Black Diamond

By The Honorable A. F. Bray
Contra Costa County, California Broadcast Station
KLX, Oakland, California Number 217, broadcast
October 28, 1940

The question of the validity of the tax exemption was brought before the Court. This time in Contra Costa County with reference to taxes levied on coal mining claims of the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company. The property assessed was described as the possession and interest of that company in coal mining claims assessed at $40,000. The company refused to pay and when brought into court by the county called attention to the exemption in the Tax Act of mining claims. Here again the court called attention to the fact that the McCreery case had held all these exemptions unconstitutional. The company contended further that even if the mining claims were not exempt under California law, they could not be taxed anyhow, because the title to the land was in the United States and the company only had the right to mine for coal-they didn't own the land. But the Court held that the possession and claim mining land was taxable in the company or the individual who had it, even though the title to the land itself was in the Federal government. Therefore, the tax was properly assessed.

The name of the company, the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company brings to mind the very interesting succession of names which the present city of Pittsburg in Contra Costa County had. What is now Pittsburg was the point of shipment for most of the coal mined on the slopes of Mount Diablo and the nearby mountains. Pittsburg, before California became a state, was known as New York Landing. Certain enterprising individuals laid out a townsite there and called it "New York of the Pacific." Sometimes the name was shortened. Thus, the community was known as New York of the Pacific or just plain New York.

When the coal was discovered, miners who were originally from Cornwall, England, came to work in the mines; as a matter of fact, the coal mines in the Diablo regions furnished the bulk of all the coal used in San Francisco and the bay region in the 60's. Coal mining was the leading industry of Contra Costa County at the time, and it became the coal center of the Pacific Coast. Because there were so many Cornishmen in the mines behind New York of the Pacific, the locality was renamed "Cornwall" and for a few years went under that name.

(Editor's Note: Judge Bray was mistaken in this regard. The Cornwall Station was named after Mr. E. B. Cornwall, Superintendent of the Black Diamond Coal Mines.)

The Black Diamond Coal Mining Company owned the largest coal mines in the vicinity and after a while the name Black Diamond became the official name for the community. Finally, in later years, one more change was made. The town of Black Diamond was changed in name to Pittsburg, the name it now bears. Coal mining in Contra Costa County ended in the 80's but with in last year some of these mines have been reopened and coal from the slopes of Diablo is once again being delivered in San Francisco and the bay regions.

Note: The renewed mining eventually proved uneconomic.


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