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Ronald Mine #3

Mine #3 was a significant area of employment for early Black pioneers in Kittitas County.


From Ryan Anthony Donaldson: "Coal was an ever-increasing energy commodity, fueled by the Northern Pacific Railroad’s expansion. Opportunity abounded for those willing to work hard with long hours. African American labor recruiter James “Big Jim” Shepperson led hiring efforts. Big Jim was also a politician, business owner, and community leader for African American families ready to spread roots west.....Though recognized for his vast influence as a leader, including his founding of the Black Masonic Lodge, Shepperson remains a controversial character in Roslyn’s history. He appealed directly to Black families, promising opportunities to own land, but he reportedly failed to mention that they’d be breaking white coal miners’ strikes. When revealed, this intentionally omitted information tempered the enthusiasm of the recruited Black families seeking a better life.


When Black male miners and their families arrived, they were met with an intense and oppressive environment. One telegram sent to Tacoma in December of 1888 details how the “new men were badly used up” and how “mob reign rules in Roslyn tonight.” Families customarily traveled later to join their brothers, uncles, and husbands.....As Black miners first arrived at their worksite, they were often escorted by Pinkerton guards and carried weapons to defend themselves.


The #3 mine was protected with barbed wire, a dirt barrier, and logs to fortify safety for Black miners to work. Many Black workers made their first homes in makeshift shanties in the old town of Jonesville nearby, just beyond Ronald. Within time, Shepperson began a popular recreation hall in Roslyn, and The Seattle Republican praised him as “the power in Kittitas County politics” (James Edward Shepperson (1858-1934) • ( Community clubs and churches were established through local networks with connections back home. Though some historical accounts tend to gloss over the ease at which Black families were accepted and enabled to earn equal pay, not all accounts mention the first years when African Americans were threatened and treated with hostility. In the first year they arrived, they froze through the winter in inadequate housing and their loved ones were reportedly not even permitted burial in the Roslyn Cemetery (see Coal Town in the Cascades).


Organizations like the Knights of Pythias would soon enough form to cover such essential expenses with Mount Olivet designated as the separated African American burial site. " From History Link essay 10016 by Daryl McClary: "The town of Ronald, two miles west of Roslyn in northwest Kittitas County, was created in the late 1880s as a supply center for miners working in No. 3 coal mine for the Northern Pacific Coal Company (renamed Northwestern Improvement Company in 1899), a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The town was named after Alexander Ronald, the superintendent of the mining operation. The mines at Ronald, Roslyn, Jonesville (also called Beekman), and Cle Elum were the main supply of coal for Northern Pacific Railroad's steam-powered locomotives.


During the peak coal production years of the 1920s, this company town had a population of approximately 750."

General Donaldson House

The house was constructed by its owner, General Donaldson. He was an early black pioneer to the area and worked as a miner.


From Ryan Anthony Donaldson, The Donaldsons Stand Among Roslyn's Early Pioneers Part 3: "With a growing family of seven children living in Tennessee, Jessee and Anna Donaldson kept hearing of improved opportunities for African Americans in a small town called Roslyn way out west in Washington state. At the end of the 19th century, Roslyn was quickly becoming a coveted destination for diverse and immigrant populations. Coal was an ever-increasing energy commodity, fueled by the Northern Pacific Railroad’s expansion. Opportunity abounded for those willing to work hard with long hours.


African American labor recruiter James “Big Jim” Shepperson led hiring efforts. Big Jim was also a politician, business owner, and community leader for African American families ready to spread roots west. Not quite ready to relocate their entire family to the Pacific Northwest, Jessee and Anna made the difficult decision to send their oldest son solo, thirteen-year-old General. He was (named after Jessee’s friend General Townsend who served with him in the United States Colored Troops 15th Regiment. General was entrusted to scout out the region for them first. Soon after General boarded the Franklin, WA bound company train, he was taken under Big Jim’s wing, and the Donaldsons came to regard him as a benevolent family friend.

General is referenced by one of his nicknames “James Donaldson” in Ernest Moore’s The Coal Miner Who Came West for the May 1891 passenger record, disembarking in Cle Elum prior to the train’s final stop. ....General saw enough potential beyond the shortcomings of this new Pacific Northwest destination that he urged his entire family to join him. General began mining soon after his arrival in Roslyn and survived the deadly explosion that claimed many lives on that notorious day of May 13, 1892.


Regarded as Roslyn’s bleakest time to this date, General experienced the dangerous gas filling the air and the subsequent wave of sadness that enshrouded Roslyn in the wake of 45 men killed. One doesn’t have to look too hard to realize General inherited his father Jessee’s persistence and fortitude. Surviving through the town’s tragedy, General continued to work the coal mines and learned the trade of carpentry in his spare hours. He had the support of Big Jim and so did his father.


Shepperson’s signature is found on one of Jessee’s many petitions for his pension. ....Forced to grow up quickly, General forged his own Pacific Northwest path. In 1897, he married Louisa “Ollie” Nicholas-Clark, the daughter of another Roslyn Black pioneer family hailing from Illinois. General learned that the Nicholas family traveled to Roslyn on the same train as he, though he didn’t make their acquaintance until later. Though skilled at coal mining, General’s first love was always carpentry. Babe writes in the Red Book that “every opportunity that was made available to him, he would remodel, repair, or build homes. Not only did he enjoy this work, but he was also able to supplement and provide for his growing family.” General and Louisa were blessed with 12 children. Ray and his son Ryan Anthony Donaldson emerged from this branch.


The family house that General built at the turn of the century, called “The Robin’s Nest” still stands in Roslyn today. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s a renovated, painted-blue home available for vacation renters in near downtown. General sold the home back in 1916 to a Roslyn resident named Eva Strong. General had decided it was time for his branch to move to Yakima, WA to farm. With the demand for coal decreasing in Roslyn, General felt the need to put down roots where he could make more of a living. Before he took up farming onions, General and his family weathered uncomfortable living arrangements in Yakima. They had to reside in large wooden boxes with tarps for roofs as they awaited ownership of a new home. His son, Henry Donaldson, later attested to them being warm, but it still took considerable time and patience for the large family to have a more suitable home. "

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