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Swedish Finns in Coal Creek, Washington


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by Anders Myrhman

Several decades ago, there was life and movement in the mining district of Coal Creek, situated right next to the community of New Castle [now Newcastle], about 25 miles southeast of Seattle. Here they began to excavate coal in the beginning of the 20th century, and a number of Swedish Finns accordingly found their way there. The Finska Amerikanaren on August 8 said many countrymen from Esse and Munsala worked there in one coal mine. Most of the laborers lived at that time and until a couple of decades later in houses belonging to the mining company.

Among the miners a temperance association, "Aftonstjärnan" was founded on December 20, 1908. It was Number 67 in the Swedish Finn Temperance Union, with 33 members. The membership rose after a while to 70, decreased to 25, rose again to 41 in the beginning of 1917. A picture in "Minnesskrift" on page 101 shows 27 men, 11 women and 10 children. The association became Lodge Number 119 in the Order of Runeberg, with 23 members.

1921-Membership varies according to the job market. Activities have been lively and the lodge has had both choir and gymnastic club, even an orchestra for a short time. Now it appears that it must cease its activities because all jobs have been shut down presently due to a strike, and most of the members have already left.

1923-Only 10 members were left. The Lodge was dissolved then and these members were transferred to the lodge in Seattle.

Alfred Backlund from Esse, who worked in Coal Creek at that time with the exception of a few short periods, has written down by memory the names and birthplaces for over 300 Swedish Finns, including 40 married women who were in Coal Creek at some point. Also among the 300, around 80 came from Esse, 46 from Purmo, 37 from Pedersöre, 25 from Nykarleby (mostly Socklot), 22 from Oravais, 21 from Munsala, and smaller numbers from several communities north of Vasa.

After the 1921 strike, Swedish Finns were on the mining compa-ny’s black list, and they no longer had any possibility of making a living in Coal Creek. Five countrymen died in mining accidents there.

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