Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, got his start as coal company doctor here in Black Diamond and Franklin?
By Ann Steiert, November 1985
Franklin in the last years of the 1880s represented a typical coal camp: A company town connected to the outside world by a railroad and telegraph line.
Black history buffs tour area mine sites
By Eulalia Tollefson, May 7, 1986
Noted persons from the Seattle black community recently toured Black Diamond and the old Franklin site “to get a feel of what life was like in a mining town.” They were joined by state and local historians and historical society members.
Don Mason brings mining town’s glory days to life
By Mike Archbold, February 3, 1994
The year was 1976 and Don Mason was making his way on foot to the old Kent pioneer cemetery. That’s where he came across the grave of John Hall. The marker simply said he died in the Franklin mine disaster in 1894. But, Don wondered, where was Franklin? What mine disaster?
Memories of our mother
by Regina Marckx Whitehill, December 1996
Read what it was like to live in Franklin, circa 1913. Regina Marckx Whitehill’s dad, with the help of her brothers, built a home at Franklin on property purchased from the Pacific Coast Coal Co. The property was once the mule pasture when mules were used to pull coal cars out of the Franklin mines.
Hike to Franklin
by Cory Olson, January 2002
Twenty-five people met at the museum to go on a hike up to visit Franklin. We drove to the flats just below the old Franklin town site. It was there that our tour guide, BDHS President Don Mason, brought out his collection of Franklin photographs, which had been enlarged to the size of posters.
Franklin: An educational experience from the past
by Frank Hammock, April 2006
Nestled in silence along a hillside 3 miles southeast of Black Diamond, Washington the forgotten remnants of an historical town once stood that was busy and teamed with life. Few people know of its existence and even fewer know of its significance to Washington’s history. In fact, driving by the area one would never even know that a town of over 1,000 people once existed there because its current location is severely obscured by trees and underbrush, and there are no signs that betray its hidden presence.
Bridge over the River Green
by Frank Hammock, January 2010
It’s made of stringers, portal struts, top and bottom chords, top and bottom lateral bracing, sway bracing, portal and counter bracing, diagonals, inclined end and vertical posts, floor beams, and panels.
John D. Jones (Jac Y Cigydd – Jack the Butcher)
by JoAnne Matsumura, April 2010
John D. Jones emigrated to Franklin in about 1885 at the age of 39 and joined the other miners picking coal. Jones was a noted singer of Welsh ballads and verse in the Cambrian tongue, and performed at the 1886 Eisteddfod in Black Diamond to a crowd of nearly 4,000.
Why doesn’t a wye look like a Y?
by Ken Jensen, April 2010
How did trains turn around in Franklin? The short answer is that they didn’t. Trains were always backed into Franklin and then, once loaded with coal, were pulled into Black Diamond.
Herman Wicks dies in Franklin Mine in 1906
by Byron Wicks, Fall 2013
Herman Oscar Wiikus (changed to Wicks) was born in Finland in 1874 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1901. He ended up in Franklin, working in the coal mines with other Finnish immigrants. He was a single man, but would not remain so for long. He married Emma Iljana in 1902. Herman was killed in the mine July 24, 1906. He was 31.
The gentle, compassionate, and likable ‘Big Krit’
by JoAnne Matsumura, Fall 2013
Henry Edwards, better known as “Big Krit,” arrived in Franklin in the late 1890s and began working for the coal company in various capacities. He lived on Marckx Farm Road along with other African-American families clustered near the school house.
The lamp survives, yet John E. and Evan John perish
by JoAnne Matsumura, Fall 2013
Six generations and 119 years later, a safety lamp still lives on. It was found unscathed by the bodies of John E. John and his son, Evan, who were clutched in an embrace in the aftermath of the tragic Franklin mine disaster of August 24, 1894.
Romantic engagement on the rocks
by JoAnne Matsumura, February 14, 2014
In spring it’s said a man’s heart turns to romance, and for Jesse Story, he was smitten with Margaret Ramsey. Planning a romantic proposal of marriage in 1894 must have been challenging, but with the Green Rivers’ picturesque Bridal Veil Falls, what more could one want. The falls, near the historic town of Franklin, once featured an observation deck and steps to a narrow footbridge.
Treasures from the earth speak
by JoAnne Matsumura, February 27, 2014
In the archeology study of Franklin conducted by Gerald Hedlund and Mark Vernon in the 1980s, an Asian coin was found in the form of a belt buckle—an object that was probably significant to its owner. The coin was a most unusual find. For more about the archeology study of Franklin, check out the book, From Smoke to Mist.
