Maple Valley Historical Society

Excerpts from January 2018

Labor Day 2017 Sees Lontz Get 65-Year Pin

By D’Ann Tedford

Does he recall the years before 1946 when Seattle had 25,000 to 30,000 union members parading and pic-nicking on Labor Day?

”You bet,” replies Ed Lontz of Maple Valley. “It was a big deal.” And how did he celebrate Labor Day this year? Ed says simply, “Conversation.” However, it really wasn’t that simple.

Labor Day 2017 was personally a big deal for the 1946 Tahoma High School graduate. He had been in Boston attending his union’s international convention and receiving an historic pin for 65 years in his labor union. The August holiday saw Ed attending Heat & Frost Insulators and Allied Workers International Con-vention back east. The insulators union, established in 1903, meets every five years. Since his employment and joining the union, Ed has been a delegate or guest, attending all but one of its conventions since 1962. This year he was one of 20 retirees assigned duties as sergeant of arms.

His attendance at the August convention had a unique personal tweak for Ed. He might be the only retiree to ever receive a labor pin accommodating 65 years. The Seattle labor union most likely had to request one specially designed.

“An insulation employee for 35 years,” Ed comments with a trace of pride, “1952 to 1987. I started at $1.52 per hour with no benefits.” Ed began work as an insulator spending 13 years, on a daily basis, out in the fields: industry, construction and marine. He served a total of 22 years as business manager within the same union at Seattle’s Labor Temple that serves 22 counties. He winces as he recalls and physically addresses the detrimental effects of the insulation product, asbestos, on the lives and lifespan of his friends and co-workers. “Asbestos is no longer a part of our insulation product,” he acknowledges. It’s also no long-er a part of the union name. He said that asbestos was eliminated from their product in the early 70’s and is still undergoing safe removal from ships, schools, buildings and industrial sites.

Back in 1946 as Labor Day celebrations had started to decline, Ed became a Tahoma alumnus through a circuitous route. After applying to the Coast Guard to counter the mili-tary draft, he left high school in his senior year and accepted a two-year Coast Guard term. He was able to complete his GED testing (General Educational Development), get a leave from duty, and participate in graduation ceremonies with his senior class.

Not only was Ed a productive worker in his field and business manager, as a Tahoma High School graduate he was also instrumental in encouraging a dozen other THS grads his own age, plus some of their THS children, to join the trade. Two of them became business managers as he had. Not complacent at all about employing women in the field of insula-tors, he also oversaw two female THS graduates being hired, one of whom recently retired.

Daily newspapers now reference the movement causing unions to decline as a “gig” economy and “gig” workers - verbiage for “bits and pieces,” as in corporations that outsource work and employees working for, but independ-ent of, the parent company. In this framework, a union may no longer be deemed feasible. It also implies that Ed’s personal assessment of celebrating Labor Day as simply “a conversation,” may in fact be the future observation of Labor Day.

Excerpts from February 2014

Did You Know?

Excerpts from One Hundred Years Along the Cedar River

By Morda C Slauson


By 1924 there were more students who wished to continue through high school. It was decided that a separate building was needed. Property was purchased a mile from the town of  Maple Valley on the Hobart Road. The present address of the high school is 24425 S.E. 216th  Street.

In 1926 the last senior class left the old Maple Valley school. However, they were graduated under the name of Tahoma High School. In fact, it was a committee from this class which chose the name for the new school.

"I was on the committee to decide on a name," Ethel Maxwell Johnson remembered when she was back in the valley. "We chose the first two letters of the names of the three communities sending student's to the school: MA for Maple Valley, HO for Hobart and TA for Taylor. Our first choice was Mahota because we thought Maple Valley should be first since the school was there. We didn't like the sound of it and finally settled on Tahoma. It had nothing to do with the name of the mountain near Tacoma. We were the first class to use the name Tahoma. Our class rings were marked with a large "T."

(scroll all the way down for Mystery Photos)

Excerpts from June 2013

Maple Valley Historical Society

Hosted Civil War Personalities in the Greater Northwest

By Kathleen Kear


Did you know that prior to becoming famous Civil War personalities, several men from that era had come to the Greater Northwest where they made an impact by their presence here as well?

Karen Meador of the Neely Mansion Association and the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO) presented a fascinating program for the Maple Valley Historical Society (MVHS) on Saturday, May 20, at the Hobart Community Church titled – Civil War Personalities Before They Were Famous and Their Influence on the Greater Northwest.

Perhaps one of the biggest champions for this area of the country in the 1840s and 50s was Jefferson Davis – yes, that Davis – the future President of the Confederate States of America.  Although he never traveled to this part of the country, he had an abiding interest in the remote Pacific Northwest from his days as a young Army officer serving at various assignments throughout the Midwest (then referred to as the Northwest).  Later, as Congressman, U.S. Senator and Secretary of War to President Franklin Pierce, he was able to act on his vision of “binding the Pacific slope more permanently to this Union.” In that vision was the potential for Asian Trade as well as the strategic value of the Columbia River area, which needed protection from foreign access.

