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    From the Wikipedia:  The Black Diamond Coal Mining Company was formed in 1861, consolidating the Cumberland and Black Diamond coal mines in the region of Mount Diablo, in Contra Costa County, California. During its years of operation as a mining company, it established three towns: Nortonville , California, Southport , Oregon, Black Diamond and Franklin Washington. The company's mines in California and its settlement of Nortonville later became part of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Park and a California Historical Landmark. Several railroad lines were built in California and Washington to support the company's mines, and the company operated numerous ships to transport its coal. As the mines played out and petroleum became the more common source of energy, the company closed its mines and transitioned into real estate as the Southport Land and Commercial Company.

    It should first be noted that Black Diamond is NOT a ghost town. It is, however, a thriving community with deep Welsh and Italian historical roots. Indeed it would not be possible to record and document the fascinating history of this area without the work of the Black Diamond Historical Society who have established a superb museum ( and website ) full of information and artefacts from the coal mining era. Our article today concerns the former coal mining settlement of Franklin, now abandoned, which lies about 4 miles to the east of Black Diamond.

    Both communities were established by the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company as part of their northward expansion to find better quality coal to service the growing energy needs of San Francisco and northern California.

    Established in the early 1880's, Franklin boasted a railroad connection to the Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad by 1885 and had its own post office by 1886. For an insight into the identity, character and experiences of those early settlers one could do no better than to consult the following posts from the Black Diamond History blog:-

    Those who came first: Welsh pioneers of Black Diamond

    The above post sets out to answer the question:- " Who were these 194 Welsh individuals of whom 124 are known to be from Nortonville, California, among the many other ethnic groups, between 1882 and 1885, to Black Diamond, Washington? " By JoAnne Matsumura

    John D. Jones (Jac Y Cigydd – Jack the Butcher)

    " John David Jones, a man of true talent, was born to David Jones (Y Gof) and Ann Evans in Llanybyder Carmarthenshire, South Wales, on June 20, 1846. When he was about 18, he immigrated to Brookfield, Ohio, where his uncle,   Lewis Jones (Y Garnant), lived. Later he came to the mining community of Franklin, Washington, in about 1885 at the age of 39 and joined the other miners picking coal. " By JoAnne Matsumura

    There is much more to explore on this invaluable blog.

    However much the settlement may have thrived in its early days it soon hit hard times. A disastrous strike in May 1891 resulted in two deaths and ultimately the Governor was forced to deploy the National Guard to restore order. 

    In August 1894 a mine disaster in Franklin caused the death of 37 miners. A fire, later judged to have been 'intentionally set', was responsible for the fatalities. The perpetrator, apparently, perished in the disaster. 

    The first two decades of the 20th century saw the town in decline. The post office was closed in 1916 and by 1919 mining had virtually ceased in the area as a consequence of increasing geological difficulties and falling demand. Most of Franklin's residents left although a few families remained. One of these was the Moore family and Ernest Moore later wrote a book about his African-American family's experiences titled The Coal Miner Who Came West .

    The Palmer Coking Coal Company mined both surface and underground coal in and around the town site of Franklin until March 1971. 

    A study by the Green River Community College archaeology department, led by Gerald Hedlund and Mark Vernon, led to the publication of a report, From Smoke to Mist: An archeological study of Franklin, WA. - A Turn of the Century Company Coal Town , in 1994. This report relied on research by historian John Hanscom. The report is now, regrettably, somewhat difficult to obtain.

    It should be noted that the Black Diamond Historical Society Museum is normally open (Covid permitting) at the following times:- Thursdays, 9 am-4 pm and Saturdays 11 am to 3 pm .

    Traditionally the museum holds a Welsh Heritage Day celebration on the first Saturday in June.

    Images below appear by kind permission of the Black Diamond Historical Society. More can be found on their Gallery page here: Black Diamond Museum Gallery

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    1900 Franklin WA.jpg

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