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Archive for February, 2014

By JoAnne Matsumura

Coin-Japanese - Smoke to Mist P.184In the archeology study of Franklin conducted by Gerald C. Hedlund and Mark A. Vernon in the 1980s, an Asian coin was found in the form of a belt buckle. It was found where houses were located directly across the railroad tracks from the company store.

The archeologists stated in their hypothesis that the coin was perhaps the most unusual find in that particular location. The other side of the coin was not shown in their book, From Smoke to Mist, as it had been ground down. (more…)

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Originally published in the Black Diamond Bulletin, Fall 2013

By JoAnne Matsumura

Henry Edwards knew exactly when and where he would let Franklin’s African-American and “white kids” get on his wagon for a ride, and they knew where they had to get off before “Big Krit,” as he was known, picked up Black Diamond’s white kids—as he went about delivering company store goods for the Pacific Coast Coal Co.

“Big Krit,” at left, was big indeed, weighing in at nearly 400 pounds.

“Big Krit,” at left, was big indeed, weighing in at nearly 400 pounds.

He took his own route, one not used by others. As the children rode along, Big Krit shared stories and didn’t seem to mind if the kids ate an apple or two from among the goods on the wagon.

He was “a big man, kind to everyone” and treated his friends nicely, said Archie Eltz, a Black Diamond coal miner.

The children knew where on the route they wouldn’t be seen by others before they got to Black Diamond. “Attitudes of the children from Franklin were different as they never tried to conceal what they were doing,” he remembered.

“[The kids] liked the wagon seat and the girls would give a royal ‘queen wave,’ the boys a bigger one,” as they rode along, said Evelyn Erm, granddaughter of Mike Babchanick, a Franklin miner.

She recalled that Krit was just so big. “He just lumbered along with a slight limp and his shoes were split on the side to accommodate his feet.” Evelyn’s mother spoke of him over the years as “as a very nice man and was popular with the children.” (more…)

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Originally published in the Black Diamond Bulletin, Fall 2013

By Byron Wicks

Herman Wicks and Emma Iljana were married in Franklin.

Herman Wicks and Emma Iljana were married in Franklin.

My grandfather, Herman Oscar Wiikus (changed to Wicks), was born in Laihia, Finland, in 1874 and emigrated to the US in 1901.

Times were difficult in the Ostrobothnian area of Finland in the 1890s and early 1900s, forcing thousands of Finns to emigrate to the U.S. and Canada. The details of how Herman arrived in Washington State are unknown.

He ended up in Franklin, working in the coal mines with some other Finnish immigrants as well as immigrants from other countries. He was a single man, but would not remain so for long.

Herman, S. Matson, A. Mattila, and O. Wiitala advertised for wives in Lannetar, a Finnish language newspaper in October 1901.

“We are marriage-hungry bachelors who want wives. Old maids and sprightly widows, your letters are welcome. Playing is forbidden, joking is allowed. Pictures can’t accompany the first letters, that’s too quick,” they wrote.

I don’t know if this is how my grandparents got together, but in 1902, he and my grandmother, Emma Iljana (from Hailuoto, Finland), born in 1882, were married in Franklin. (more…)

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Originally published in the Pacific Coast Bulletin, February 1914

[Editor’s note: To read the first message to employees from Pacific Coast Coal Co. President J.C. Ford, go here.]

Pacific Coast Coal Co. Logo 1922Prior to May 1907, there was no union at any of the mines of the Pacific Coast Coal Company. There had been no strikes or labor trouble of any kind at any of the company’s mines for over fifteen years. The company was paying the highest wages going, and its employees were prosperous and contented.

In May 1907, a union was organized at Black Diamond, and the organization soon spread to all the other mines.

Since that time all of the company’s mines have been organized, but at none of them has there been any trouble or serious friction, other than at Black Diamond. (more…)

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Originally published in the News Journal, February 21, 1979

Hole in RavensdaleThe gaping hole in the front yard of Elmer and Marlys Engel, Ravensdale, is big enough to swallow a truck—and last week it nearly did.

Some friends of the Engels were backing out of the Engel’s driveway when suddenly the ground collapsed. The back end of the pickup had gone down the hole. “The only thing that saved it was that one of the back tires was barely hanging on the edge,” said Mrs. Engel.

“Scared? You’re not kidding me. Those were two white-faced people when they came to the door,” she related. There were no injuries, and the truck was only slightly damaged. Where there used to be a driveway and lawn, there was suddenly a 15-foot deep chasm. And nobody seems to know what it is. (more…)

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By Ken Jensen

Garbage canFriday in Black Diamond means “Trash Day.” Roll out the garbage can—actually, a curbside collection cart—to the street and a big, noisy truck hauls its contents off to a landfill far, far away.

Black Diamond pioneers of 90 years ago didn’t have much trash nor were they particularly concerned with its disposal. Feed it to livestock, bury it in the garden, burn it in the backyard, throw it over a hillside, drop it down the privy, dump it an abandoned mine shaft….

Get rid of it one or another—or not. It just wasn’t that important.

That is until 1924, when Black Diamond experienced an epidemic of measles, scarlet fever, and infantile paralysis. This prompted the town’s owner, the Pacific Coast Coal Company, to require that every household purchase a garbage can. (more…)

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Originally published in the Black Diamond Bulletin, Fall 2013

By JoAnne Matsumura

John JohnSix 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 in August 24, 1894, that took 37 lives.

This 1880s safety lamp’s survival is a testament to the quality of the American Safety Lamp and Supply Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Scratched on the lamp’s base is the date “August 24, 1894,” and it has remained the link to the six generations of memories the lamp continues to “tell.”

John, a gas tester, was 43; Evan, 19, known as “Peg Leg”—as he had only one leg—worked with the mules.

They are interned in the Franklin Cemetery, but there’s no marker. Their names, however, appear on a monument of wife and mother Ruth at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Renton.

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