Davis also wanted a national rail line that would help move people to the Great Northwest; along with that came the need for mail service, which he also supported. Other fascinations he held included Coast & Geodetics Surveying; and, in an effort to help surveyors and other interests throughout the West, Davis envisioned the camel as an integral part of Western settlement – so camels were brought in from the Middle East.

The evolving rifle and ammunition industry was yet another field of interest for Davis.  The I-5 corridor follows a number of the early military roads for which Davis secured funding.  In more recent history, while I-5 was being built, some of the newer model types of rifles he had encouraged to be built – and that were used in the Civil War – were found along the corridor.

Another influential Civil War personality was then – Captain George Pickett, who played a leading role in the Pig War on San Juan Island. He was also commanding officer at Fort Bellingham and in charge of building the Military Road in the Bellingham area.

Not only did Meador’s presentation bring in the importance of pre-Civil War personalities Davis and Pickett, other personalities brought in as well included Isaac Stevens (Stevens Pass, Fort Stevens), who was the first governor of Washington Territory and in charge of the northern railroad survey, William Tecumseh Sherman, Joseph Hooker, Phillip Sheridan – and yes – even Ulysses S. Grant. There was also George B. McClellan, who had a hand in surveying roads in the area. Does Snoqualmie Pass sound familiar?

For more information about Maple Valley Historical Society, please contact Dick Peacock at 425-432-0141425-432-0141.



Excerpts from the Feb/March 2011 Bugle

                  The information given by Bill Kombol at the Ravensdale Reunion in September continues with this edition.  The last column ended with the discussion of the Northern Pacific Locomotive #1368 and the mining operations in Durham.

                  “Coal production was recommenced in 1915 by the Durham Colliery Co. which operated until 1920.  In 1921, the Durham properties, including the mine, bunkers, hotel, homes and mine equipment were sold to the newly founded Morris Brothers Coal Mining Company, Inc.  Mining operations continued at Durham until the early 1944.  From 1888 until 1944 over 733,000 tons of coal was mined from Durham.  The photo above was donated by Dan Johnson, a life long resident and logger whose family arrived in nearby Kangley around 1912.

Elk Coal Mine: The Elk Coal mine commenced operation in 1921 in a location about ¼ mile west of Durham, 1.25 miles south of Kangley and 1.25 miles north of Palmer-Kanasket on the south slope of Sugarloaf mountain.  The 160-acre property was homesteaded by Robert Pearson, an Irish immigrant.  Pearson and later his daughter, Aileen Gregovich, operated a small store and gas station which bore the name, Elkcoal on the Kanasket-Kangley Road.  The Elk Coal Company commenced mining in 1921, and in 1929 the Big Four Coal Company took over and continued mining coal until 1953.  There were two mine openings and during the 33-year mine history over 850,000 tons of coal were produced.  The mine was at one time owned by Pete Pergolius and James Bagley and in later years managed by David J. Williams and Henry Benson.  Remarkably, there were no fatalities at this mine, though one miner named John A. Wolti was buried by a cave-in for several days in 1950.  For the complete story of Wolti’s entombment and rescue by miners including Fred Davis, Bill Moses, Jack Darby, Joe Bertelli, Bill Zapitul, Fred Benedetti, Grover Smail and others go to and type Wolti in the search box.  One of the last remaining vestiges of Elk Coal was the service station and store which helped keep the Elk Coal name alive into the 1960s, but the store is gone and all that remains of this once vibrant coal town are about a dozen homes….

The Habenicht Hotel: In the early 1900s, the Habenicht Hotel was located behind the railroad depot in Black Diamond.  The hotel was owned by Henry and Lena Habenicht who were some of earliest immigrants to Black Diamond, arriving from Nortonville, CA in 1887.  Henry Habenicht was born in Germany in 1833 while Lena was born there around 1837.  Henry immigrated to the U.S. in 1848 at age 15 and eventually found work as a coal miner with the Black Diamond Coal Mining Co., of California.  When the company moved operations north to Black Diamond in the 1880s, Henry and Lena moved here as well.  According to Vernon Habenicht, his grandmother Lena operated the hotel.  There were a number of hotels and boarding houses in early Black Diamond, usually operated by local residents.  Verna Thompson reports that “nearly every family had a boarder or two.” 


