Roslyn, Washington – Or Northern Exposures "Cicely, Alaska"

Name: Roslyn, Washington

Class: E1

GPS:Latitude: 47.2500948, Longitude: -121.13785

Directions: Take I-90 East from Seattle for 77 miles towards Snoqualmie Take the WA-903 North exit just before Cle Elum. At four miles you’ll be in Roslyn.


These days Roslyn, Washington is best known as it’s TV Counterpart, Cicely, Alaska from the TV Show “Northern Exposure.” But Roslyn started as a coal mining town after deposits were discovered in the area in 1885 by C.P. Brosious, and Ignatius A. Navarre, and Walter J. Reed.

The Northern Pacific Railway owned the land in the area, so they created the Northern Pacific Coal Company to mine the coal and supply their steam engines. Logan M. Gullitt, Vice-President of the Northern Pacific Coal Company, platted and named the town of Roslyn in 1886. By winter, 400 miners lived in the town. They were from Italy and Eastern Europe and found the Company Town’s ban on saloons, brothels and gambling prohibitive. This led to such a huge underground black market, that the Company soon relented and allowed these services.

Labor disputes over the length of the working day between the Northern Pacific Coal Company and the Knights of Labor led to a strike in 1888. On August 17 the company imported 50 African-American coal miners from the South as unknowing strikebreakers. Eventually this number grew to over 300. They were guarded by a group of 48 armed guards who illegally acted as militia and called themselves “US Marshals,” even though they weren’t. This led to the Governor of Washington, Eugene Semple, to order the guards’ arrest by the Washington Militia. The strikers eventually backed down with a lack of violence and few concessions from the company.

The biggest mining accident in Washington history happened on May 19th, 1892 in Rosyln. 45 miners were killed in an explosion or from asphyxiation due to the oxygen being used by the resulting fire while building a ventilation tunnel between levels.

Oregon’s famous “McCarthy Gang,” robbed the Roslyn bank on September 24, 1892. After injuring a teller and several bystanders they were able to get away. The Gang tried to rob the Northern Pacific Coal Company Payroll train in Cle Elum the next day. While they were thwarted by a sheriff posse, they still got away. The gang was eventually turned in by the sister of one of the gang member’s wives.

During the 1890’s Roslyn’s population reached 4000. The move from coal to diesel resulted in Roslyn’s peak output of 2 million tons of coal in 1910. By 1930 Roslyn was essentially a ghost town as the population moved on. But the last mine didn’t close until 1963.

The TV Show, Northern Exposure started filming in Roslyn in 1990 and continued until the show’s end in 1995. Many locations around town were used in the show, and led to it becoming a popular tourist destination.

Modern Roslyn is seeing a resurgence in popularity. It’s historic buildings, 26 historic cemeteries and beautiful surroundings attracts both a seasonal population and a steadily growing permanent population. Recent sales of previously privately owned timber land has opened up opportunities for development around town.

Roslyn, Washington

Downtown Roslyn, Washington. Courtesy Wikipedia

More Information:

Ghost Towns of the Pacific Northwest by Philip Varney

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