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About Roslyn

Roslyn is a city in Kittitas County, Washington, United States. The population was 1,017 at the 2000 census.


Roslyn is located at 47°13′30″N 121°0′11″W / 47.225°N 121.00306°W / 47.225; -121.00306 (47.225091, -121.002985). It is 83.0 mi (133.6 km) – about 1 hour 25 mins - East-South-East from Seattle, Washington

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.9 square miles (12.5 km²), all of it land.


As of the census of 2000, there were 1,017 people, 467 households, and 249 families residing in the city. The population density was 82.3/k m² (213.0/sq mi). There were 623 housing units at an average density of 130.5/sq mi (50.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.87% White, 0.79% African American, 1.38% Native American, 0.39% Pacific Islander, and 1.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.38% of the population. 17.9% were of German, 15.9% English, 10.3% Irish, 7.1% Norwegian, 6.6% American, 5.7% Croatian, 5.7% Scotch-Irish and 5.1% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 467 households out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.9% were married couples living together, 6.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.5% were non-families. 37.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 26.6% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,313, and the median income for a family was $45,179. Males had a median income of $32,379 versus $25,625 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,412. About 8.2% of families and 12.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.1% of those under age 18 and 15.5% of those age 65 or over.


Roslyn was founded in 1886 as a coal mining town. Platted by Logan M. Bullet, vice president of the Northern Pacific Coal Co., the first commercial coal mining operations were begun to support railway operations. Throughout the middle 1880s, the Northern Pacific Railway, the parent of Northern Pacific Coal Co., pushed to reach Puget Sound across the Cascade Mountains. The Northern Pacific began building across Stampede Pass just west of Roslyn, approaching from Wallula in the east and Tacoma in the west. A 77 mile (124 km) gap remained in 1886. In January of that year, Nelson Bennett was given a contract to construct a 9,850 foot (3,002 m) tunnel under Stampede Pass, completing it in 1888. Roslyn, which lies on the route to Stampede Pass, provided the coal for the railway construction work as well as the continuing railroad operations.

Strike of 1888

Tensions between management and labor in the Roslyn mines began spilling over in the summer of 1888, when management laid off a number of union workers who were petitioning for higher wages. These layoffs led to a strike by the Knights of Labor which shut down the mines.

Rather than reconcile the demands of the strikers, the Northwest Coal Company organized over 300 black strikebreakers in Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky and transported them via special train across the continent to Roslyn. This transportation was the largest increase in the African-American population of Washington territory up until that time. They were initially located in nearby Ronald at Mine No. 3, but after the unrest settled down, moved back to Roslyn proper.

Forty-eight armed guards hired by the Northwest Coal Company escorted the first unit of strikebreakers to arrive in Roslyn, who numbered only fifty. The recruitment of these armed forces raise the interest of Governor Eugene Semple, who was unsettled at the prospect of such a large private militia operating within his territory.

Semple was weary of vigilantism, having just negotiated a peaceful armistice to the great Salmon Wars of 1887. The Salmon Wars were dispute between Washingtonian and Oregonian settlers over fishing rights to the Columbia River. The battles between vigilante fisherman and the intervention of the territory’s militia in the incident exposed the danger of private armed forces, as well as inadequacies in the territory’s own official armed forces.

The Washington militia suffered from a lack of supplies, training, and a clear chain of command. Semple struggled with the militia throughout his time as territorial governor and at times was undermined by his own officers in matters as serious as troop deployments. The militia was not designated as the official National Guard of Washington until January 1888, and as such the armed forces available to Semple at the time of the Roslyn strikes were still poorly trained and poorly equipped.

Semple ordered Sheriff Samuel T. Packwood to investigate the situation at Roslyn and to try to find a way in which the government could lawfully disarm the guards. Packwood arrested all forty-eight guards along with the black strikebreakers on trespassing charges. Packwood was able to use trespassing charges because of an ongoing dispute between the Northwest Pacific Coal Company and settler Alexander Ross over the ownership of the land. The matter had been contentious since coal was discovered there three years earlier.

Once the prisoners were released to stand trial, they constructed a barricade of logs and barbed wire at the site of the mines. At this point Semple ordered a portion of the Washington militia to ready itself to provide assistance at Roslyn. Semple then tried to have the guards arrested as vagrants, as they had no officially recognized occupation in the territory.

Eventually, the strike was settled and the African-American strikebreakers assimilated into the community of Roslyn. There exist many photographs and first hand accounts of the homogeneity of the community in the following decades, with minimal segregation between races.

"The Brick" tavern

In 1889, John Buffo and Peter Giovanni opened a tavern at 1 Pennsylvania Street in Roslyn. In 1898, the tavern was rebuilt out of 45,000 bricks and took the name "The Brick." It is the second oldest continuously operating tavern in Washington. The exterior of the building was used for shots of the fictitious tavern of the same name in the television show Northern Exposure.

Mine accident of 1892

In 1892, 45 miners were killed in an explosion of Mine No. 4, the deadliest mining accident in Washington history. The town hit its peak population, around 4,000, during the 1920s, before the coal industry started to wind down in the area. The Cle Elum Echo (a local paper) reported: "The city of Roslyn is situated on land directly over the tunnel of Mine No. 4, and the shock caused by the explosion was not unlike an earthquake, shaking buildings in all parts of the city, while the burning, oil soaked timbers, vomited out of the shaft, were scattered in all directions, falling upon shingled roofs and causing over twenty roof fires, which were controlled by bucket brigades, all the city water and the fire department being concentrated upon the shaft and abutting frame structures, in spite of this all frame structures within two hundred feet of the shaft and tipple No. 4 were entirely destroyed."

Recent developments

Mining featured as part of the town's economy into the 1960s when the mines, although far from played out, became uneconomical and were shut down. Approximately 80% of the coal remains unmined.

The Roslyn Historical Cemetery, actually 25 separate but adjacent cemeteries, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Clustered on 15 acres (61,000 m2) of woods and hills above the main street, the land was donated by or purchased from the Northern Pacific Company by fraternal, ethnic and civic organizations for burial of their deceased members. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF); Knights of Pythias Lodge; Soloka Lodge; Wanapum Tribe 28, Improved Order of Redmen; Cacciatori D’Africa (literally Hunters of Africa – an Italian Lodge), Croatian Fraternal Union Lodge No. 56, SNF Lodge No. 79 (Serbian); Saint Barbara Lodge No. 39 (Greek Catholic); and Dr. David Starcevich Lodge No. 56 (Croatian) are among the organizations and ethnicities represented in this cemetery. At least 24 nationalities are represented within the nearly 5000 graves.

From 1990–1995, the television series Northern Exposure was filmed in Roslyn. Many citizens of Roslyn and nearby Cle Elum appeared as extras in the show and the name of the town was featured in the show as the name of one of the founders of the fictional town of Cicely.

Points of interest in Roslyn

The future

Although Roslyn clings to its coal-mining and timber cutting past, its future will be quite different. As many as 3,000 expensive residences are planned for the immediate area, potentially overwhelming the old town's population. Forests once owned and managed by Plum Creek Timber Company have been sold to two development companies, which are in the process of developing an extensive golf course community with houses and condominiums on the boundary of Roslyn; the new community is called Suncadia. This bellwether change is expected to adversely affect many small communities similar to Roslyn over the next decades as development property and areas with strong character become more desirable.

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