The history of

Roslyn is a city in Kittitas County, Washington, United States. The population was 893 at the 2010 census. Roslyn is located in the Cascade Mountains, about 80 miles east of Seattle. The town was founded in 1886 as a coal mining company town.

Roslyn (coal) discovered

The area that covers both Roslyn and Lake Cle Elum was used by the Native American tribes there for centuries, the Kittitas tribe was the most notable group that used this area. Despite the use from tribes, the town site of the Roslyn area would not be deemed useful or interesting until the discovery of coal.

The earliest record of coal discovery in what is now Roslyn goes back to 1871, where Nez "Cayuse" Jensen and a few early prospectors found a small amount of coal. The early 1880s saw Jensen build a log cabin that still stands in Roslyn to this day. In May 1886, a team from the Northern Pacific was working to get to the Cascades towards the Stampede Pass and found a large amount of coal at the site of Roslyn.

By August of that year, the Northern Pacific sent a crew to begin mining coal in that area. A rail line was built to move coal to the main line at Cle Elum in a more efficient manner. Workers from all around came to work at the coal mines. Then vice-president of the Northern Pacific Coal Company, Logan M. Bullitt, was in charge of the coal operations in this area, and gave this place the name Roslyn.

Roslyn is discovered

The story of what inspired Logan M. Bullitt to give the city the name Roslyn is not as set in stone as other stories are. Many variations of the story are spread around. Town newspaper the Roslyn Sentinel provided one story on March 1, 1895, claiming that Bullitt had named the town after his hometown of a "vivacious maiden" that he knew personally who lived on the shores of Delaware. This story was covered again on August 10, 1886 when the newspaper reported on how a pine coal sign was created with the name Roslyn.

Other stories say that he named Roslyn after a New York town that one of his friends lived in at one point in time. Others say that the friend was poet and editor William Cullen Bryant, who had a summer estate in Roslyn on Long Island. Another possible reason for this name comes from a neighborhood named Roslyn in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, where Bullitt was from. Roslyn, Pennsylvania is a few miles away from the shores of Delaware River, giving the Rolysn Sentinel story some merit. Interesting enough, Bullitt returned to Philadelphia and married a woman from there three years after naming Roslyn. However, there is no way to verify if the woman he married was the same "vivacious maiden" that was mentioned before.

Whatever the reason for naming it Roslyn, the town had become one of the hot spots for mining coal and the Northern Pacific Railroad. This railway was what let settlers and workers come to the area for both coal and business pursuits. The town plat was filed in September 1886 by the Northern Pacific, who owned most of the land.

Some of the first buildings in Roslyn were a general store and a saloon, originating from the one sawmill in town. By winter of that same year, the town had a hotel, a boarding house, barns, and some other commercial buildings. Within the first two years, Roslyn had a population of more than 1,000 people. On June 22, 1888 a fire had started through unknown reasons that destroyed a large portion of the business district. When it came time to rebuild, the city used more brick to prevent a fire causing as much damage as it did this time.

August 17 - First strike by Roslyn coal miners

On August 17, the town of Roslyn had its first labor strike by coal miners. A new union called the Knights of Labor was the group that started the strike, looking to get higher wages for their work, and reducing the work day from ten hours to eight hours. The Northern Pacific tried to stop this strike by bringing a trainload of 50 African American miners from the Midwest and East to replace the striking miners. This effort had the help of James E. Shepperson, a famed labor recruiter that had previously worked in Pennsylvania and Illinois before moving to Kittitas County in 1888 in response to mining jobs. To aid the Northern Pacific Railroad, Shepperson not only recruited these former slaves to Mine No. 3, but he would work to recruit a total of 400 black men as strikebreakers.

