Built along a fluffy green hill that hovers above a gullied flat the town began as a cluster of modest houses about a red two-story depot. A red brick schoolhouse stood on the main street. The town was on the main line of the Northern Pacific Railroad and depended largely on the operation of nearby coal mines for its livelihood. Originally called Leary, after the Leary Coal Company, the current name comes from the flocks of ravens that ate the grain spilled from train cars on their way through town. In 1915, a great explosion in a Ravensdale mine killed 31 persons—one of the worst tragedies in local mining history. There was some logging in the vicinity for pulpwood, alder, and maple, and a few small tie mills utilizing the second growth in the hills. Truck gardening, dairy farming and poultry ranching were other big industries here. The last underground coal mine in Washington, Rogers No. 3, was shut down here in 1975.
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