This photo appeared on the front page of the Bellingham Herald, December 8, 1947. Many are surprised to learn that Washington’s first commercial coal mine was in Bellingham, opening in 1851.
Mining continued in the area for over 100 years until the Birchwood mine, pictured above closed in 1954. The Birchwood mine opened in 1917 and produced over 5.3 million tons of coal during its 37 years of operation. Shown here are students of Professor Joseph Daniels’ mineral engineering class from the University of Washington, preparing to descend 1,125 feet underground.
The students are shown loading themselves into wooden coal cars for the trip down the 18 degree main slope. Professor Daniels is to the far left. Standing behind the cars just below the smoke stacks is Superintendent James H. Pascoe, who would be the chief instructor for the students that day.
The tour was scheduled on Saturday morning when the mine wasn’t operating. This photo was taken by Jack Carver, whose negatives were collected by Galen Biery, and donated to the Whatcom Museum of History and Art under catalog number 1996.10.3323. Research assistance for this column was provided by Jeff Jewel of the museum, and George Mostoe of Western Washington University. Next week more about Supt. Jim Pascoe and his storied coal mining career.