About 40 armed company guards were called in to protect these miners from the strikers with the initial 40 miners. These men also carried guns on their person to ensure their safety. Territorial Governor Eugene Semple wanted to prevent the armed private militia from crossing the line from protecting company property to vigilante justice, so he came in and ordered the guards to disband. Some accounts state that the racial dispute was not the core of the problem. The miners on strike saw the black miners as a threat to the union wages and ultimately viewed them as corporate tools to silence them. The strike was eventually settled as the black miners were allowed to stay on the crew, and their families were brought in as well. As the mining boom continued, jobs were easier to get for everyone, and the racial tension died down as they worked together.

Roslyn Incorporation

On February 4, 1889, the locals at Roslyn petitioned to incorporate the city. Judge L. B. Nash ruled in favor of the town's petition, but the incorporation would soon be recalled in response to a dispute over Washington Territory's incorporation law. After reviewing this, the court that approved Roslyn's incorporation deemed it illegal as it allowed government officials that weren't involved with the legislature to grant incorporated status. To ensure no illegal actions occurred, Roslyn's incorporation was declared null.

During the same year, Washington became a recognized state within the United States. A new law was made on March 27, 1890, to be a new general incorporation law. In response to this new law, the citizens of Roslyn petitioned again to make the town a third class city. An election on April 17, 1890 saw a result of 237 voters in favor of this second attempt of incorporation, and one opposed. The re-incorporation was officially registered with the Secretary of State in Washington on April 26, 1890.

Mining Explosion

By 1892, Mine No. 1 had expanded to a total of 2,700 feet below the town to mine for coal. In this space were eleven furnaces to ventilate the air being breathed in by miners, eliminating firedamp (deadly methane gas). The fourth and lower levels of the mine did not have access to the main airway. Instead, a slope below the fourth level provided a small amount of ventilation, although it was not as safe as higher levels. May 10, 1892 saw miners attempt to connect the main air ventilation system, but the firedamp gas had detonated, creating an explosion in the mine.

A recovery effort for the trapped miners had begun, but the ones who made it out were hesitant to go back down. Despite this nervousness, the first day of rescuing was able to remove 14 bodies from the mine. By the end of Thursday of that week, all of the 45 miners trapped in Mine No. 1 had been recovered, although none of them were alive to tell the tale. Many of the victims suffered from burns and all of them were buried in local cemeteries. The multiple cemeteries located in Roslyn were separated originally due to segregation, but grew as each lodge, organization, and culture developed their own dedicated resting places.

In response to wanting to understand how this explosion had occurred, investigations from the State Coal Mine Inspector, First District Coal Mine Inspector David Edmunds, had begun in Mine No. 1. The company committee for the mine had stated that the effort to ventilate the air for levels lower than the fourth level had been the main cause. They claimed that the explosion had been set off by blasting powder used to break the rock. Despite this, the State Inspector of Mines had the suspicion that the true cause for the explosion was a crack was opened to a miner's lamp on the slope of the fourth mining level, setting off the explosion.

Most miners had worked with lamps with flames to light the way down the mines. As coal contains methane and is in a dusty mine, an explosion would be able to distill more gas from this coal dust, fueling the fire. Later coal mines would be sprinkled with water to control the dust and rock-dust the mines to eliminate the probability of an explosion. At Mine No. 1, those who weren't killed by the explosion were asphyxiated.

But whatever the reason, the cause of the fire was mostly believed to be "deficient ventilation".

This explosion had created 29 widows and 91 orphans. Some of these parties had sued the Northern Pacific Coal Company, some settling with $1,000. The 45 victims of the explosion are memorialized in the Coal Miners Memorial in Roslyn today.

