Going through the thousands of the newspaper articles for this horrific event is heart wrenching. The articles that describe the women and children wailing from a distance is hard to think about.
In all, 362 perished in this mining disaster. Initial estimates were reported closer to 1,000. In addition to those who perished in the mines, there were at least a dozen rescuers who also lost their lives because of gas poisoning.
250 women found themselves widowed while over one thousand children found themselves fatherless. There were stories of four different children who had previously lost their mothers and who found themselves with no parents whatsoever. One story in particular of a little girl, no more than ten, who tended house and cared for her two brothers while her father worked in the mines – I would love to know their fate.
As I searched through articles, I found that three weeks later another mining disaster would occur at the Darr mine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Calls for the safety of miners can be found throughout. There were other outcries for investigations regarding the young boys who were working illegally in the mines. Scarlet Fever would break out during the rescue attempts and hinder progress for a time.
Below, I will wrap up this blog at the end of December 1907. I have around four dozen newspaper clippings that chronicle that tragic December. They come from every corner of the United States. I hope to pick up a second blog that will cover the investigation into why the explosion occurred and the subsequent hearings. If you know of any good reference material I could utilize for dates and what to look for in the papers, please leave a comment. I would appreciate any and all suggestions.
Details according to Wiki:
The Monongah mining disaster of Monongah, West Virginia, occurred on December 6, 1907, and has been described as “the worst mining disaster in American History”. The explosion occurred in Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and No. 8 mines.
On Friday, December 6, 1907, there were officially 367 men in the two mines, although the actual number was much higher as officially registered workers often took their children and other relatives into the mine to help. At 10:28 AM an explosion occurred that killed most of the men inside the mine instantly. The blast caused considerable damage to both the mine and the surface. The ventilation systems, necessary to keep fresh air supplied to the mine, were destroyed along with many railcars and other equipment. Inside the mine the timbers supporting the roof were blown down which caused further issues as the roof collapsed. An official cause of the explosion was not determined, but investigators at the time believed that an electrical spark or one of the miners’ open flame lamps ignited coal dust or methane gas
During the early days of coal mining, time was of the essence to bring people out alive. The first volunteer rescuers entered the two mines twenty-five minutes after the initial explosion. The biggest threats to rescuers are the various fumes, particularly “blackdamp”, a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen that contains no oxygen, and “whitedamp”, which is carbon monoxide. The lack of breathing apparatus at the time made venturing into these areas impossible. Rescuers could only stay in the mine for 15 minutes at a time. In a vain effort to protect themselves, some of the miners tried to cover their faces with jackets or other pieces of cloth. While this may filter out particulate matter, it would not protect the miners in an oxygen-free environment. The toxic fume problems were compounded by the infrastructural damage caused by the initial explosion: mines require large ventilation fans to prevent toxic gas buildup, and the explosion at Monongah had destroyed all of the ventilation equipment. The inability to clear the mine of gases transformed the rescue effort into a recovery effort. One Polish miner was rescued and four Italian miners escaped. The official death toll stood at 362, 171 of them Italian migrants.
As a result of the explosion, along with other disasters, the public began demanding additional oversight to help regulate the mines. In 1910 Congress created the United States Bureau of Mines, with the goal of investigating and inspecting mines to reduce explosions and to limit the waste of human and natural resources. In addition the Bureau of Mines set up field officers that would train mine crews, provide rescue services, and investigate disasters when they do occur.
In 2003, to commemorate the explosion, the Italian commune of San Giovanni in Fiore, from which many of the miners had emigrated, erected a memorial with the inscription Per non dimenticare minatori calabresi morti nel West Virginia (USA). Il sacrificio di quegli uomini forti tempri le nuove generazioni. Monongah, 6 dicembre 1907; San Giovanni in Fiore, 6 dicembre 2003 (“Lest we forget the Calabrian miners dead in West Virginia (USA). The sacrifice of those strong men shall bolster new generations. Monongah, December 6, 1907, San Giovanni in Fiore, December 6, 2003”)
In 2007, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the explosion, the Italian region of Molise presented a bell to the town of Monongah. Today the bell sits in the Monongah town square.
Testimony regarding the disaster can be found here: http://www.wvculture.org/history/disasters/monongah02.html
Various newspaper articles from around the country:
Mining Disaster Stats:
- Monongah, West Virginia, 1907 (362 killed)
- Dawson, New Mexico, 1913 (263 killed)
- Cherry, Illinois, 1909 (259 killed)
- Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania, 1907 (239 killed)
- Fraterville, Tennessee, 1902 (216 killed)
- Scofield, Utah, 1900 (200 killed)
- Mather, Pennsylvania, 1928 (195 killed)
- Eccles, West Virginia, 1914 (180+ killed)
- Cheswick, Pennsylvania, 1904 (179 killed)
- Castle Gate, Utah, 1924 (171 killed)
- Hanna, Wyoming, 1903 (169 killed)
- Marianna, Pennsylvania, 1908 (154 killed)
- Frontier Mine disaster, Kemmerer, Wyoming, 1923 (138 killed)
- Banner Mine disaster, Littleton, Alabama, 1911 (128 killed)
- Saunders, West Virginia, 1972 (125 killed)
- Dawson, New Mexico, 1923 (123 killed)
- Hastings, Colorado, 1917 (121 killed)
- West Frankfort, Illinois, 1951 (119 killed)
- Benwood, West Virginia, 1924 (119 killed)
- Layland Mine disaster, Layland, West Virginia, 1915 (115 killed)
- Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1902 (112 killed)
- Hueytown, Alabama, 1905 (112 killed)
- Pocahontas, Virginia, 1884 (112 killed)
- Centralia, Illinois, 1947 (111 killed)
- Plymouth, Pennsylvania, 1869 (110 killed)
- Everettville, West Virginia, 1927 (109 killed)
- Mammoth Mine disaster, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, 1891 (109 killed)
- Krebs Mine disaster, Krebs, Oklahoma, 1892 (100 killed)
List of Miners Killed at Monongah as written in the Annual Report of the Department of Mines, West Virginia 1908
No. 6 Mine
G. L. Davis
L. D. La[y]ne
Sam R. Kelly
J. W. Miller
A. H. Morris
Wm. R. Walls
A. J. Watkins
Andy Stie, Sr.
Andy Stie, Jr.
Geo. Yourchec, Jr.
No. 8 Mine
W. H. Bice
Wm. R. Cox
J. W. Halm
E. V. Herndon
C. A. Honaker, Jr.
Jno. N. Jones
Pat. J. Kearns
Jno. J. McGraw
L. L. Moore
C. E. Morris
C. D. Mort
Jno. H. Mort
T. O. Ringler
D. V. Santee
F. E. Snodgrass
Jno. Majeska, Jr.
W. M. Perkins
Jno. H. Preston
K. D. Ryals
Sebastian Demaria, No. 2
Donatto Domico, Jr.
***D. C. Masch
Vint Salva No. 2