Once a booming coal mine in the late 1800s, the Black Diamond Mines began churning out tons of low-grade coal for local use. Five towns were in the mining district and many lived hard and happy lives. The town of Nortonville is where our ghost story begins. It was one of the five small towns that popped up during this boon. Located just outside of modern-day Pittsburgh and Antioch, it was named after Noah Norton whose wife Sarah is said to haunt this land. Some refer to her as the “White Witch.”
Drive a ways down Sommersville Road and you'll discover not much more than the beauty that called to the Welsh immigrants over a hundred years ago. This would be the place of the largest mining town this side of the Mississippi.
The mine was incorporated as the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company in June 1861.
Before the Black Diamond Mines were open, America relied on coal imported from England and South America.
There were three railroads that carried over 40 million tons into San Francisco by way of Ferry that left the port of Pittsburgh and Antioch. Hard work was a way of life here.
The mining towns nestled at the base of Mt. Diablo drew coal miners from Pennsylvania but even more Welsh and Irish Protestant immigrants made up most of the 4,000 people here. Once petroleum came in on the scene as an energy source the coal mines eventually shut down. Families broke down their houses board by board and moved them to other parts of the west coast. But, what remains is this cemetery with over 200 residents who died from typhoid fever, small pox, black lung and a host of misfortunate accidents like the one that happened to Sarah...
According to one source, Rose Hill Cemetery, "was named for Emma Rose, daughter of Alvinza Hayward, who was president and chief stockholder of the Black Diamond Coal Mining Company. In the 1940s Mrs. Rose donated the cemetery to the county." This same cemetery has been the host of more than 119 exorcisms of demonic apparitions...but back to our story about Sarah.
One historical site had this to say, "Sarah Norton, who was the widow of Noah Norton, the founder of Nortonville, was the popular, skilled, dedicated midwife who delivered quite a few babies in the coal mining communities, in all kinds of weather and at any hour of the day or night. She was described as being a gutsy, independent soul with a prickly personality, rumored to being an unbeliever because she wasn't known to be 'a very religious person.' On October 5th, 1879, while traveling to deliver a baby, she was thrown from her buggy and killed when her horses bolted and ran. When two different huge, violent storms interrupted two attempts to have a funeral for her, the people simply put her into her grave without a 'Christian burial.'"
A glowing or gliding woman has been seen in the area many, many times. Thus, she's been given the name The White Witch. Why does she haunt this area? Some believe it's because she didn't get a proper Christian burial, while others think she may be upset that she still has work to do. What do you think?
While most remnants of this once booming town are mostly in the cemetery, some believe they can still hear the sounds of shrieking laughter from time to time.
Others have heard the sound of the wind pick up but no wind is felt, while others claim to have seen an apparition or heard the sound of a horse drawn carriage coming up the road. Either way, those exorcists didn't do their job very well.
When you come to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve make sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled. Stay alert but be respectful of the historical cemetery. Sarah is still there and you wouldn’t want to mess with a white witch.