This photo is the Franklin  Hotel, building #18 in the coal mining town of Franklin, and comes courtesy from the collection of the Enumclaw Public Library.  The photo probably dates from the early 1900s, which would coincide with the periods of peak mining at Franklin.  Most of the people are dressed up indicating it might have been a Sunday or some other special event.  Many of the men in the photo were probably residents at the hotel.  In those days a hotel in a coal mining town was more of a room and boarding house for single men who worked in the mines.  Married men with families typically lived in homes provided by the coal company…

Danger Signs in 16 languages:  In the early 1970s Jack Kombol found a faded version of this near the old coal mining town of Franklin, located above the Green River Gorge.  The sign was donated to the Black Diamond Historical Society. Danger signs were mass produced by the Stonehouse Steel Sign Company and sold for 50 to 85 cents each.  The 16 languages represented a testament to the immigrant and ethnic groups who populated the early coal mining camps and towns…the languages are:  Russian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Danish-Norwegian, Croatian, Spanish, Serbian, Lithuanian, Italian, Polish, Greek, Swedish, Bohemian, German, Finnish and French.

1915 Ravensdale Explosion-On Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1915 at 1:25 p.m. an explosion ripped through the Ravensdale mine killing 31 miners and permanently closing what was then the third largest coal mine in the state of Washington.  At the time of the explosion only 34 men were in the mine due to a breakdown in the power plant resulting in most of the miners having been sent home for the day.  During that year the mine employed 153.  This became the worst underground coal mine disaster in Washington during the 20th century. 

The Ravensdale mine was originally opened in 1899 by the Seattle & San Francisco Railway Company and eventually acquired by Northwest Improvement Company, a Northern Pacific Railroad subsidiary.  The mine was located southeast of Ravensdale Lake near an area where the Black Diamond-Ravensdale Road crosses the BN-SF railroad tracks. 

Dr. J. Tate Mason was the Coroner who conducted the investigation into the tragedy.  Dr. Mason began his career as a mine doctor for Pacific Coast Coal Company in Black Diamond and Franklin, and later went on to found the Virginia Mason clinics and hospital. 

Following the explosion, the mine closed; homes were cut into sections and loaded onto railroad cars for relocation; many of the miners and their families packed up and moved away.

According to a news clipping donated by Jane Gattavara, the deceased miners’ families received a total of $124,000 for their losses; about $4,000 for each married man and a lesser amount for single men.  All but seven of the fatalities were


A row of nearly identical houses in the coal mining town of Ravensdale were built in the years after World War I between 1918 and 1922.  The photo is looking west from the former Northern Pacific railroad tracks.  What’s fascinating about this photo is that almost every one of this same row of homes still stand along S.E. Ravensdale Way between the Gracie Hanson building at Ravensdale Park and the Reserve Silica sand plant near the BNSF railroad tacks.  The next time you drive along Ravensdale Way towards Black Diamond, notice the knoll to the right of the road and notice the similarities to this photo which likely dates from the mid 1920s.

History of Local Mining by Bill Kombol will be continued in the next Bugle.



Mystery Photos - Bugle


Approximately 1/2 of Tahoma Class of 1963, Mrs. Conlon’s First Grade class at Ravensdale in 1951-52.

1st row: Janet Dunlap, Kathy McDonald, Halene Miller, Hugh Wall, Sharon Huff, Jean Ratcliff, D’Ann Dufenhorst, Terry Johnson, Kenneth Schwab, Gordon Blank, Bill Burroughs; 2nd row: Gary Klementis, David Morris, Barbara Nieman, John Patton, John Sroufe, Lonnie Beacher, Ronald Coleman, Gary Gusa, Stephanie Young; 3rd row: Mrs. Conlon, Bobby Beneditti, Stanley Douglas, Joel McNair, Dickie Dirk, Robert Wheeler, Nancy Johnson, James Puckett, Joan Thompson, Warren Cole, Glendora Saviers.


Mystery Photo from February 2014 Bugle

Do you know what it is and where it is located?

Harper’s Pit

Located off of Witte Road across from Lake Wilderness Elementary School

Mystery Photo from May 2014 Bugle


The Mystery Photo iis the Rustic Inn, located on the Maple Valley Hi-Way at the Royal Arch Park. In the background one can see the present stucco house that is located just South of the Inn. For the second time in a row Marilee Palmer was the first person the call in with the correct answer. 

 Mystery Photo from October 2014

Let us know,


The Mystery Photo in the last Bugle was the Shell Station next to the Mezzavilla Store. Frank Downing named all three men. L-R. Don Jolk, Dave Baugh, and Jack Lochow. We are a little disappointed that no one seems to know who the lineman is on the pole.

Mystery Photo from February 2015 Bugle

The picture in the last issue of the Bugle, Bellmans' gas station and Café at 4-corners or back then 5-corners. 1946 -1948 maybe. Mine office across the street. Looking north on MV Highway, the toll lead, with eight cross arms of copper wire went from Seattle through Stampede Pass to Yakima. A red flashing stop light for east west traffic and a flashing yellow for the main highway, now #169. Bellman sold to Ray Spurgeon who operated the station and Café for several years. Now it's a Shop Fast store with lights and turn lanes everywhere. In 1946 you could come to the corner, stop, maybe and not encounter another car, depending what time it was. The snow was very typical for winters back then.

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