All it took was for the Northern Pacific to extend a rail spur from Tacoma to the coal fields of the Carbon River basin and it wasn't long before mines began to pop up. Opening in 1881, the Burnett mine was one of the early players. According to the Washington Geological Survey Bulletin No. 10 prepared in 1914, the mine at Burnett was opened by the South Prairie Coal Company alongside South Prairie Creek by a "water drift" on the No. 1 seam. I assume water drift refers to the ability to see the seam at the surface along the shoreline. At the time, they didn't know where the seam went but starting where they could see it along the creek was enough to get started. Eventually they found the underlying seams but not until 1895. Subsequent rock tunnels located other seams but this also took a while. Following is a photo showing a group of miners with their miner hats and mule. Judging by their faces and empty lunch buckets, it appears they are at the end of their shift.
Photo courtesy Washington State Historical Society, 2015.72.3, circa 1890-1895
In 1906, control of the mine passed to the Pacific Coast Coal Company. The town was named after previous manager Mr. C.H. Bennett.
Photo courtesy Washington State Historical Society, 2017.33.96, circa 1908
Judging from the mine's top works, it was a sizable operation.
Photo courtesy Washington State Historical Society, 19188.8.131.52.69, circa 1910