HILL FARM MINES EXPLOSION
Fayette County, PA.
June 16, 1890
A MINE HORROR
THIRTY-ONE MINERS OR MORE MEET A TERRIBLE FATE.
The Explosion One of the Most Disastrous Ever Recorded in the Coke Region's History.
DUNBAR, PA., June 16 – This morning at 11:10 a sullen shivering roar shook the lowly miners' dwellings on the Hill Farm, in Fayette county, near this place, and hundreds of affrighted persons, who knew the sound too well, feared another mine disaster and they were reassured far too well. In a moment the fearful news had spread that the Hill Farm mines, owned by Philadelphia parties, had exploded. The low browed hill from which the slope entered from mouth to pit and the score of miners' houses lining the fatal hills shook for a moment and then poured out their frenzied inmates by the hundreds. A rush was made to the mouth of the pit, but ingress was impossible, as smoke in dense volumes was issuing forth. Fifty-two miners went to work this morning and were in the slope when the explosion occurred. Of these fifty-two twenty were in the right heading. Those in the left heading got out all right. The retreat of the others was cut off and not one escaped.
There[sic] names were:
JOSEPH BRIGNER, married; RICHARD BRIGMER; MILT FRANEY, married; BARNEY MAUST; EMAUNEL MAUST; PAT COURTNEY, aged 40 years, married; GEORGE COURTNEY, son, aged 17 years; J. W. MITCHELL, aged 40 years, married; JOSEPH BIGLEY, aged 30 years, wife and two children; PETER EAGAN, aged 44 years, married; ROBERT McGILL, single; MARTIN CAVENER, JNO. COPE, married; ANDREW COPE, son; PATRICK DEVLIN, married; JOHN DELANEY, married; JOHN JOY, married; JOHN DEVANNEY; DAVID DAVIS, married; THOMAS DAVIS, son; PATRICK CAHILL, married; WM. CAHILL; PATRICK COURTNEY, married; JOHN COURTNEY, son; JACK MITCHELL, married; DAN SMITH, married; DANIEL SHEARN, single; WM. HAYES, aged 19 years; JAMES McCLEARY, married; THOMAS McCLEARY, married; ELMER DENNEY, single; PETER McGOUGH, single.
At 7 this morning the gang turned in at the mines, the smaller gang drifting off to the left while the larger, some 35 in number, drifted to the right and descended some 800 feet from the surface, and but a mile from the opening. These two drifts are connected, but the connection is from the main stem some half mile from the entrance. The mine, it seems, had been somewhat troubled with water and air, and an open air shaft had been drilled from the surface to the juncture of the right and left shaft, where the water seemed to be most abundant. As the miners branched off from this point they knew that an air hole had been drilled there, that had not yet been broken into the mine, but they did not know that the shaft was broken into to-day. This shaft, by the way, being a six-inch pole, a miner named KERWIN, had left in the right drift near where that branch joined the main exit and in the course of his labors broke into the perpendicular shaft. The moment this was broken into, a flood of water gushed out, and KERWIN and a man named LANDY standing by yelled out for some one to save the men in the right drift, as the water poured down the hill in a stream, and he feared they would drown. Young DAVID HAYS, who had seen the affair, leaped forward at the call, and turned down the left drift in a deluge of water to warn his endangered comrades below. Just as he passed the air shaft that had been broken into, the rush of the waters had changed to the ugly roar of a flood, which blanched the cheeks of the men who stood behind and toward the light. The flow of water had changed to a deadly volume of fire damp, and as young HAYS swung by the shaft a flash of blazing light shot through the shaft from end to end, it seemed. The daring youth carried an open, burning miner's lamp in his hat, and he had hardly taken a step beyond the roaring shaft when the spark ignited a reservoir of the deadly fire damp that had already accumulated, and he sank a corpse 10 feet toward the men whom he had certainly doomed. In an instant an unquenchible [sic] fire sprang up in the mine foot vein, just between the main entrance and on the right drift, forever shutting the 32 men imprisoned there. The mines are owned by the Dunbar Furnace Company, and the owners are Eastern men and employ about 150 men. The disaster is the worst even known in the Connelsville region, the nearest approach being the Leisenring explosion seven years ago, when 28 were killed.
The rescuers are still at work and will continue throughout the night. A large crowd still surrounds the mouth of the pit, but all hopes of reaching the entombed men before morning have been abandoned. The damage to the mine cannot now be estimated but the owners fear the slope is lost. The Hill Farm mines was one of the most valuable in this section of the region. If the fears of the furnace people are realized the loss will reach far into the thousands.
The Warren Ledger Pennsylvania 1890-06-20
Follow UpBefore reading below, I have to tell you my grandmother was living at Hill Farm at the time of the disaster (6 years old) and their house caught on fire. They had to climb out a window onto a roof and then were lifted down to the ground. She was deathly afraid of fire for the rest of her life.
This is abridged, but now we know. Sad, it took them two years to recover the last of the bodies!!! (Pat Dailey)
THE LAST SIX BODIES
Recovered From the Hill Farm Pit and Laid to Final Best.
A CORPSE FOUND STANDING ERECT
Barney Maust Perished Within Fifty Feet of Liberty and Life
NO EVIDENCE OF FIRE DISCOVERED
In That Part of the Mine Containing the Bodies
The curtain went down on the final act of the Hill Farm tragedy this week. The last of the victims was recovered from the mine on Wednesday. Four were found on Tuesday afternoon and two on Saturday last. The two bodies found on Saturday were identified as Barney Maust and Joseph Bigeley. Maust had made a desperate effort to get past the loaded trip standing on the slope. He only succeeded in getting as far as the third wagon from the end of the trip when overcome. Had he gone fifty feet further, he could have escaped through the Ferguson cut. This was evidently the intention. The body was found about 49 feet above the borehole. He was identified by his coal check. Joseph Bigeley was found where he had been working in the left cut heading below the borehole. He was identified by his ? thing and the nail on the finger of his left hand. When found, he was standing on his feet. He too was in the act of getting past the loaded trip of four wagons. He was about 50 feet from the slope.