The 45 killed miners were:

• Joseph Bennett
• Dominio Bianco
• John Bowen
• Thomas Brennan
• George Brooks
• Joseph Browitt
• Henry Campbell
• Tobias Cooper
• Joseph Cusworth, Jr.
• Joseph Cusworth, Sr.
• Herman Daister
• Phillip D. Davis
• Andrew Erlandson
• George Forsythe
• Richard Forsythe
• John Foster
• Scott Giles
• Robert Graham
• William Hague
• Mitchell Hale
• Frank Haney
• John Hodgson
• Thomas Holmes
• James Huston
• Elisha Jackson
• John Lafferty
• J. D. Lewis
• Preston Loving
• John Mattias
• Daniel McLellan
• James Morgan
• George Moses
• Benjamin Ostliff
• William Palmer
• William Penhall
• Leslie Pollard
• David Rees
• Thomas Rees
• William Robinson
• Mitchell Ronald
• Robert Spotts
• Winyard Steele
• Jacob Weatherley
• G. M. Williams
• Sydney Wright
Coal Mining Glory Days

The Northern Pacific Coal Company became the Northwestern Improvement Company. By August 1899, 20 cars of coal each day were being hauled out of the main mineshaft. At this time, Roslyn had become one of the most diverse cities in the state as well as one of the largest black populations with about 22 percent. The mines had the ability to attract workers from all over Europe as well, so much so that 40 percent of the population was of foreign descent in 1900. The mix of foreign citizens included the English, Italians, German,s Scottish, Welsh, Poles, Lithuanians and anyone from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Roslyn Historical Cemetery is made up of 25 separate cemeteries, many of which were for different ethinc groups.

In 1910, the future of Roslyn's coal industry was predicted to be secure and successful. Production had reached highs that they hadn't been and were never expected to reach. Roslyn's population had reached 3,126, most of which were there specifically to work at the mining industry. In 1919, writer and professor W.D. Lyman visited Roslyn and wrote down what he had observed. He stated that a visitor could have mistaken the areas for a bigger mining center in Pennsylvania or Colorado.

Mine explosion in Roslyn

On October 3, 1909, an explosion at the Northwestern Improvement Company's No. 4 mine in Roslyn killed ten workers during work. The flames grew to be about 400 feet high in the head frame, tipple, snow sheds, and other buildings in the mine. As this was a Sunday when the maintenance shift occurs, many less workers were on site that day. The miners at the site were thrown hundreds of feet from the head frame and many were found with horrific burns and most of them dying. The head frame, tipple, and snow sheds were destroyed in the explosion. Nearby buildings such as the powerhouse also caught fire, along with other mines in the general area.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "thousands" of people gathered in horror. Mine Superintendent John G. Green organized firefighters to extinguish the fire, and they fought the fire for the next 48 hours when it finally was extinguished. On Sunday night, rescuers entered the mine, but they were blocked by a cave-in on Slope No. 1. Poisonous gasses were in the mine and the crew was affected by them, and even the first rescuers had to be rescued themselves.

On Monday, two Coal Mine inspectors known as "Draeger helmets" arrived from the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle to display their mining exhibit work. Superintendent Green didn't issue them immediately because no one was trained in their use. He ordered bratticing in the No. 1 Slope to the fifth east level. Teams picker which collapsed roofs to the mule barn and one rescue group was trapped by a fallen roof. By Thursday, men were trained by Draeger units, but two of the three units only had about an hour of air in their air bottles. The team had come across the body of pumpman J.E. Jones. Regardless of the recent training, the team had no choice but to leave the mines when they found their oxygen supplies weren't able to support the mission.

On Friday evening, the Draeger team found tracks on the 11th level of the mine, but they did not have the ability to recover bodies until Sunday due to the oxygen supply they had. The explosion and fire did so much damage to the mine that the last two bodies to recover, Daniel Hardy and Dominick Bartolero, weren't able to be found until April. The damage also denied the team any chance of finding out what happened to cause the explosion in the first place.

State Inspector of Coal Mines David C. Botting examined the possible causes of the explosion, concluding that the most likely cause was a spark from electrical equipment, causing a small pocket of gas. The day of the explosion saw miners take electricians to the 14th level to inspect the safety lamps, but there was not enough gas to demonstrate how they worked. Along with a few other facts that made that theory unlikely, no one could figure out what the cause of the explosion was.