When Coal Was King by Bill Kombol
April 16, 2009
A hotel in a coal mining town was more of a room and boarding house for single men who worked in the mines. Married men with families typically lived in homes provided by the coal company.
Tipple at the Cannon Mine in Franklin
February 7, 2011
This revolving tipple at the Cannon Mine in Franklin was used to dump coal into the bunkers. This method was the “last word in efficiency” proclaimed the Pacific Coast Bulletin in 1916.
January 16, 2012
The late Ernie Moore was the author of “The Coal Miner Who Came West” (1982) about his African-American family’s experiences in Franklin.
National Guard at the Franklin coal mines, Franklin, Washington; July 1891
January 23, 2012
The Franklin coal mining community in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s was a raucous scene filled with work stoppages, company lockouts, strikebreakers, and violence.
George Watkin Evans
December 18, 2012
“Son, here is imprisoned sunshine that warmed a swamp which stood here millions of years ago.” So spoke a Washington state coal mine inspector to the 17-year-old George Watkin Evans, who was working in the Franklin coal mines in the early 1890s.
Top works of the Gem coal mine
January 29, 2013
The Gem Coal Mine (1912) was operated by the Pacific Coast Coal Co. in Franklin. At the end of World War I, coal prices declined precipitously and the town came to an abrupt end.
Franklin Mine No. 7
January 27, 2014
Mine No. 7 was located about one mile north of Franklin. It was served by the Bruce Branch of the Columbia & Puget Sound Railroad, which paralleled the Green River Gorge Road and ended just south of Lake 12.
Excavated Fulton coal seam east of Black Diamond
February 25, 2014
The Franklin #12, better known as the Fulton seam, was mined from the surface. The two cables near the top of the photo were used to operate a drag line to pull loose coal from where the lone miner is standing.
Black Diamond NOW
Franklin mine tour – A huge success
February 6, 2010
On a perfect day, the Black Diamond Historical Museum attracted 150+ people for a tour of the Franklin mine and town site this Saturday. Thanks so much, Don Mason, for sharing your knowledge and Keith Watson and others at the Historical Society for organizing the event.
Franklin mine tour #2
March 9, 2010
The Cannon mine opened around 1910 and was named in honor of the former president of the Pacific Coast Coal Company, Henry W. Cannon of New York. Yes, New Yorkers had a big financial impact on our community even then.
The National Guard comes to Franklin – 1891
March 22, 2010
In 1891, coal miners went on strike against the Oregon Improvement Company, closing the mines in Issaquah, Newcastle, Black Diamond, and Franklin. When African American miners from Missouri were brought in to break the strike, violence erupted and the governor of Washington ordered in the National Guard.
Franklin – Circa 1915
July 10, 2010
Franklin was certainly a humming place in 1915 as the photo demonstrates with all of the new housing under construction. Another photo shows the company store at Franklin, also circa 1915.
Green River – Circa 1915
September 16, 2010
A photo of the Green River looking down from below the Franklin Bridge in May 1915.
Green River Bridge at Franklin
October 4, 2010
A photo of the bridge over the Green River at Franklin.
A Trek to Franklin before the snow
November 23, 2010
A photo of one of the headstones at the Franklin Cemetery. This headstone marks the grave site of Romulous Monroe Gibson who died October 5, 1895 at the age of 35.
More open space – Franklin heritage area
January 8, 2011
The Franklin Heritage area is owned by Washington State Parks. Located along the northern rim of the Green River Gorge, Franklin was established in the late 1800s at the end of the Northern Pacific railroad line about 3 miles southeast of Black Diamond.
Economic hinterlands of Seattle & Tacoma – Circa 1880
May 18, 2011
In 1988, John C. Hanscom, with the Green River Community College, published an article called Company Coal Town – Franklin And The Oregon Improvement Company 1880 – 1896.
A hike to the top of Franklin hill – Spectacular
August 5, 2011
Taking advantage of the last gasp of summer, Black Diamond NOW journeyed up to the old coal mining town of Franklin.
Cannon mine trestle – Then & Now
August 8, 2011
The Cannon Mine trestle is now being used to transport water from the City of Black Diamond’s springs located on the south side of the Green River.
Walking tours of the historic coal mining town of Franklin now scheduled for Feb. 2 and Mar. 2 
January 17, 2013
“If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit the historic coal mining town of Franklin located very near the single lane Green River Gorge bridge, then this is a must-do event,” wrote Craig Goodwin in his blog, Black Diamond NOW.