Coroner Holbert held an inquest on the bodies Wednesday morning. The jury was composed of the same persons who viewed the bodies taken out March 24th, with the exception of Deputy Coroner Stillwagon, who was in Harrisburg. J. G. Beatty of Uniontown took his place. The jury went into the mine accompanied by General Manager Hill Mine Boss Doran and a Courier reporter. The bodies had all been coffined and were not viewed by the jury as they were found. After visiting the places Maust and Bigeley were found, the jury continued to the right flat heading. Here the last four bodies were found. The first was Milton Turney. He was lying at the mouth of an entry being driven up to meet the manway. He was identified by his check. A little beyond, Peter Egan's body was found. He was sitting with his back against the rib and had his hands raised above his head. He was identified by a watch found in his right hand pants pocket. He had been employed as a trackman. A short distance away, John McCune, a digger, had died. He was lying on his face and was identified by his worn shoes. The last place visited was where Willie Hays, the hauler, who fired the gas was found. He was found sitting at the head of the cut heading with his back towards the slope and was identified by a pair of gum boots. The six bodies were brought out of the mine at 10 o clock and removed to the cemetery without being re-opened outside. Milton Turner and Willie Hays were buried in the Franklin cemetery and Joseph Bigeley, John McCune and Peter Eagan in the Catholic cemetery. Barney Maust was taken to Hopwood, where he was interred yesterday. (Abridged)
NB: The Hill Farm Mine Disaster Occurred June 1890
The Courier; Connellsville, Fayette Co, Pa., Friday, April 15, 1892 - pg 1, col 7
(Courtesy of Pat Dailey)
Coal Miner's Memorial; Hill Farm Mine and Coke Works (http://patheoldminer.rootsweb.ancestry.com/fayhillfarm1.html)
A Cave-in at Bowery Mines, Near Frostburg
April 8, 1894Attended with Fatal Results
JOHN KEER[sic], JR. BURIED ALIVE.All Night Saturday
Hundreds of Willing Miners Have Been Working Day and Night Since Saturday to Recover the Body-Sad Ending to a Week's Work.
Shortly after the Times had gone to press Saturday evening a message was received from Frostburg that a cave-in had occurred at Bowery mines, near that city, resulting in the death of John Keer[sic], Jr., and the probable entombing of two others, and that the body of Keer was still buried under tons of debris. The information was promptly announced upon the Times bulletin.
Owing to the difficulty of obtaining reliable information of the accident, a Times representative yesterday visited the scene of the calamity where the following detailed account was obtained: About 4:45 o'clock Saturday afternoon Peter Knieriem, Conrad Knieriem, George Knieriem, Jas. Wade, Enoch Wade, John K Wade, Walter Wade, John Keer, Sr., Robert Keer and John Keer, Jr., were engaged in room No. 15, located about five hundred feet from the mouth of the slope at what is called the First Lift to the left, in taking out a pillar of coal. A driver had just brought up a car to the room, which four men began to fill when the props began to crack. One of the men said, "Listen!'' All hands stopped work and listened. John Keer, Jr., who little knew that his death was soon to occur, in an awful manner remarked: "She's not going to come down yet!" The men, partly satisfied that this was so, started to work again.
But a few moments elapsed when suddenly there was a loud report and cracking timbers. To the experienced miners, that was warning enough. They dropped their tools and ran for their lives, all escaping with the exception of John Keer, Jr., and he now lies buried beneath tons upon tons of surface earth. The men who escaped came out of the mines and immediately notified Mr. Robt. S. Harvey, the mine boss, of the accident, stating that they believed that Keer was buried under the fill. At once Mr. Harvey had a large body of his men put to work in the interior of the mine, attempting to reach the body of their unfortunate fellow workman, precaution being taken to re-timber the place so as to make it safe for the men to work there.
The work was continued without abatement, with a change of men at intervals of a few minutes. At six o'clock yesterday morning, a new shift of men was put on, and this in turn was replaced by another shift last night. From seventy-five to 100 men are kept constantly at work. At first the work was done entirely from the inside of the mine but owing to the peculiar character of the fall it was determined to abandon to some extent the interior operation and do the work of removing the mass of earth from the outside. To facilitate this, men were kept busy yesterday and late last night preparing the surface in close proximity to the sunken portion of the ground for the placing there this morning of a stationary engine to be used in drawing the earth and other debris from the cavity.Sunday at the Mines
To do this, Mr. Harvey stated, it would be necessary to make an open cut, in which will be constructed an incline plane at an angle of 30 degrees, over which cars will be drawn filled with earth, and thus will continue the work until the body of John Keer is found and all obstructions at this point to the operations of the mine removed. Owing to the tremendous amount of work to be done, it is thought that the body of the poor miner cannot be reached until Thursday, if indeed then.
This being the first accident of the kind that has ever occurred in this region attended by a fatality, it brought yesterday to the scene of the accident hundreds of people from Frostburg and neighboring mining towns. During the entire day streams of people came and went afoot, horseback and in all kinds of vehicles, men, women and children. The scenes about the mine, while deeply impressive, were not as thrilling as those about the famous Hill Farm mine, at Dunbar, Pa., in 1890, where some thirty miners were buried far down in the earth, yet the horror of the novelty of the incident was sufficient to make it memorable to the last degree. Sympathy for the heart broken widow and fatherless children of the poor young miner, whose mangled body lies somewhere buried beneath, filled the hearts of those who stood around that gaping wound in mother earth.Cause of the Accident
But sympathy alone was not the only visible signs that something out of the usual had occurred. Strong, sturdy men, with determination depicted on their countenances, were there working with willing hearts and hands to recover their lost companion.
Superintendent Armstrong was there directing and advising. Supervisor Harvey was there, helping and encouraging his men.
So indefatiguable has he been in his work of duty and affection that he has neither slept nor been to his home since the accident. In every humble home in that little village there was deep and sincere sorrow, for no wife knew how soon she too would mourn the loss of her husband nor how soon her children too would be fatherless. But who can describe the feelings of the crushed wife and her three infant children in the home of their protector and provider whose dead body lie but a abort distance from them deep down in the earth, mangled upon the spot where he was seeking for them support and comfort.
The Times representative heard many theories advanced by miners as to the cause of the accident, but none of them attached any blame to the company or to the miners 'working at the fatal spot. There was a general concurrence in the opinion that it was one of those accidents which it was impossible to foresee or provide against. The men working at the pillar did not expect to get it down before today and therefore only observed the usual precautions. It was a premature fall and there conjecture ends. There were about thirty feet of surface covering at the spot, which was well supported with props, so that there was no danger apprehended. The fall, however, was clear through, as the reporter was able to see daylight from the inside of the mine at the place of the accident.
