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Originally published in the Voice of the Valley, December 18, 2012

By Bill Kombol

Evans, pictured above in his field clothes in the Alaskan wilderness during the summer of 1913, was an internationally renowned consulting mining engineer who spent most of his remarkable career in the coal fields of Washington.

Evans, pictured above in his field clothes in the Alaskan wilderness during the summer of 1913, was an internationally renowned consulting mining engineer who spent most of his remarkable career in the coal fields of Washington.

“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.

Evans was born in Abercarne, Wales, in 1876 to a coal mine family who emigrated to the Pennsylvania coal mines before moving west to Franklin in south King County. Shortly after the Franklin mine shipped its first coal, Evans began work as an 11-year-old oiler who lubricated the coal cars wheels. Within a year he was driving mules and went on to learn most of the underground coal mining jobs.

Evans was at the Franklin mine during the disaster of 1894 when 37 miners perished from suffocation and smoke. It was about this time that Evans had his famous encounter with the coal mine inspector, an event that was to change his life.

Evans told a biographer that the phrase “Imprisoned Sunshine!” had set him forth on a hunt for knowledge, as he had no schooling until then. Evans taught himself to read the Welsh Bible, took correspondence courses, and entered preparatory school.

Evans said, “The wonders of coal as revealed in those books filled me with enthusiasm, and with a keen hunger to know all there was to know about coal. I began to live in the Paleozoic age—and to study nights.”

He attended Washington State College, graduating in 1903 with a Bachelor of Science as an Engineer of Mines.

Originally published in the Enumclaw Courier-Herald, January 16, 2002

By Jessica Keller

community-centerEmma Becker Sigmund and Everett “Evie” Swann remember playing in the alley behind their Black Diamond houses and going to school together when they were kids.

Years later, after losing contact as adults, Sigmund, 88, and Swann, 81, reunited at a Black Diamond Community Center senior program luncheon and rekindled their friendship. Continue Reading »

Originally published in the Pacific Coast Bulletin, January 14, 1927

Method of priming with electric detonator.

Method of priming with electric detonator.

An electric detonator is a device similar to an electric squib, but having, in addition to an igniting charge, a small charge of high explosive which detonates the main explosive charge, states the Bureau of Mines, Department of Commerce.

The development of electric detonators did not begin until several years after the first application of detonation to high explosives by Alfred Nobel, 1863. As with electric squibs, both high and low tension types of electric detonators were developed and both were used, particularly in Europe, for several years.

In the earlier days of shot firing, the high-tension electric detonators and squibs were superior in several respects to the low tension types, and the choice between them usually depended upon the firing current available and the insulation of the shot-firing circuit. Continue Reading »

Originally published in the Voice of the Valley, January 14, 1976

Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway Company bridge damaged after a flood, Maple Valley, 1911

Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway Company bridge damaged after a flood, Maple Valley, 1911

As bad as the December 1975 flood on the Cedar River was, the “Granddaddy of them all” occurred on November 19, 1911, when flashboard failure at the City of Seattle Dam dumped 14,200 cubic feet per second down the narrow Cedar.

Measured again in c.f.s. there have been three other floods that topped last December’s disaster; in 1903, 1906, and 1909.

The December 1975 flood, however, was bad enough. Its out pour of 7,800 c.f.s. was the greatest in 64 years. Continue Reading »

Originally published in the Voice of the Valley, April 8, 2014

By Bill Kombol

The Green River Gorge is gorgeous to behold and a beautiful oasis on idyllic summer days. This June 1977 photo was taken by Vic Condiotty.

The Green River Gorge is gorgeous to behold and a beautiful oasis on idyllic summer days. This June 1977 photo was taken by Vic Condiotty.

The single-lane bridge over the Green River Gorge is a vista to behold as you cross 150 feet above the river; and even more remarkable when looking up. The bridge was built in 1915 to replace earlier wooden crossings that served the nearby coal mining town of Franklin founded in 1885 by the Oregon Improvement Company. Continue Reading »

Originally published in the Voice of the Valley, March 25, 2014

By Bill Kombol

This bridge is a rare and intact example of the Baltimore-Petit deck truss design, the only such structure owned and maintained by King County. The bridge was designated as a Landmark Bridge in 2004.

This bridge is a rare and intact example of the Baltimore-Petit deck truss design, the only such structure owned and maintained by King County. The bridge was designated as a Landmark Bridge in 2004.

The high bridge spanning the Green River Gorge, a famed and scenic site located between Cumberland and Black Diamond, was built in 1915. The bridge, now a single-lane design, is still in service nearly 100 years later. It was built to connect the Green River Gorge Road west of the river with the Enumclaw-Franklin Road to the east. Continue Reading »

Originally published in the Pacific Coast Bulletin, January 11, 1922

By Geo. Watkin Evans, consulting coal mining engineer, Seattle

George Watkin Evans (1876-1951), 1924 Courtesy Seattle and Environs

George Watkin Evans, 1924

In the last installment, I discussed the coal fields of Whatcom County, the most northerly county in the State of Washington, west of the Cascade Mountains. This time we will group the two counties to the south of Whatcom County, namely, Skagit and Snohomish counties. This is done for the reason that the coal development within these two counties so far has been rather unimportant from a commercial standpoint.

Skagit County: Near the town of Hamilton, on the Great Northern Railroad which traverses the Skagit River valley, is a coal deposit which outcrops on the north and south sides of the Skagit River. About twenty years or more ago, considerable prospecting was done on the south side of Skagit River in a district called Coal Creek and Coal Mountain. No attempt has been made within this area to mine coal on a commercial scale. Continue Reading »