Newcastle’s Coal Miners Cemetery – Part 1

Did you know that there is a cemetery in the City of Newcastle? Well, there is, and it is a registered King County Historic Landmark. Located on 129th Ave SE, just north of the entrance to Lake Boren Park , lies a 2.02 acre parcel that has served as the final resting place for coal miners and their families since 1878. The site consists of rocky non-arable land that overlooks Lake Boren. In fact, the ground was so rocky that blasting was often required to prepare a grave site. Jim Rannie (34) was the first internment on the property given to the International Order of Odd Fellows in 1879. The IOOF maintained ownership of the property until 2001 when it was donated to the City of Newcastle.

We don’t know how many people are buried here, but existing headstones and documentation indicate at least 190 have been laid to rest at this site. Many of the original headstones have been vandalized or removed. In addition, wooden markers and fences outlining grave sites were destroyed by two fires during the 1900’s. In some cases, the graves were marked by a ring of stones and they have been covered by moss and natural vegetation.

The existing headstones tell a story of the migration of Irish and Scots in the 1880’s, Welsh, Swedes ,Belgians, English, around 1900, followed by Blacks, Germans, Italians, Slavs, Finns, Croatians, and Serbians. The deaths of children identify years of disease outbreaks. Frequently the deceased speak to us through their epitaphs; “Weep not father and mother for me, for I am waiting in glory for thee.”

“Death to me short warning give; Therefore be careful how you live; Prepare in time, do not delay; For I was quickly called away.”

Not all stories about cemeteries are sad. In 1918, a lady named Emmy had a heart attack and was declared deceased. Now Emmy was said to be a loud and obnoxious woman and would not be missed by too many. Her husband arranged a funeral service and burial in the cemetery. The entrance to the cemetery is steep, and one of the pall-bearers slipped and dropped the coffin. To everyone’s surprise, Emmy popped right up and demanded to know what was going on.

Two weeks later the original diagnosis came true and Emmy died. Once again her husband arranged a service and burial. This time, however, he cautioned the pall-bearers to watch their footing because he could not afford another service for his wife.

The cemetery is closed to new burials except for relatives of those already interred.

The cemetery is generally closed to the public except for Memorial Day and during Newcastle Days. To arrange a visit, or to participate in the restoration of the cemetery contact the Newcastle Historical Society.

The next two articles will be about individuals at rest in the cemetery. This is the aspect of the history of Newcastle that is so exciting to me. Our mining history is only 150 years old, and we know about the people that made that history.

If you are interested in learning more about the activities of the Newcastle Historical Society, or would like to share your local history with us please contact me at crispo@comcast.net or come to one of our events.

Rich Crispo

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