Shaft Entrance in Franklin on Feb. 19, 1902

In this February 19, 1902 photo, five unknown coal miners surround the shaft entrance, which eventually reached a depth of 1,300 feet.

One of the highlights of this Saturday’s walking tour of Franklin is the dramatic opening to the Franklin shaft.

In this February 19, 1902 photo, five unknown coal miners surround the shaft entrance, which eventually reached a depth of 1,300 feet. Three wear miner’s hats and sit in a large bucket suspended above the shaft, while two others look on.

The bucket was used to raise and lower miners into the vertical opening for the hard labor of drilling and blasting straight down through shear bedrock. The shot rock was hauled, bucket by bucket to the top, and disposed over the steep bank above the Green River.

In the fall of 1900, Pacific Coast Coal Co. commenced this ambitious plan to sink an 11’ x 18’ rectangular column to access more coal seams in the Franklin coal field. Digging the shaft resulted in the deaths of at least six miners: John Callon who fell to the bottom while getting off a bucket on 2-19-1901; Frank Sean who was pulled from a loaded bucket on 5-17-1901; Anton Garauisz who died when a timber dropped and struck his head on 8-20-1901; Thomas Dennis who fell down the shaft, dying instantly on 3-29-1902; George W. Cannon who slipped from a ladder, falling 175 feet on 7-9-1902; and John Warner, when a rock battered his head after plunging from an overloaded bucket on 8-21-1902.

The shaft was completed in 1903, but ironically never used as intended. When abandoned the shaft was covered with large timber to prevent access. In the 1950s railroad iron was added to the rotting timber. During those efforts a rusted danger sign in 16 languages was found and now hangs in the museum.

The property was sold to Washington State Parks in 1973 as part of an effort to conserve large swaths of 14 miles of the Green River, stretching from Palmer-Kanaskat to Flaming Geyser, with anchor parks on each end. In 1984 the Office of Surface Mining installed a heavy-duty wire screen, encased in concrete and surrounded by guard railing, to secure the opening yet still allow safe viewing. A bronze plague embedded into concrete presents a brief history. This Curtis & Romans image number 1060 comes courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma.

This Saturday, April 6ththe Black Diamond Historical Society conducts its walking tour of the historic coal mining town of Franklin. If interested, meet at the Black Diamond Museum, 32627 Railroad Avenue at 10 a.m. to sign up and hear an orientation. Participants should wear sturdy shoes and dress for the weather as the tour goes on, rain or shine.