Bowery mines takes its name from the defunct Bowery furnace that stands nearby, and is about one mile and three quarters from Frostburg, near the old Midlothian mine. The first shipment of coal from Bowery was upon January 14, 1869. It belongs to the Borden Mining company and is under the supervision of their competent superintendent, Mr. Davidson Armstrong, and his efficient mine boss, Mr Robert S. Harvey. It is operated on the slope and cable system, and is one of the best managed and equipped mines in the region, and this is its first serious accident. The farthest distance to any work is 5600 feet from the mouth of the slope and its daily output compares favorably with that of other mines.
A telephone message from Frostburg at 3 o'clock this afternoon states that there are no new developments at Bowery Mines.
CUMBERLAND, MD MONDAY, April 8, 1894
Monongah Mining Disaster
The Worst Mining Disaster in American History
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Monongah Mine disaster of Monongah, West Virginia took place on December 6, 1907 and has been described as "the worst mining disaster in American History". The explosion was thought to have been caused by the ignition of methane (also called "firedamp"), which ignited the coal dust in mines number 6 and 8.
Rescue workers could only work in the mines for 15 minutes due to the lack of breathing equipment. Some of those workers also perished due to the poisonous gas.
Officially, the lives of 362 boys and men were lost in the underground explosion, leaving 250 widows and over 1000 children without male support. In October 1964 Reverend Everett Francis Briggs stated that "a fairer estimate of the victims of the Monongah Disaster would be upward of 500". This estimate is corroborated by the research of Davitt McAteer, Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health at the United States Department of Labor during the Clinton administration. The exact death toll remains unknown.
Many of the victims (171) were Italians who had migrated from San Giovanni in Fiore, San Nicola dell'Alto, Falerna, Gizzeria, Civitella Roveto, Duronia, Civita d'Antino, Canistro, Torella del Sannio and other villages in Calabria, Abruzzo and Molise. The ruins of the coal mines have been sealed shut with bricks. Many of the original mining homes were built on the hillside above the mine.
Father Briggs (Fitchburg, Mass., Jan. 27, 1908 - Monongah, Dec. 20, 2006) was the head of a Committee that recently (2007) erected a statue as a tribute to the widows of the 1907 mining accident and to coal miners’ widows everywhere. The statue Monongah Heroine is made of Carrara marble and is located near the Town Hall in Monongah.
The sole survivor of the blast was Peter Urban. He found a small fox-hole to climb out before the toxic gases reached him. Some historians believe that several other men escaped with him, but there is little evidence to support that. He had a twin brother Stanley who was killed in the disaster. Peter Urban was killed in a mine cave-in 19 years later.
On May 1, 2009 the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, conferred the honour of "Stella al Merito del Lavoro" (Star of Reward of Work) upon the victims of the disaster.
List of known miners killed at Monongah - Annual Report of the Department of Mines, West Virginia, 1908.
No. 6 Mine
Americans : Henry Burke | Fay Cooper | Fred Cooper | G. L. Davis | Thos. Donlin | Thos. Duffy | Harry Evans | Wm. Evans | John Fluharty | Floyd Ford | *Jno. Herman | Lonnie Hinerman | L. D. Layne : | Sam R. Kelly | Timothy Lydon | Henry Martin | Albert Miller | J. W. Miller | Frank Moon | James Moon | A. H. Morris | Cecil Morris | Homer Pyles | Fred Rogers | Frank Shroyer | Scott Sloan | Will Staley | Harold Trader | Wm. R. Walls | A. J. Watkins | Milroy Watkins | Geo. Wiley;
Polish: Geo. Boshoff | Frank Davis | Felix Gasco | Ignat Goff | Frank Krall | Ignots Lapinsky | Jno. Regulski | Petro Rossia | Frank Sawyer | Frank Shantah | Thos. Susnofsky | Mike Wassale;
Greek: Gass Levant | Nick Scotta | Nick Susta | Andy Tereza | Nick Tereza;
Slavic: Joe Bagola | Andy Berrough | Geo. Berrough | Mike Belo | Mike Bonotsky | Martin Bosner | Jno. Cresko | Mike Donko | Jno. Dunko | Mike Durkuta | John Durec | Thos. Duvall | Mike Egar | Steve Feet | Lobe Feretts | Joe Foltin | Paul Frank | Albert George | Jno. Gomerchec | Wogtech Hamock | Mike Hanish | Jno. Hiner | Martin Honick | Paul Honick | Jno. Hornock | Steve Ignatchic | Mike Kerest | Joe Kovatch | Jno. Kristofitz | Jno. Martin | Mike Oshwie | Geo. Polonchec | Paul Provitsky | Jno. Sari | Geo. Sari | Mike Sari | Steve Sari | Mike Sebic | Thos. Seyche | Andy Stie, Sr. | Andy Stie, Jr. | Geo. Strafera | Mike Wattah | Geo. Yourchec | Geo. Yourchec, Jr. | Mike Zucco;
Italians: Carl Abatta | Frank Abatta | Joe Abatta | Frank Abruzino | Joe Alexander | Angello Bagunoli | Frank Basile | John Basile | Sam Basile | Salvare Basilla | Joe Belcaster | Sam Belcaster | Pasq Beton | Tony Beton | John Bonasa | Adolph Brand | Don Cemino | Frank Connie | John Connie | Rolph Couch | Joe Covelli | Victor Davia | Nick Deplacito | Lunard Dewett | Loui Faluke | Joe Ferara | Tony Frank | John Fusari | Tony Gall | Franc Garrasco | Carmen Larossia | Frank Larossia | Loui Lelle | James Lerant | Salvatore Lobbs | Mike Meffe | Salvastore Motts | Steve Noga | John Olivaria | Tony Olivette | Janaway Orse | Nick Perochchi | Dom Perri | Fred Prelotts | Peter Privingano | Tony Prosper | Domnick Richwood | John Richwood | Patsy Richwood | Tony Richwood | Mike Ritz | Louis Scholese | Tony Selet | Frank Tallorai | Patsy Toots | Tony Touch | Patsy Virgelet | Tony Virgelet | Dom Ware;
Litvitch: Frank Dutca | John Matakonis | Mike Matakonis | Thomas Matakonis | Thos. Zinnis;
Irish: Patrick McDonough
*Read the letter from John Hermann's young daughter, Ileen, one year later, to "Mr. Newspaper Man". "Calamity Strikes" No. 8 Mine
