Snoqualmie Valley History: The Lost Town of Moncton

[Guest Post by Kaitlyn Murray, Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum staff member]

On a warm day when the water levels are low, if you hike to the northern edge of Rattlesnake Lake, you may see some remnants of what remains from the old, vibrant town of Moncton.

Moncton, also known as the town of Cedar Falls, was home to many people, and at its peak, it had over 200 residents. Thriving neighborhoods of houses began filling the area in 1907, along with building the new railroad and depot for the Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Railway Company.

This addition to the railroad provided increased accessibility to the nearby power station and to the town of Cedar Falls, located about half a mile south of Moncton.

The new railroad town provided local watershed workers in Cedar Falls with private individually owned houses, as opposed to the houses in Cedar Falls that were owned by the Seattle Water Department for its workers.

Moncton was a centralized location for employees working in the nearby railroad, water, and logging industries. The proximity to the lake and the non-company-owned houses provided workers with a scenic and private escape that was a short commute to their jobs.

In 1911, Moncton became a part of the Cedar Falls town and the names of the depot and post office were changed. Regardless of the formal name change, people often still referred to the town as Moncton. Many residents of Moncton recalled feeling a sense of separation from the town of Cedar Falls and continued their identity as residents of the railroad town of Moncton.

Cedar Falls Masonry Dam PO.477.0023

In October 1914, construction was completed for the Cedar River Masonry Dam. Seattle City Light built the dam to use impounded water to generate electric power. Seattle had already been receiving their water supply from the Cedar River since 1901, the additional dam on the river provided Seattle with electricity as well.

By 1915, the town had flourished into a thriving community with stores, restaurants, a saloon, and even a hotel for visitors. The hotel and restaurant owned by Lucky Jordan was a popular spot in town; single men would gather there for card games.

Children attended the grade school in town, and many residents visited the town’s church. Former students who attended the Cedar Falls School recalled many fond memories, including being taught by Miss Vinup and being driven to school on a new bus by Mr. Jackson.

In May of 1915, the masonry pool from the new dam had filled, which caused the glacial moraine underneath to fill with water. Water began seeping from the glacial moraine into Rattlesnake Lake.

Residents of the lakeside town of Moncton began to panic as water levels of their lake began to rise by about a foot a day in a slow-moving but inevitable flood. People living in the town began quickly packing up and moving all their household items before their homes were flooded. Helpers came in on rowboats to gather important household items.

Residents collecting items from flooded homes. PO.092.0022

The resilient residents of Moncton were now unhoused and needed to look for new places to live. Residents who worked for the railroad and for the water department were built new houses. Many residents lived in tents while they waited for their new homes to be completed.

Resourceful residents of the railroad town created new homes out of old railroad boxcars by adding flooring, walls, and light fixtures. Community bathrooms were built behind the new boxcar neighborhood and were shared by the residents. The surrounding community worked together to provide aid to those affected by the flood.

The town of Moncton was condemned, and the City of Seattle paid residents a total of $47,658.03 for their land. In 1916, when water levels were low, workers tore down the flooded homes and buildings that were residing in the lake. They broke them down into parts and burned everything that was unsalvageable. Not much is left of the old town, but some items still remain. Adventurers have come across relics over a century old lying at the bottom of the water while scuba diving in Rattlesnake Lake.

Two Moncton residents posing in front of their flooded town.  PN.1127.0118

Every year after the flood, the former residents of Moncton gathered at Rattlesnake Lake to have a picnic and take time to remember their beloved hometown. Rattlesnake Lake is a well-known hiking destination for stunning lakeside views, but not many know about the remains of a once bustling town that lies beneath the water and the stories of the resilient community who lost their entire town in a devastating flood.  

[Featured Image: A family in a row boat floating on a street in Moncton during the summer of 1915. PO.284.0050]

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  • Thank you for this article! I’ve always wanted to know about the town under Rattlesnake Lake. Very nicely written and informative.

    The other thing I’ve always wondered is why did the lake get named Rattlesnake Lake in hen there are no rattlesnakes here?

  • Chelsey – I have heard two reasons for the rattlesnake term. First, is that the mountain itself looks like a snake. Second, is that it was named by east-of-the mountains visitors because some bush or plant made rattling noises when in seed, that frighteningly reminded them of the rattlesnakes so prevalent on the other side of the Cascades.

  • Error in article needing correction, is that Moncton was on what became the South side of Rattlesnake Lake.

    Also the original name of the small body of water was Rainy Season Lake.

  • you can see remains of old fireplaces, parts of wooden floors, concrete blocks, etc… when the lake is low. i have some great photos!

  • Living Snoqualmie