Slag – what?
January 9, 2014
Slag is one of those words that connotes nothing good. Not pure to be sure, but what is it really? Check out the picking table at the Franklin coal mine in 1915. It was the job of these workers to separate coal from shale, clay, and other waste materials.
Super Bowl weekend and a visit to Franklin: What more can we ask for?
January 29, 2014
This weekend we’re blessed with two great events: First, visit the historic coal mining town of Franklin today at noon. Oh, and then there’s that Super Bowl game on Sunday….
Ghost Towns of Washington
Franklin, WA 1880s–1919
Franklin was a coal mining town located in east King County. The community was established in the 1880s, with a post office established by 1886. In May 1891, labor recruiters brought African-Americans to Franklin from Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee with offers of good paying jobs and free transportation. The white miners who were on strike took exception to the African-American strikebreakers and tensions grew for a month and a half. In early July, a riot broke out resulting in the deaths of two people and the Governor called out the National Guard to restore order.
Cannon Coal Mine 1910-1919
The Cannon mine opened around 1910 and was named in honor of the former President of the Pacific Coast Company, Henry W. Cannon of New York. The mine was driven on the Gem seam, the No. 17 seam in the Franklin series. New bunkers were built around the same time, but water problems plagued the mine. The Cannon mine closed around 1919, but the bridge pictured here is still used to carry the City of Black Diamond’s water supply over the Green River.
Franklin B roll
Ghost Towns of Washington posted photos of Franklin on its Facebook page that didn’t make the cut for its web site—the “B roll.”
Franklin No. 2 shaft
The purpose of the Franklin No. 2 shaft was to mine coal down to 500 feet below sea level. Come join the Black Diamond Historical Society on its tours of Franklin and see the shaft for yourself.
Franklin top works
You won’t see this structure, known as the mine’s top works, on our tour of Franklin—it’s been gone for a century. But you will learn where it stood and how it worked.
Black Dollar Days Task Force
African-American heritage in King County
“In 1891, African-American miners arrived in the King County coalfields…. These industrial workers were engaged in one of the region’s most important early industries, and they moved from mine to mine in places like Newcastle, Coal Creek, Ravensdale, and Franklin. The community of black miners numbered more than a thousand by the turn of the century, and their influence was felt in towns like Newcastle and Franklin, where African-Americans served as school board members, police, jurists, and church leaders.”
IR photography of Franklin
by David Woodford
IR images of the abandoned town site and coal mining operations at Franklin, 2 miles east of Black Diamond.
Abandoned Cemeteries on Waymarking.com
The cemetery is in a deplorable state of neglect. A forest has grown up inside the cemetery, heaving up some headstones and crushing others that lay in the path of falling trees. Blackberries threaten to swallow the entire cemetery and no doubt conceal some of the graves. Many of the headstones have been stolen by vandals.
Photos by Black Diamond History
Franklin Catholic Cemetery
The Franklin Catholic Cemetery is located just a few miles east of Black Diamond on the Green River Gorge Road above the river. The Catholic church next to cemetery was torn down following the demise of Franklin in the 1920s. The earliest burial was 1906.
The Marckx brothers, who attended school in Franklin, planted these 5 maple trees along with their classmates on Arbor Day 1917. Today only a portion of the school’s foundation remains, but all 5 of the century-old trees still stand, and are marked as Wildlife Trees through the generosity of Bill Kombol of Palmer Coking Coal Company.
Franklin school children, ca. 1900
“There were a lot of colored people in Franklin,” said Vera Duduk Kidd, whose family arrived in town in 1898. “We didn’t know what segregation meant. We just played with them [the African-American children] nicely.”
Franklin tour, February 5, 2011
Take a look back at our successful tour in February 2011.
Cannon and Gem mines
Several members of the historical society and guests joined Franklin expert and BDHS Director Don Mason for a tour of the Cannon and Gem mine ruins.
Franklin No. 10 and 12
Members of the historical society visited the sites of the Franklin No. 10 and 12 coal mines with Bob Morris, who actually worked in No. 10.
Old-timers picnic, 1922
Wm. Wiemar of Enumclaw and T. H. O’Neill and Elmer McDonald of Renton held an old-timers picnic for former residents of Franklin at the Knights of Pythias Hall [pictured, circa 1908] on August 13, 1922. “A big dinner, pleasant reminiscence of early days and sports made up a day’s enjoyment and everybody had a good time. About 150 people were present,” reported the Enumclaw Courier.