The Decline of Coal

As oil was being discovered, it began to take coal's role as the nation's most important fuel source. The only time where coal would be considered the more important fuel than oil was in World War I for a short time. After that brief moment, coal was much cheaper in other states than in Washington. By 1920, Roslyn's population had dropped down to 2,673. With the coal jobs in the town disappearing, many of the imported residents took their things and moved away. The town's black population also went to other cities such as Seattle and Tacoma to find work.

For those who still worked at the coal mines, two strikes had closed the mines for a couple of weeks in 1919. In the early 1920s strikes from the United Mine Workers became more common in the community, even reaching a point where attempts to break the union were made. However, because the industry declined alongside the power of the unions, the mine workers were forced to get a wage cut from $8.25 per day to $7.50 per day in 1922.

In 1929, the Great Depression caused conditions to get worse for workers. By 1930, Roslyn's population dropped yet again, this time going down to 2,063. Unionized miners had become more and more unsatisfied with the United Mine Workers, making the new Western Miners of America group's efforts to recruit them an easy task. This group went on strike in 1934. The city became divided, either being on the side of the UMW with the company or the Western Miners of America, going so far as to fight and throw rocks at each other.

The Western Miners were the ultimate winners of this dispute, and the striking miners were never hired back to the group. During this, diesel fuel had replaced coal powered means of transportation, even reaching train locomotives. Roslyn's population had dropped so far from it's glory days that in 1950 it had dropped to 1,537.

Transitioning from Coal
By 1963, the two remaining coal companies, the Northern Pacific coal arm and the Roslyn Cascade Coal Company, had shut down, bringing an end to the coal era in Roslyn. Despite the remaining coal in the town, the industry was already dead, leaving the coal untouched. Roslyn had two remaining economic staples that were not strong enough to be considered reliable, logging and tourism. Lake Cle Elum was able to attract summer visitors from Seattle, even though the Roslyn population continued to sink, dropping to 1,031 in 1970. In 1975, William Craven was elected the first black mayor in not only Roslyn, but in Washington.

Roslyn was able to preserve the historical brick buildings that are essential to the town's identity in the years of overwhelming success. This attracted Oscar-winning director Stanley Kramer in 1978 when making his film The Runner Stumbles, set in the 1920s. This gave Roslyn a temporary boost to the economy and pride, but the population continued to go further down in numbers even going to 869 in 1990. With all the empty houses, young people seeking refuge from the cities were attracted to Roslyn's low real-estate along with artists moving next to retired coal miners.

The biggest boost to the economy came in the form of a show choosing Roslyn as its filming location. This show was called Northern Exposure, set in the fictional Cicely, Alaska. Alaska was too remote to be chosen as the filming location, and the producers Roslyn to be a great fit with its historical buildings and being easy to get to and from. The series ended in 1995, transforming Roslyn into a tourist attraction. In addition to the show recognition, tourists found Roslyn to be a great place to go mountain biking, fishing, hiking, and snowmobiling.
Roslyn's Renaissance

The population had risen for the first time in decades thanks to Northern Exposure, going up to 1,017. The population had been stable since then, but the real rise of tourism came from outside the city limits, in between Roslyn and Cle Elum. A new recreational and residential resort called Suncadia was opened, complete with an inn, golf courses, and horseback facilities two miles away from Roslyn in 2004. The first Suncadia homes were completed in 2005, and a new lodge and spa were opened in 2008.


An ever beloved destination for travelers and lovers of the Cascade Mountains. An unbeatable region for snowmobiling, mountain biking, horseback riding, and the entryway to picturesque alpine lakes and hiking trails. Roslyn's unique downtown showcases their extraordinary history with maintained architecture, such as the Brick Saloon, the oldest running tavern in Washington state, the Roslyn Cemetery, which reflects the rich diversity of immigrants that settled there, the Roslyn Museum, and a memorial to the mining culture upon which the town was built. Alongside history, new memories are being made with social events held in the Roslyn Yard, the Sunday Farmer's Market, and the Creative Center.