Joe Wilsco, a coal miner from Ravensdale

On October 26, 1965, Joe Wilsco, a coal miner from Ravensdale prepared to connect dangling wires used to detonate dynamite and loosen the face of coal he stands before. Wilsco was working in the Rogers No. 3 mine and in the final steps of connecting the primer leads when this Smithson & Associates photo was taken. It was later featured in the June 26, 1966 issue of the Seattle Times Pictoral section. The first step in this part of mining was to drill a series of holes into a solid face of coal which stood near vertical due to the geologic forces which created the Cascade Mountain range. The drill holes were filled with dynamite, with one stick containing a blasting cap called a primer. Every blasting cap was numbered representing the time delay between the detonating charge in each hole. The delay between numbered caps was just milliseconds, but that allowed the first blasted holes to create a void before subsequent primers discharged. If all sticks of dynamite were detonated simultaneously, the coal would be pulverized. With the delayed cap system, large chunks of coal were created which increased recovery rates during processing.   Joseph James Wilsco was born May 21, 1911 to Lena (Skorupski) and John Wilczewski, Russian-Polish immigrants. Joe was the youngest of ten children and lived most of his life in Ravensdale. Like many of his era, he finished only eight grade of school before starting work including three years as a logger. He began his mining career as a hoisting engineer at the Dale Coal Co.’s mine located across the road from Ravensdale Lake. He later worked for both the Continental Coal and Northwest Improvement’s nearby mines, before joining Palmer Coking Coal Co. in 1952. He retired from Palmer’s Rogers No. 3 in December 1972 having worked 42 years in the coal industry. Joe Wilsco died on April 22, 1991 and is buried in Renton’s Greenwood Memorial cemetery next to his wife of 28 years, Bernice (Reise) Wilsco. This photo comes courtesy of the Black Diamond Historical Museum.

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