Americans: Carl Bice | W. H. Bice | Robert Charlton | Wm. R. Cox | James Fletcher | Thos. Gannon | J. W. Halm | E. V. Herndon | Patrick Highland | C. A. Honaker, Jr. | Jno. N. Jones | Pat. J. Kearns | Thos. Killeen | Adam Layne a| Scott Martin | Jno. J. McGraw | Chas. McKane | L. L. Moore | C. E. Morris | Marion Morris | Wm. Morris | C. D. Mort | Jno. H. Mort | Sam Noland | Hugh Reese | Jno. Ringer | T. O. Ringler | D. V. Santee | Harry Seese | Beth Severe | Jessie Severe | Dennis Sloan | F. E. Snodgrass | Geo. Snodgrass | Michael Soles | Leslie Spragg | Sam Thompson | Chas. Farmer | Richard Farmer | Geo. Harris | Gilbert Joiner | Calvin Jonakin | Rippen McQueen | W. M. Perkins | Jno. H. Preston | K. D. Ryals | Jessie Watkins | Harry Young;
Polish: Andy Garlock | Geo. Herlick | Anton Hiawatin | Vadis Kawalsky | Joe Keatsky | Geo. Kingerous | Mike Kingerous | Jacob Kores | John Kowalish | John Luba | John Majeska | Jno. Majeska, Jr. | Martin McHortar | Chas. Miller | Mike Motsic | Victor Novinsky | Joe Stahnlski | Tom Stampian | Stanley Urban;
Slavic: Alex. Bustine | John Cheesit | Paul Cheeswock | John Goff | Paul Goff | John Ignot | Geo. Konkechec | Mike Kosis | Frank Krager | Geo. Krall | Frank Loma | John Rehich | Anton Unovich | John Wolincish;
Italians: Beat Anchillo | Dominick Anchillo | Paul Anchillo | Tony Angello | Patsy Alexander | Tony Alexander | Patsy Augustine | Colistino Avicello | Angello Barrard | Felix Barrard | Jose Barrard | Ross Beton | Chas. Bolze | Jersti Bonordi | Felix Calanero | Dom Colasena | Joseph Colcherci | Nick Colcherci | Nick Colleat | Dom Colross | Joe Colross | Victor D'Andrea | Vintura Darso | Clem Debartonia | Dominick Debartonia | Mike Deffelus | Tony Deffelus | Pasqual Deleal | Louis Demarco | Angelo Demaria | Jos. Demaria | Mike Demaria | Sebastian Demaria | Sebastian Demaria, No. 2 | Albert Demark | Jose Demark | Felix Depetris | Angelo Desalvo | Chas. Desalvo | Dominick Desalvo | Felix Desalvo | Tony Desalvo | Jos. Dewey | Mike Dewey | Jno. Dills | Donatto Domico, Jr. | Mike Domico | Pete Donord | Tony Dorse | Jas. Fassanella | Armanda Fellen | Carman Ferrare | Joe Ferrare | Matta Ferrare | Tony Folio | Peter Frabiacolo | Petro Frediavo | Prospera Inveor | Jim Jacobin | Jim Jeremont | Antonio Joy | Frank Joy | Jno. Lombardo | Frank Lore | Dan Manse | Mike Manse | Tony Manse | Pete Marcell | Jas. Maronette | D. C. Masch - correct name was Domenico Mascia | Carl Meff | Frank Meff | Cosmo Meo | Bobrato Metill | Jno. Metill | Nick Metill | Dom Morsee | Mike Mostro | Dom Mysell | Felix Mysell | Basile Palela | Jim Palela | Tony Pasqual | Louie Patch | Nick Pett | Saverio Pignalli | Bossilo Pillela | Frank Porzilo | Frank Preletto | Jno. Preletto | Pete Prigulatta | Flora Salva | Joe Salva | Vint Salva | Vint Salva No. 2 | Joe Sarfino | Frank Simpson | Dominick Smith | Jake Sullivan | Angelo Toots | Frank Vendetta | John Vendetta | John Yanero | Nick Yanero | Carman Zello | Jno. Zello;
Hungarians: John Palinkis | Joseph Toth;
Irish: Patrick Laughney;
Lithuanian: Mike Bolinski;
Scottish: David Riggins
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monongah_Mining_disaster"
Posted September 4, 2010
ELK GARDEN MINE DISASTER
GAS EXPLOSION IN NO. 20 MINE
The Town in Deepest Mourning - Twenty-Three Dead
Heroic Work of Rescuers
For more than 30 years Elk Garden, Mineral County W Va, has been the center of one of the most noted mining districts in the eastern section of the United States. Thousands of miners have worked in the different openings in that section and many millions of tons of coal have been shipped from that point, and, as has been the history in all mining districts, there have been numerous accidents and sad fatalities, but never before has there been a mine disaster in that region that paralleled, or even approximated, the shocking calamity of last Mon. morning, when twenty-three men, all citizens of Elk Garden, except one, were suddenly ushered into eternity by an explosion in Mine No. 20, which is owned and operated by the Davis Coal and Coke Company. This mine is at the foot of the mountain about half a mile below Elk Garden, and on the main line of the Western Maryland Railway, between Chaffee and Blaine. Mr. Robert Grant is superintendent of that and all the other mines owned and operated by the same company in the Elk Garden region.
Work in all mining districts has been slack all winter and No 20 has been working regularly only two days in each week. Monday was not a regular work day for that mine, had it been many more men would have lost their lives in that awful disaster. the twenty three victims of that explosion were there cleaning up - sprinkling the mine and arranging for the next day's work.
The explosion occurred about 8:30 AM and soon the sad intelligence was carried to wives, mothers and children that their loved ones who had left them but two hours before for a day of toil by which to win bread, were entombed in that mine. Within a short time, hundreds of men, women and children had assembled at the mine opening and the lamentations of the bereaved were heart-rending. Superintendent Grant at once assembled all of the men available and began the work of rescue. Men were dispatched from other sections. A large number came from Thomas WV. The officials of the Davis Coal and Coke Co. immediately called the Dept of Mines at Washington and the Government hurried their rescue car to the scene of disaster from Wilkes-Barre Penn, where it was stationed. Regular and special trains brought crowds of sympathizers and rescue workers from different sections and the work was kept up day and night with frequent relays of forces of men. The parties could work in the mines only an hour at a time because of the poisonous gasses, and the work was necessarily slow. four of the rescuing party, Wm Willis, Geo. May, Martin Garvey, Mine Supt. of Thomas and Supt. J W Paul, of the Government Bureau of Mines, were overcome by gas Tues afternoon and were revived only after very heroic treatment by mine expert rescuers and physicians.
