VALLEY VOICES – Cedar Mountain: A lost town amongst the Highway

The traffic, oh the traffic! If you are like most residents of Maple Valley you’ve driven down the nightmare we call Maple Valley Highway. As many of you head towards your jobs, you’ll inch your way to work passing by Wilderness Village on your left. Maybe you’ll drop your kid off at Lake Wilderness Elementary on your way. You might pull into McDonalds to get an egg McMuffin or you’ll pass it by glancing at the police station on your right. Perhaps you’ll get on highway 18 from here.

If you are one of the many that still need to make your way to 405 you’ll continue down the highway passing the Cedar River. Your thoughts will probably wander to the stresses of life. Afterall, you’ve driven down this road a million times. As you approach the traffic light at Jones road, you’ll barely notice the land around you. You’ll move on down the road, hoping the line at Starbuck’s drive-thru isn’t long. You’d have no idea that 120 years ago the town of Cedar Mountain stood where your car now drives.

An 1880 county map shows a road winding over the ridge south of there and to the Cedar River at Cedar Mountain. No direct route from Renton down the valley existed at that time. [2] It is hard to believe that this flat highway was once rolling hills and amongst those rolling hills sat the town of Cedar Mountain.

Buildings once stood at the base of the hill where 196th S.E. (across from Jones Road) meets Maple Valley Highway [2] The entrance to the mine once sat where 196th meets Maple Valley Highway.

Cedar Mountain was a town born of coal. Originally discovered by Duwamish Valley homesteader Martin L. Cavanaugh on a land survey mission, he intended to claim this land. However, Cavanaugh couldn’t keep his mouth shut and word quickly got out. James M. Colman beat him to the books, forming the Cedar Mountain Coal company and Cavanaugh was forced to claim land further down the river where Valley View Mobile Home Park now sits.

Coal Mining began at the base of Cedar Mountain in 1884 and ended in 1944. [3] It never produced a large amount of coal, but it produced enough to form the little town.

It had all the fixing of a coal company town: stores, a hotel, bunkhouses, a school, a church, mines, a post office and a railroad station. Miners cabins consisted of three rooms. The officials and their families lived in larger homes.

Sarah and Louis Sermon lived in Cedar Mountain. Louis was a mechanic and engineer in the mine, as well as, a manager of the general store. [2] They lived at Cedar Mountain for 27 years.

In the book 100 Years Along the Cedar River [2], Mrs. Sermon recalls living in Cedar Mountain. Their first home was a small cedar shack at the foot of the hill. After Louis became manager of the general store, they lived above it. Eventually they would acquire a large farm house on the flat across the river. Mrs. Sermon also ran a boarding house and became a well-known seamstress.

One of the most exciting events Mrs. Sermon experienced was the great Seattle fire. “We were fishing in the river that hot June day when we saw the huge clouds of smoke. News reached us that Seattle was burning. Some of the miners were frantic because they had left their good clothes and most of their belongings in Seattle Hotels. They got on the next coal train to go to town and see what they could save.” [2]

Besides the work of coal mining, the town folks had a variety of activities. Music and dancing were some of their favorite pastimes. Primarily of Scotch, English and Irish descent, they would dance the polka, square dance, Schottisches and quadrilles to a fiddle. [2]

“Slashing bees” were all day affairs that involved the burning of brush and slashing of timber. The day would end with food and dancing. During the colder months of winter, tracks would be cleared of snow, so they could take the pump cars up to Maple Valley to attend the dance halls there. It would take all night to get home, but they didn’t care. They even hauled an organ all the way up the steep hill of 196th for an evening of dancing at a housewarming party. [2]

The town is gone now. If you wander down the trail system at Cedar Mountain Road, you can close your eyes and wonder what stories happened on this land. You can see the buildings and hear the children. You might even smell the cooking or hear the fiddle play.

Cited Sources

  1. Lorenz, Laura. Historical Sketch of the Greater Maple Valley Area. Card Sharks Printers, 1986.
  2. McDonald, L. (961, April 2). Lost towns of King County: Busy Cedar Mountain of former years now is only a memory. The Seattle Times.
  3. Slauson, M. C. (1967). One Hundred Years Along the Cedar River. Maple Valley, WA: King County Library System.