Roslyn Historic Cemeteries

Photo: Merrill Images

The Roslyn Historic Cemeteries land (nearly 15 acres) was donated by or purchased from the Northern Pacific Railroad beginning in 1887. Roslyn and the neighboring town of Cle Elum grew around coal mines developed to fuel the Northern Pacific Railroad. Over nearly 100 years of extraction, the mines of Roslyn and Cle Elum produced more than 50 million tons of coal, mined by immigrants brought in by the railroads and mining companies. The railroads recruited immigrants by setting up offices in Europe to advertise the opportunities of the New World.

In 1888, the miners, who worked 10-11 hours each day underground in dangerous conditions, went on strike to demand an eight-hour workday. In response, the Northern Pacific Coal Company recruited African American miners to break the strike, bringing them in by train along with 40 armed guards. While the miners’ demands were not met, many of the new recruits stayed. The city’s population was 22% African American by 1900. The worst coal mine disaster in Washington State happened here in 1892: an explosion and fire killed 45 miners. All the deceased were recovered and are interred in their respective ethnic section of the Roslyn Historic Cemeteries; you can still find and read the grave markers today.

The Roslyn Historic Cemeteries contain 26 distinct plots representing the many different peoples who settled in the area. Nearly 5,000 graves represent 24 nationalities. Festivals still celebrate this diverse heritage today, including the Roslyn Black Pioneers Picnic, the Croatian Picnic, and Roslyn’s Italian Heritage Celebration. Of note, however, is the fact that there were no Asians interred at the cemeteries, even though the presence of Chinese placer miners in the area predated the coal mines at Roslyn.

The cemeteries were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

More Information:
Roslyn, WA | Google Maps
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