By Monday. night they had found but one body, that of Wilbur Shears; about midnight five more were taken out. During the day Tuesday nine other bodies were found and Tuesday evening they found five others. Not until Wednesday noon were all of the bodies found and brought out of the mine.
Some of the bodies were blackened, burned and mangled. In many instances they were buried under tons of slate; in other instances death came solely from inhaling the heat. A temporary morgue was made of a nearby building and inquests were held there.
The miners have been working on short time all winter and it is feared that the families of some of the victims may be in want. It is thought that some action looking to their relief will be taken by the directors of the Company.
It is thought that the explosion was due to the accumulation of gas and dust in the mine. The fan had not been running for some time until it was started Monday morning.
The bodies of thirteen men were recovered Tuesday morning.
John Pritchard, married, hair and moustache burned off, body burned, asphyxiated.
Arthur Pritchard, single, head burned and squeezed, death from fractured skull.
William Pearson, married, death from fractured skull.
John F White, Sr., widower, death from lacerated thorax.
William Hetzel, married, death from carbon monoxide.
James Brown, married, death from asphyxiation.
Hawthorne Patton, single, death caused by shock.
Leo Dempsy, single, suffocated.
James Dempsy, married, slightly burned, death from inhaling heat.
Harry Trainum, married, death from inhaling heat.
Charles Wilson, single, death from inhaling heat.
Edward Hershberger, married, death from inhaling heat, slightly burned.
Thomas Wilson, face lacerated and head fractured, death from inhaling heat.
The body of Wilbur Shears, who died from asphyxiation, was taken out Mon. night.
Five of the bodies were buried Wednesday and the rest were buried Thursday. In another part of this paper can bee seen a complete list of the 23 names.
APRIL 28, 1911
(Courtesy of Patti McDonald
Posted July 25, 2010
FROM OUR ELK GARDEN CORRESPONDENT
Monday morning April 24, at 8:30 o'clock a violent gas explosion occurred in mine No 20 by which 23 men lost their lives. The force of the explosion seems to have been in Dean and Baldwin headings.
As soon as the report went out that a violent gas explosion had occurred in No 20 mine, a feeling of horror came over the people as they rushed to the scene of the accident. The fan, which had been started early that morning, was uninjured. Supt. Robert Grant, mine foreman, John Kenny, cashier, R M Dean, and mine foreman, B S Coleman of 14 mine were soon on the ground and had the situation in hand. A guard was placed at the different openings. Crowds of people collected but good order prevailed. Bolts of bed ticking and other goods were hurriedly brought to the mine to construct temporary brattishing to get air into the mine. All the brattice had been blown out by the force of the explosion.
During the day, Supt Orestes Tibbetts, with 6 or 8 picked men from the WV Junction; Supt Martin Garvey, of Thomas; Supt P J Branan of Coketon, arrived. They assisted in and pushed forward the work of braddishing the mine headings. Mine Inspector, Mr Plaster, arrived in the afternoon. Larger grew the crowd as the work progressed. Men, women and children made their way to the scene, but the women and children kept at a distance from the openings.
Wilbur Shears was found first, several hours before any of the others were reached. He was some distance from the others. No other bodies were rescued until Monday night. Five special trains came to the scene on Monday. This mine is but a few hundred yards from the Western Md RR at the foot of the mountain below Elk Garden. Monday night a special train brought General Superintendent Lee Ott from Cumberland. He had been at Baltimore. C H Smith, Vice President, and Gen Manager Durham, Coal & Iron Co, Ky, former assistant of B F Bush, with others arrived Mon night on special train.
D C Hershiser, train dispatcher from Cumberland, arrived Tues morning and established telegraphic communication from the mines. The Government Rescue Car No 1, Wilkes-Barre, Pa, arrived early Tues morning. Conductor D A Moran was in charge of this train, which made the run in eleven hours and thirty minutes. The rescuers began at once to train miners in the use of oxygen helmet which would enable them to go ahead of the air in the work of the rescue. These helmets aided materially in the work. By eight o'clock, fourteen bodies had been rescued, one in the Atlantic and thirteen in the Dean heading. The other nine bodies are in the Baldwin heading. The work is beginning to tell on the men, though they work by section. The bodies of the fourteen miners were brought out in mine cars, two at a time, and taken to a building for identification. Wagons were provided and the bodies were conveyed to Elk Garden where undertakers, F C Rolman and Wm H Kight took charge of them jointly. Festival and Moody's halls were both converted into morgues. The undertakers from Blaine are assisting in embalming the bodies, and Gordon B Greer, of the Clarksburg casket Co, is assisting. By nine o'clock Tues night all the entombed men were rescued. Some are badly bruised by falling rocks and faces and hands are burned. The hair is entirely burned off the heads of several. The morgues were open to the public an hour or more late Tuesday afternoon. It was then that the full realization of the disaster came in full force. No funerals will be held until Thursday. Following is a list of the 23 dead:
James Dempsey, married
Leo Dempsey, single
Ed Hershbarger, married
Wm Buski, single
Thomas Yost, married
Harry Trainum, married
Wilbur Shears, married
John White, widower
Wm Pearson, married
Geet White, single
Hawthore Patton, single
Frank Pugh, single
Wm Pugh, single
James Brown, married
Temor Runion, single
John Prichard, married
Arthur Pritchard, single
Wm Hetzel, married
John R Wilson, married
Charles Wilson, single
Thomas Wilson, married
Lester Wilson, married
Roy Wilson, married
All the dead are Americans except Wm Buski. Some of our best citizens are numbered with the dead. Our town is in deepest mourning. Everyone feels the heavy stroke. People retired Monday night, but could not sleep. The suspense was awful. May we never witness such a scene again.
