The Newcastle Historical Society, which next week will celebrate its annual Newcastle Days, was recently awarded a grant to preserve the small cemetery plot, buried with the coal miners and pioneer families that years ago called the Eastside home.
The 2.2 acres to the west of Lake Boren was first set aside in 1880. Now owned by the city of Newcastle, the gravestones have been overgrown, vandalized and mostly forgotten. But as one of the last remnants of the once thriving Newcastle coal mining town, some neighbors are trying to change that.
“There are just some incredible stories in that cemetery,” says Vickie Olson, a descendent of the locally famous Baima family. Olson plans to hold tours of the cemetery during Newcastle Days. She also is asking neighbors to come forward if they have stories to share themselves, or may know more about the plot’s unmarked graves.
“Back in those days a lot of people didn’t have the resources to put in a permanent marker. They maybe put up a wooden marker or a ring of stones around the grave site. We don’t really have good records,” says Olson. “That was before Washington was a state…The whole point, the thrust of this really is to get the word out.”
Olson also has been weekly recording and interviewing talks with Milt Swanson, who at 95 is the last living artifact of the Eastside’s coal mining days. Swanson worked alongside his father and cousin as a machinist for B&R Coal, one of several companies that operated out of the region.
It’s all part of the Newcastle Historical Society’s efforts to memorialize a sliver of the city and the greater Eastside’s past.Olson says that the $9,500 from the awarded grant from arts organization 4Culture, will first go toward a survey of the cemetery, to assess what preservation is possible. She asks that anyone with information either contact her directly or reach out to her during Newcastle Days, Saturday Sept. 7.
For more information about the Newcastle Historical Society visit its website.