Snowy winter scene in the coal mining town of Burnett on December 19, 1924
This snowy winter scene in the coal mining town of Burnett on December 19, 1924 looked beautiful, but the mood of the townspeople was anything but. A pall of mourning hung over the mining community as thoughts turned to the sad Christmas for the relatives of those men who’d recently lost their lives.
Two days earlier, on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 17, a gas explosion at the Burnett mine claimed the lives of seven coal miners: Elmer Crippen, Harry Humecky, Charles Kirby, Elmer Landis, Ernest H. Ridley, E.J. Rush, and Barney H. Washburn. After hearing the testimony of 23 experts and witnesses, a coroner’s jury returned a verdict that the miners met death resulting from “gas explosion the cause of which is unknown.”
State mine inspector, William Reese promised to continue the investigation to clear up the mystery, for which mine experts were at a complete loss to explain. Burnett is a small town located between Buckley and Wilkeson, which straddles South Prairie Creek. At the time, Burnett hosted the largest coal mine in Pierce County with 300 miners employed by the Pacific Coast Coal Company.
That year the Burnett mine produced nearly 178,000 tons of coal, representing about 45% of Pierce County’s output. Many of miners lived in Burnett’s company houses, with some in nearby Buckley, South Prairie, Wilkeson, Spiketon, and Carbonado.
This 1924 image #13417 comes courtesy of JoAnne Matsumura, an Issaquah-based historical researcher.