Tuesday afternoon several of the rescuers were overcome by the after-damp. Geo May was brought from the mine unconscious an the physicians worked with him for some time. Martin Garvey, superintendent from Thomas, was also in a critical condition for a time. Drs Keim, Copeland, and two other physicians were at the mines at the time.
Coroner F C Rollman has begun an inquest, but it will not be concluded until after the funeral services.
A free commissary was established at the mine by the Company and lunches given to everybody that came to the scene of the disaster, which was open night and day.
Inspector L D Vaugh, formerly of this place, was on the ground today. Friends and relatives of the deceased are coming in on every train. The remains of Wm Pearsonn were taken to Lonaconing Wednesday. morning where the body will be interred on Thursday.
APRIL 28, 1911
(Courtesy of Patti McDonald)
Posted July 25, 2010
Tragic Mine Explosion Takes the Lives of Twenty-three Men
April 24, 1911, No. 20 Mine ~ Elk Garden, W. Va.
Those who perished:"Sad Funeral Services - Over the Twenty-Three Miners Who Perished In No. 20 Mine, Elk Garden, W. Va., April 24, 1911-
James Brown, Wm. Buski, James Dempsey, Leo Dempsey, Ed Hershbarger, Wm. Hetzel, Hawthorne Patton, Wm. Pearson, Arthur Prichard, John P. Prichard, Frank Pugh, William Pugh, Walter Runion, Wilbur Shears, Harry Tranum, John White, Sr., John White, Jr., Charles Wilson, Frank Wilson, George Roy Wilson, John R. Wilson, Lester Wilson, and Thomas Yost.
The Dead Are Buried - The dead are buried. THE MINE DISASTER
The ghastly scenes that will remain in our memories while life shall last are now in the past. The heart still aches but submits to the awful stroke, and feels that some day we shall understand. It was stated last week that Festival and Moody's halls were converted into morgues, and Undertakers F. C. Rollman and Wm. H. Kight were given charge of the dead jointly. These undertakers and their assistants worked faithfully at their gruesome task. Hundreds of persons, home people and strangers, visited the morgues when conditions were suitable and thus realized to some extent the force of the awful calamity. Some of the dead were burned about the face and hands, some were bruised and faces scarred, while others showed no external signs of violence, but seemed to be calmly sleeping. Wm. Pearson's remains were taken to Lonaconing Wednesday morning to the home of his sister, Mrs. Wm. Reiber, for interment. His age is 32 years and he leaves a wife and three small children. On Wednesday afternoon at 5 o'clock four of the Wilsons were interred in Nethken Hill cemetery. Rev. J.W. Bedford and L.C. Messick conducted the church services. The remains in the four caskets which were all in the church at the same time were, John R. Wilson, aged 57 years, 5 months, 16 days. He leaves a wife and a number of children, all adults. Lester Wilson, aged 18 years, 2 months and 26 days, leaves a young wife. George Roy Wilson, aged 23 years, 6 months, and 16 days, leaves a wife and two small children. Lester and George Wilson were both sons of Jno. R. Wilson and Frank Wilson, his son-in-law. Thursday was funeral day. The undertakers did their parts exceedingly well, and worked on almost exact schedule time. The congregations gathered quietly and quickly, and while one interment was going on in the cemetery another funeral was being held in the church. The M.E. church, South, was used for all church funerals on Wednesday. The large crowds of people at the cemeteries, on the streets and in the church were noted for their quiet demeanor and orderly conduct. At seven o'clock in the morning Father O'Hara conducted the funeral services in the Catholic church of James Dempsey, aged 57 years, Leo Dempsey, aged 23 years, and James Brown, aged 38 years. James Dempsey leaves a wife, one married and four single daughters, and a small boy. His remains and that of his son, Leo, were taken to Barton for burial. James Brown leaves a wife and two small children. His remains and those of Wm. Buski, aged about 25 years, were take to Westernport for burial. At nine o'clock Rev. Geo. W. Yost preached the funeral sermon of Harry Tranum, aged 26 years, at his late residence. He leaves a wife and one small child. At ten o'clock the funeral services of John P. Prichard, aged 48 years, 9 months and 14 days, and his son, Arthur Prichard, aged 17 years, 9 months and 20 days, were conducted at the church by Rev. L. C. Messick. Mr. Prichard leaves a wife and seven children, some of which are grown. At eleven o'clock, in the church, the funeral rites of Charles Wilson, aged 21 years, and married, son of Floyd Wilson, was conducted by Rev. W. J. Bernard. At twelve o'clock Rev. J.W. Bedford conducted the funeral services of John White, Sr., aged 42 years and John White, Jr., aged 24 years, in the church. John White, Sr., is a widower and leaves two daughters, Mrs. Maude Shriber and Miss Goldie. John White, Jr., was single and was know by the name of "Geet." At one o'clock the funeral services of Ed Hershbarger were conducted at his late residence by Rev. L.C. Messick. His age is 33 years, 2 months, and 17 days. He was the son-in-law of Rev. W.S. Rau and leaves a wife and two small children. At two o'clock the funeral services of Hawthorne Patton, aged 20 years, son of Mr. F. C. Patton, deputy assessor of this county, was conducted by Rev. J.F. Leeper in the church. The Red Men of Elk Garden and Modern Woodmen, of Kitzmiller, Md., attended his funeral. At three o'clock the funeral services of Wm. Hetzel, aged 61 years, were conducted in the church by Rev. L.C. Messick. He leaves a wife and two grown daughters, one a widow and one single. The Mystic Chain attended the funeral. At four o'clock Rev. J.F. Leeper conducted the funeral rites of William Pugh, aged 24 years, and Frank Pugh, aged 29 years, at the residence of their father, Mr. John Pugh. Both were unmarried. Frank Pugh was a fireman on the B. & O. R.R. , and had been home on a furlough several months. At five o'clock the funeral services of Walter Runion, son of John Runion, aged 19 years, 11 months and 14 days, and Wilbur Shears, aged 31 years, 1 month and 23 days was conducted by Rev. L.C. Messick in the church. Walter Runion was unmarried but Wilbur Shears leaves a wife and five small children. At six thirty the funeral services of Thomas Yost, aged 29 years, 4 months, and 9 days were conducted in the church by Rev. L.C. Messick. He leaves a wife and three small children. Thus as the evening shades were falling the last of the ill-fated miners was laid to rest. Rev. L.C. Messick was assisted by Rev. A. B. Mann, of Bayard, Rev. Geo. Burgess, of Laurel Dale, and W.S. Rau, of Virginia. The choir was composed of Misses M.V. Arnold, Lizzie Grant, Olie Clark, Lou Barrick, Mrs. Maude Grant, Mrs. Rosa Dean, Mr. and Mrs. D.C. Arnold, Misses James Norman and David McKinley, of Elk Garden, Mr. Burns, and Mrs. Richard Markwood, of Kitzmiller. But what will the Davis Coal and Coke Company do for the widows and friends of the unfortunate victims of the explosion? In the first place $400 will be paid for each death which is the amount of miners insurance with the Company. This amount to $9,200. In the second place the company pays the funeral expenses, which amounts to $2,160.60, and further the widows are allowed to get goods at the B. & L. store to satisfy their immediate needs, and the price of goods is not deducted from the insurance. In giving credit for heroism displayed in rescue work at the mine we do not wish to detract any credit due the many faithful mine officials, but we do wish to commend the miners of the Elk Garden region, including Wabash, Oakmont, Kitzmiller, and from distant mines for their coolness, still and daring. It was their brother miners entombed and they toiled, they braved the dangerous gases, they reeled under the influence of the poison and when refreshed plunged into the mines again. The city __ drew on their imagination in stating that women and children were at the mines uttering heart rending cries. The women in nerely (sic) every case staid (sic) at home and there patiently bore the awful suspense until their loved ones lifeless forms were brought to them by the undertaker. It is difficult to tell which were the greater heroes, the women remaining at home in deepest grief, watching, hoping, praying, or the miners braving the deadly gases to rescue the bodies of their unfortunate comrades."
