Roslyn was founded in 1886 as a coal mining town. The Vice President of the Northern Pacific Coal Company gave the town its name choosing to name it after his fiancé, Roslyn. Coal mining became a lucrative business in Roslyn in the following years. It brought immigrants from far and wide. The town boasted 24 different nationalities and became quite the melting pot.
For the most part these groups lived together in peace. There were some exceptions to this rule. Many of these ethnic tensions were caused by the mining company itself. In 1887 Chinese immigrants were being paid slave wages by the mining company. When the white miners became frustrated by lack of wages and jobs they gathered a mob. The mob attacked China Camp just above Roslyn and murdered 25 Chinese men.
In 1888 when the miners organized for better wages the Company hired 400 African American strike breakers from the South. They promised these men lucrative jobs in the mines, but omitted the fact that the men would be strike breakers and would face violent mobs. That same year an angry mob of white men entered a mine and killed several African Miners in Ronald. No official investigation was made. The men were quickly buried, and the Company declared it a mining accident. It wasn’t until 60 years later when a man confessed and the true story was discovered.
On May 10, 1892 tragedy would bring the community of Roslyn together. An explosion and fire killed 45 miners that day. It would be known as the worst mining disaster in Washington State. The town was shuttered on May 12th for the funeral and burial of all 45 miners. The bodies were brought to the cemetery in a processional of 45 horse drawn wagons. This tragedy affected every ethnicity in town, it left 91 children orphaned. This tragic experience brought the town together in mourning. A monument stands in downtown Roslyn to all of these miners and others that lost their lives in the mines.
With this vast diverse immigrant population you will find a truly unique pioneer cemetery in Roslyn. Each of these 24 nationalities have their own set of plots. Each with their own style and decor. This cemetery is no small facility at the height of coal mining the town boasted a population of over 3,000 residents.
Who might you meet in this graveyard? In the old cemetery you can meet the snake charmer, Myrtle Wilson. She was part of a circus act that came to town in July of 1914. She was bitten by one of her snakes and perished. The circus moved on to the next town and Myrtle was put to rest in Roslyn’s cemetery.
There are so many people to meet here. Immigrants from all over the world with all sorts of names I can’t pronounce. I even found my own kinfolk. Well at least my grandmothers surname. Whether or not we are related I may never know.