Duwamish Coal Company is established near Black River on October 20, 1853.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 1958

On October 20, 1853, the Duwamish Coal Company is formed to mine coal near the Black River located just south of Lake Washington. This is the first coal mined and shipped from King County.

Dr. R. M. Bigelow discovered coal during the summer of 1853 near the site where the Renton coal mines would be established. On October 20, 1853, Bigelow, along with Leonard M. Felker and L. M. Collins, formed the Duwamish Coal Company to mine the claim. The firm hired William Webster, captain of the steamboat Water Lily, to transport the coal down the Black and Duwamish rivers to Elliott Bay fronting Seattle.

In August 1854, 300 tons of coal were shipped to San Francisco and sold for $30 a ton. During the winter of 1854-55, the bark Sarah McFarland attempted to get a cargo of coal. The Duwamish Coal Company was beset by numerous delays in loading the coal and the ship left with her hold only one-third full. Because of poor organization and the 1855-1856 Indian War, the coal company went out of business.


Morda C. Slauson, Renton: From Coal to Jets (Renton: Renton Historical Society, 1976), 1; David Buerge, Renton: Where the Water Took Wing (Woodland Hills, CA: Windsor Publishing Co., 1991), 22; Thomas W. Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle From 1850 to 1897," Typescript dated 1900-1901, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Library, Seattle, 54-55.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You