Shirley Donnelly: A Few Written Words Travel A Long Way

Shirley Donnelly, local Fayette County (WV) historian wrote articles on a virtual cornucopia of topics. In this column he discusses a letter he received from a reader who disagreed with his notation of a date for the Boomer No 2 Mine Explosion.

I have transcribed the article below for easier reading. The archives did not have a Beckley Post paper for Nov 30, 1955 so I was unable to pull his original article Mrs. McConihay responded to. I do love her last name. Mr. Donnelly must have too as he typed it so many times in this article.

Below the article is additional information on the explosion as discussed in the column.

1956 01 12 boomer explosion -
Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
12 Jan 1956, Thu  •  Page 4

Yesterday and Today –

A Few Written Words Travel A Long Way

By: Shirley Donnelly

Years ago when I was a boy living in Charleston some of us were fooling around the water front area where Elk River pours its flood into the waters of the Great Kanawha.

On that occasion I recall throwing a rock into the placid Elk and watching the ever widening circles caused by the disturbance of the stone striking and sinking into the river. Those circles spread out until they broke on the east bank of the beautiful Elk stream. That happening made an impression that day on what I am fondly wont, at times, to call my mind. Well, its that way when something comes out in print in a newspaper or other publication.

On November 30, 1955, this column carried the story of the mine explosion in Boomer Mine No. 2, Boomer, W.Va., on November 30, 1915 – just forty years to the date after the mine let go that day and killed 23 men. First repercussion I received from the story carried under my name was from Mrs J.S. McConihay, 163 S Joseph Ave, Long Beach 3, California. Mrs McConihay writes that she “read with interest the article on the explosion of Mine No 2 at Boomer, W.VA. …: At the time of the Boomer disaster, Mrs McConihay was living at Harewood and was called to come to the mine and bring a change of clothes to her brother, Cleve Martin. It was this same Cleve Martin who worked in the Boomer mine and worked with the first rescue party to enter the mine after the explosion.

When the coroner’s jury sat to hear and sift the evidence in the case in order to determine the reason the mine blew up, this brother of Mrs. McConihay was one of the half-dozen men who composed the coroner’s jury. When the mine trouble occurred, my reader, who is not Mrs. McConihay, was keeping house for her three brothers. One of them was Will Martin and was mine foreman at Harewood. Her other brother – Pete Martin – was running a machine at the mine with his brother, Cleve Martin. Some old timers of those mining days of two score years ago may recall Celve, Pete and Will Martin and their sister Clara. One of the men who was boarded off and was reached by the rescuers in the Boomer mine was Earl Phillips, a nephew of California resident Mrs. McConihay. She recalls how that Mrs Alta Hall, wife of Ed Hall, who was killed in that explosion, married Hubert Jennings. Shortly after he married the widow of the mine victim, Jennings passed away, according to Mrs. McConihay. Following the Boomer explosion, Mrs. McConihay – then Miss Clara Martin – married and moved to Kentucky where she lived for 30 years. After her long dwelling in Kentucky, Mrs. McConihay moved to California.

Mention of names set forth in this paragraph will seem like ghosts walking if any of Mrs. McConihay’s associates of four decades ago shall mayhap see today’s offering. Mrs. Grace Snead of Beckley will likely be one for whom today’s column will turn back the pages of time in the album of golden memories to 1915.

In the course of her interesting letter, Mrs. McConihay took the trouble to get set straight on some of her family genealogical matters. Both her parents died in 24 hours of each other and were laid to rest in God’s Acre at Cedar Grove. According to the family Bible in Mrs. McConihay’s hands, these deaths occurred July 12, 1916, and were buried on Jul 16, four days later. She thinks the explosion at Boomer took place in the fall after her parents died. It is quite easy to get something fixed in one’s mind and that be wrong. When I first wrote the story of the Boomer mine trouble it was published in my book on Notable Mine Disasters of Fayette County, West Virginia. Data contained in the chapter on the Boomer explosion was taken from the Report of the US Bureau of Mines on the subject and considered correct. It is easy to see how one can think a happening, like a double death in the family, took place “before” a given event instead of “after” the event. I’m that way myself anymore.

Speaking of getting things all turned around in one’s mind, here’s what I mean. One time when I was passing through Lexington Va, I went over to the Chapel of Washington and Lee University to make a pilgrimage to Lee’s tomb to see Valentine’s famous recumbent statue of the immortal Confederate chieftain. Twenty years later – in 1935 – I did so again. It ran in my mind that the tomb and statue were on the lower floor of the Chapel and at an opposite end from where I found it last year. This bothered me a bit so I called the custodian of the building that day and diligently inquired when the change of tomb and statue had been made. She was a kindly old lady who oozed culture at every pore and spoke with a soft, sweet Southern drawl, one that was natural with her and not an acquired accent. Only her age and composure saved me from starting an argument with her on the location subject. I thought I was right. Then she said that only during the previous week had someone else brought up the same question. She explained it as a delusion in my mind and that is what I reckon it was. But I sure was turned around on that one.

Those who write vital statistics in the family record sections of the Bibles that repose in the parlors of houses often do so from memory. Only a few days ago when I dropped in on a family of settlers close to my wigwam stands the subject of family and statistics came up for an airing. This family was that of Newt Miller and his good wife Roxy Miller. The Good Book was brought in and opened to the section of family statistics. Immediately Mrs Miller’s eyes fell upon a very glaring error in the time of the death of a beloved child. Mistake had been made by one who wrote in the date in error. Since the dawn of time it has been human to err but divine to forgive!

Boomer No. 2 Mine Explosion / 30 November 1915

27 miners were rescued from behind a barricade seven hours after an explosion in the Boomer No. 2 mine in Boomer, Fayette County, West Virginia. The twenty-seven men constructed a rock barricade after two explosions of gas in No. 2 mine of the Boomer Coal and Coke Company at Boomer, W. Va., on November 30, 1915.  To short circuit any of the afterdamp that might find its way into the entry the men propped open the door at the mouth of the entry, about 1,650 feet from the face of the entry in which the barricade was built.  The air in the enclosed space was good and all the men were saved by a rescue party seven hours later.

Aftermath of Boomer Mine Explosion, Boomer, W. Va.

Title: Aftermath of Boomer Mine Explosion, Boomer, W. Va.

Date: 1915

Description: A group of men inspect the damage caused by an explosion at the mine. Subjects unidentified.Subjects:Coal mines and mining–Accidents., Coal mines and mining–West Virginia–Fayette County., Coal Mines and Mining–Mine Disasters.

Number Two Power House, Boomer, W. Va.

Title: Number Two Power House, Boomer, W. Va.

Description: Large building housing the power source for a mining operation.

The Daily Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia
30 Nov 1915, Tue  •  Page 1
The Parsons Weekly Eclipse
Parsons, Kansas
01 Dec 1915, Wed  •  Page 1
Marysville Journal-Tribune
Marysville, Ohio
02 Dec 1915, Thu  •  Page 1
The Raleigh Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
03 Dec 1915, Fri  •  Page 1
The West Virginian
Fairmont, West Virginia
03 Dec 1915, Fri  •  Page 6
Boomer Supply Company Store, Boomer, W. Va.

Title: Boomer Supply Company Store, Boomer, W. Va.

Date: 1906

Description: A group of men and boys are lined up on the store’s porch. Mr. B. Killy is identified as the superintendent.

Random Genealogy Data on Clara (Martin) McConihay

Record Image
Name:Clara L McConihay
Social Security #:549722664
Birth Date:31 Aug 1888
Birth Place:West Virginia
Death Date:27 Jun 1971
Death Place:Los Angeles
1900 United States Federal Census

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