New church at Franklin
“On Sunday, June 19, 1904, Rev. J.E. O’Dea, Bishop of Seattle, assisted by Rev. Father Dedecker and Rev. Fr. Fafara, dedicated the new church at Franklin. On this day and Monday following, the bishop confirmed 93 children in Enumclaw, Krain, and Franklin,” reported the Enumclaw Courier-Herald.
Celebrating 100 years of Black history in Franklin
Ernest Moore authored “The Coal Miner Who Came West,” chronicling his African-American family’s experiences in nearby Franklin. “On May 17, 1891, 700 Negroes arrived in Franklin with 2 ministers, about 40 single women, and miners’ families,” he wrote. To commemorate the event, Moore organized a BBQ on July 25, 1992, celebrating 100 years of Black history in Franklin.
Franklin clean up
Members of the historical society were cleaning up the coal mining foundations at Franklin in preparation for our annual tours Saturday, February 4, and Sunday, March 4, 2012.
Sealing up shaft at the Franklin School
Last September  the Office of Surface Mining was sealing an old opening near the site of the former Franklin School. This photo shows the result.
Now & Then: Green River Gorge Road (near Franklin)
These photos were taken below the town of Franklin, just past the one-lane bridge as you drive toward Black Diamond.
Franklin tours, 2012
The weather was perfect for both Franklin tours this year. How ‘bout that? If you missed this year’s tours, we’ll be back next February and March 2013.
Franklin foot bridge
An early photo of the Franklin foot bridge over the Green River.
Livin’ the “bachelor’s life” in Franklin
Company houses in Franklin came in two sizes: 2-bedroom or these larger, 2-story, 4-bedroom homes. To make extra money, families would convert their downstairs parlor into a bedroom and rent it out to single miners.
First tour of 2013
It was a bit cold and foggy for the first Franklin tour of 2013.
Final tour of 2013
If you weren’t able to attend our final tour of Franklin, there’s always 2014!
Franklin clean up crew, 2014
The Franklin clean up crew was up at the former coal mining town site last weekend clearing brush and tackling blackberry brambles in preparation for the first tour of the year.
Holy Rosary Cemetery—Now & then
In the now photo is Franklin’s Holy Rosary Cemetery on the Green River Gorge Road. In the then photo is a statue of Jesus before it was destroyed by vandals in the 1970s.
Covington, Maple Valley, Black Diamond Reporter
Maple Valley, Black Diamond heritage: The history of Franklin
by TJ Martinell, May 13, 2011
Black Diamond Historical Society Directors Don Mason and Dan Hutson – our Franklin tour guides – talk about the history of Franklin.
Maple Valley/Black Diamond heritage: Franklin the ghost town
by TJ Martinell, May 23, 2011
Reporter TJ Martinell joins Black Diamond Historical Society Director Dan Hutson for a tour of the ghost town above the Green River.
Black Diamond Historical Society to offer tours of Franklin ghost town Feb. 4
by TJ Martinell, January 25, 2012
Formed in 1886, Franklin was a coal mining town of about 1,000 people. The diverse population consisted of immigrants from Wales, Italy, Slovenia, and Sweden. But one of the most interesting ethnic groups in Franklin were African Americans who were hired by the coal company in 1891 to break a union strike.
Voice of the Valley
Livin’ the “bachelor’s life” in Franklin
by Kathleen Kear, January 23, 2013
BDHS members Don Mason and Dan Hutson will be conducting the tours again this year with their theme touching on bachelor living in Franklin.
“In search of the Franklin mine”
Moore, Ernest and Gloria Phelps, The Coal Miner Who Came West, (Seattle, 1982) by the Author.
Ernest Moore’s book about his African-American family’s experiences in Franklin.
Hedlund, Gerald C. and Mark A. Vernon, From Smoke to Mist: An Archaeological Study of Franklin, WA. A Turn of the Century Company Coal Town, (Auburn, 1994) Green River Community College.
Franklin was developed and used as a company coal mining town from around 1885 to 1919. At its peak, there may have been 1,100 people living and working in Franklin.
Olson, Diane and Cory, eds., Black Diamond: Mining the Memories (Seattle, 1988) Frontier Publishing and Black Diamond Historical Society.
The last chapter of the book, available at the Black Diamond Museum, is devoted to the history of Franklin.
C. William Thorndale, “Washington’s Green River Coal Co., 1880-1970,” Master’s Thesis, University of Washington, 1965.