Saturday, May 23, 2020

Black Diamond Fan ("Fan on the Hill")

Black Diamond Fan
Black Diamond Fan

The structure is the fan at the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company in King County, Washington (east of Tacoma). The fan provided fresh air to the mine shafts. It was steam-driven and operated continuously. Thus an operator was required 24 hours. Thomas Day, Jr. (1835-1895) was one of these operators. Due to a marital dispute he purportedly was killed by David Bannister. Day was maintaining the fan when bludgeoned. Bannister apparently was acquitted.

Here is how we described it in 2017. We posted the comment to the Black Diamond History Facebook Page:

This is the "fan on the hill" in which Thomas Day, Jr., was killed September 23, 1895. The fan apparently provided ventilation to shafts at the coal mine in Franklin, King County, Washington. The fan may have been powered by a steam engine, as a fireman was on duty at all times to operate the boiler. This was the job of Thomas Day, Jr., when he was killed. As the photograph was taken in 1894, it is possible that Day is one of the men in this image. Day was born c.1837 in Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina, son of famous cabinet maker Thomas Day.

Franklin, Sept. 24.--Special--This afternoon Coroner Askam and J. J. Smith held an autopsy on the body of Thomas Day and found that he came to his death from a fractured skull. The skull was horribly fractured from the right ear to the left across the top of the head. Shortly after the autopsy a coroner's jury was impaneled and Coroner Askam and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Morris conducted the examination. The jury returned a verdict that deceased came to his death from blows willfully and feloniously inflicted by a blunt instrument in the hands of David Bannister. Shortly after the coroner's jury returned its verdict, Day was buried in Franklin cemetery.


Black Diamond History Facebook Page

Caswell County Genealogy

Killing of Thomas Day, Jr.


A recent Caswell County quiz involved Thomas Day, Jr. (1835-1895) who was killed in Franklin, King County, Washington, where he worked as a "night fireman." We asked how a relatively well-educated and talented craftsman such as Thomas Day, Jr., ended up working at a coal mine in King County, Washington. The last known North Carolina address was in Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina. Why did this family travel westward around 2,700 miles in the late 1800s?

The answer may be the Franklin Strike

In the fall of 1890, a bitter strike was going on in the Franklin mines. The company officials decided to allow a man named T. B. Corey, who was the mine superintendent of the Franklin mines, to recruit strikebreakers from the East. The following is the handbill that was being distributed amongst the out-of-work miners. They were mostly black:

State of Washington
(late territory)

500 colored coal miners and laborers for inside and outside work, dump men, track men and helpers. Stablemen, drivers and teamsters. Inside and bottom timbermen, timber cutters and chute builders, carpenters, engineers, blacksmiths and firemen.

Good wages will be paid the above men. Steady work for three years. No strikes or trouble of any kind. The finest country on earth.

Railroad fare with board and sleeping-car accommodations will be furnished to the work place from St. Louis. Ample provision will be provided for the care and comfort of the men en route to the destination.

Ship from St. Louis without fail, Monday, May 11, 1891.

We asked about the following but never received documentation for the claim that Thomas Day, Jr., moved to Washington in 1888:

"Day continued to search for new opportunities and moved to Seattle, Washington, in 1888. He entered a new stage in life with his marriage to a young woman named Sarah. He worked as a carpenter, making enough money to purchase a ranch in nearby Kitsap County. He fell on hard times in the spring of 1893 and found work in the neighboring town of Franklin, at first repairing cars but the securing a position as a fireman at the Franklin Mines."

Unfortunately, we lost Pat Marshall a few years back.

Thomas Day, Jr., apparently was not wealthy. How did he finance the move west? By the late 1880s his three children (by his first wife) would have been adults. The youngest would have been twenty-five. His second wife died in 1877.

Did he take the train from St. Louis that was fully paid by the coal mine strike "busters"? If not, what was the attraction? Why did he leave what appeared to be a successful business in Asheville, NC? We need the exact date his mother died. She was living with him in Asheville.

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