"Piedmont Herald, Piedmont, West Virginia, 5 May 1911
(Courtesy of Shawn McGreevy)
Posted July 15, 2009
After his return from Elk Garden, Chief Laing of the State Dept of Mines, gave out a statement in which he relates in a detailed manner the apparent cause of the explosion in the No 20 maine which killed 23 men.INQUEST
One notable fact, is shown in this statement, and that is that five men escaped from a wet entry of the mine where there was little coal dust, thus demonstrating that the explosion primarily caused by a blown out shot from the solid was made a catastrophe by dust not dampened. The evidence gathered, the chief states, seems to point to the breaking of the mining law by their miners, who are thought to have used black powder.
"After a thorough examination of the mine by these experts, it was very easily determined that had the mine been damp or had it been sufficiently watered, as it should have been, the disaster would not been as widespread as it was; and there is no doubt in the minds of any of the gentlemen who investigated the explosion but what dust was the main factor in the explosion.
But while the mine was known to liberate a small amount of gas, it was quite evident that gas was not the cause of the explosion as the men had been at work with naked lights at the face of their working places.
The only possible way that department can avoid accidents of this kind is to prohibit absolutely any shooting of any kind or character in such mines that are dry and dusty during the day or while men are at work and that expert shot-firers be employed for the purpose of doing all blasting after all men have left the mine.
A ruling of this kind will for a short time work more or less hardship on the miners and perhaps curtail the output of the mine, but is the only way that I see to prevent a repetition of the accident and I have issued a circular letter so each of the inspectors of the different districts to put such ruling into the force at once, as we cannot permit dangers of this kind to exist where every man's life is depending on the most reckless miner.
We expect to meet with some complaints and opposition against this order, but we propose to execute it regardless of how it may be approved of by either miners of operators."
Keyser Tribune, May 5, 1911
(Courtesy of Patti McDonald)
Posted July 25, 2010
The inquest over the 23 miners who lost their lives in No 20 mine was held in the schoolhouse Thursday and Friday before Justice C E Shillingburg. John Lang, chief of the department of mining, conducted the inquest. Arthur Arnold, Prosecuting Attorney, was present and a large number of officials.
The verdict of the jury was "That the 23 men came to their death by a blowout-shot at the face of the Dean Air Course, igniting the dust, therefore causing some explosive and dust explosion, and said shot supposed to have been fired by John Pritchard or his son, Arthur."
Jury, Lloyd Oates, John Tice, J W Schwinabart, W J Schwinabart, A C Dixon, S B Stullenbarger.
NEWS TRIBUNE, MAY 12, 1911
(Courtesy of Patti McDonald)
Posted July 25, 2010
BLAST VICTIMS CARRIED FROM WRECKED MINE
47 Bodies Removed, With Seven Still Missing After Explosion At Osage, W. Va.
Company Official Says Recovery of Others Will Take Time, Due to Much Debris
Osage, W. Va., May 13 (AP) - Rescue crews coming out of the blasted No. 3 mine of the Christopher Coal Company announced today the recovery of the bodies of 35 victims of the explosion and reported 21 more remained inside, bringing the unofficial death toll to 56.
One group emerged at 10:40 a.m. with nine bodies and at 11:45 a.m. three others were brought out. The crew members, four of whom were overcome by overexertion deep in the mine, previously had brought out 23 bodies.
One of the bodies recovered was that of Tony Belec, section forman, who had not been listed as on duty.
List Not Final
David Christopher, official of the mining company, asserted that the death list of 56 was not final.
Officials began a process of elimination to see if others might have been trapped by yesterday's explosion in one of northern West Virginia's largest coal mines. Brass checks, lamps and family records were gone over to make certain about those who had lost their lives.
During the check-up it was discovered that Tom Friesen, a loader previously reported dead, was alive. Eddie Jefferson, a loader whose name was not on the original list of those trapped, was found dead.
Three of the 35 bodies recovered at noon remain unidentified.
Rescue crews had battled against tons of rock, coal and timbers three miles underground since yesterday afternoon, hoping to reach some of the men alive. A half-mile section of the mine was wrecked.
Three bodies were brought out within five hours after the 2:20 p.m. explosion, and groups of ten, four and six were hauled to the surface this morning.
Seventy other narrowly escaped death when the blast let go at 2:20 p.m. (E. W.T.) in the No. 3 mine of the Christopher Coal Company. At work in an area near the blast scene, they managed to flee and only 25 were made ill by the fumes.
T. E. Griffith, U. S. Bureau of Mines engineer, said 110 more would have been in the mine if coal cars which were to have carried them inside had not been 15 minutes late.
It was not immediately determined what casued the explosion - West Virginia's most disastrous since January 1940, when 91 were killed at Bartley in the southern part of the state. Frank Christopher, president of the company, and H. P. Rhinehart, chief of the State Department of Mines, said the big operation which employs 450 men had been rock dusted Sunday and inspected Monday. Hundreds of spectators, including grief-stricken relatives of the entombed men and stat university students from Morgantown, four miles away, gathered around the pit mouth. A company of newly-organized West Virginia State Guard patrolled the area. Only thre of the bodies were immediately identified. They were Allen Jones, Jr. negro, about 28, Nick Nimecheck, 23, and Fred Mongold, about 35. Among the men trapped underground was Tom Cordwell, father of 13 children.
Source: The Cumberland Evening Times; Cumberland, Maryland; May 13, 1942; pages 1 and 2.
From going through Death Certificates - These are the men that were killed in the Osage Mine explosion on May 12, 1942:
Adams, Darl, age 35
Batton, Roy, age 32
Baughman, Allen Space, age 32
Belec, Tony, age 28
Brinegar, Thomas Owen, age 55
Cannon, William Joseph, Jr., age not listed
Cook, John B., age 39
Cooker, Burman O., age 42
Cordwell, Thomas Bernard, age 50
Covert, Robert Joseph, age 33
Crook, Alfonso, age 35
Cunningham, Artie M., age 41 (brother to Homer Dee Cunningham)
Cunningham, Homer Dee, age 29 (brother to Artie M. Cunningham)
Donaldson, Douglas, age 25
Dorinzi, Attilio, age 54
Dulaney, Edward, age 34
Fagula, George, age 29
Frazier, Albert W., age 24
Foley, James Carroll, age 57
Gaspar, John Paul, age 31
Gatian, James Lee, age 33
Henderson, Earl Newton, age 29
James, Austin Gilbert, age 51
Jefferson, Edward James, age 37
Jones, Allen, Jr., age 29
Lafferty, Basil Reed, age 40
Little, Harold, age 30
Marshall, Everett, age 26
May, Sam, age 46
Mayfield, Homer Asa, age 53
Mayfield, Kermit, age 18 (son of Homer Asa Mayfield)
McArdle, Edward, age 26
McClain, Edsen L., age 31
McGee, John, age 41
McGee, Junior Edward, age 24
Metheny, Floyd, age 29
Mills, Stuart Hayward, age 44
Mitchell, John Walter, age 52
Mongold, Frederick Leroy, age 36
Moody, Harry Emerson, age 26
Morris, Arthur P., age 44
Morris, Daniel, age 30
Murphy, Harland Charles, age 35
Murphy, Harold, age 18
Newcheck, Nick, age 22
Newhouse, William Alfred, age 53
Powley, Frank Vetter, age 50
Powley, John Nicholas, age 29 (son of Frank Vetter Powley)
Powley, Ronald Edward, age 27 (son of Frank Vetter Powley)
Shenko, William, age 57
Stone, Bruce B., age 55
Thompson, Hoy, age 46
Turner, Russell Wade, age 27
Vriel, John William, age 33
Whetsell, Delford, age 36
Wolfe, Dennis, age 41
(Courtesy of Wendy Mammoliti)
Posted July 20, 2013
Osage Pit Explosion
District Toll In Mine Blast Reaches Five
Sixth Man May Also Have Been Victim Of Osage Pit Explosion
The district death toll in the Osage, W. Va. explosion stood at not less than five today, as mystery still shrouded the fate of a sixth man unofficially reported missing in the disaster, worst in years.The latest officially reported district victims included Harry Moody, 25, trackman, of Bowood, near Smithfield, and William Shenko, 57, timberman, of Chaplin, W. Va., a former California man. Still unreported was Arthur Pringle, 20, Point Marion, of whom nothing was said in the official lists from the mine, although friends declared he had been in the mine at the time of the blast. Efforts to locate him have so far met with no success.
Cousin Of Marine
Moody, a cousin of Earl Moody, who recently was drowned while serving with the United States Marine corps, is survived by his widow, Mrs. Freda Shaffer Moody; two children, Barbara, three and Darrell, one year old; his mother, Mrs. Charles Moody, Bowood, and the following brothers and sisters: Ray Moody, Fursglove, W. Va.; George Moody, Osage, W. Va.; Clarence Moody, Oil City; Mrs. Russell Hull, Smithfield; Milford Moody, Pursglove; Mrs. George Bowell, Smithfield, and Joseph, Betty, and Marilyn Moody, at home.Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow at the home, Rev. John C. Myers officiating, with burial in Mount Moriah church cemetery.
Mr. Shenko, a single man, is survived by Mrs. Tillie Bielawski, Granville, at whose home funeral services will be held at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, followed by rites at 9 a.m. at the St. Thomas R. C. church, Coal Center. Burial will be in Mt. Calvary cemetery, Coal Center.Kermit Mayfield, another victim, is a cousin of Mrs. Foreman Gibson, of Point Marion.
Others from this section who died in the blast included: Bruce Stone, 55 and Floyd Metheny, 25, formerly of Lake Lynn, and James Gatian of near Ices Ferry bridge.
Source: The Evening Standard; Uniontown, Pennsylvania; May 14, 1942; pages 1 & 6.
(Courtesy of Wendy Mammoliti)
Posted October 27, 2012
EXPLOSION CAUSE BY ELECTRIC ARC\
Ickes Gets Report From Bureau of Mines on Osage Blast: 56 Killed
Washington, July 8. (AP) --- The
Bureau of Mines reported to Interior Secretary Ickes today that
explosion that killed 56 men in the No. 3 mine, of the Christopher Coal
Co., Osage, W. Va., May 12 "was probably set off when a body of gas,
methane, was ignited by an electric arc inside the control box of a
coal cutting machine, and was propagated throughout the affected
portions of the mine by gas and coal dust."
Although of the permissible or
"flame-proof" type, the mining machine believed to have initiated the
explosion had been altered and repaired in such a manner, bureau
investigators said, "as to render it non-permissible and fully capable
of supplying the arc of sparks necessary to ignite gas."
The report said further that the
mine machine control panel and explosion-proof enclosure had been left
in such a condition that explosive gas could "easily get into the
enclosure and ignite from the operation of the contractors."
Source: The Cumberland Evening Times; Cumberland, Maryland; July 8, 1942; page 2.
(Courtesy of Wendy Mammoliti)
Posted July 20, 2012