WV History: Kingston Mine Disaster 1929

On January 26,1929, there was a major mine explosion at the Number 5 Mine of the Kingston-Pocahontas Coal Company in Fayette County, West Virginia.

The preliminary report on the explosion can be read here: https://usminedisasters.miningquiz.com/saxsewell/Kingston_1929.pdf

Although 500 men were employed at the mine, only sixty-nine were present that day. 14 men would die as a result of the explosion.

Below are some of the articles regarding the explosion.

Miners Entombed by Fayette Blast
The Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia
January 26, 1929

Kingston, January 26. — The bodies of three of the 18 miners trapped by an explosion in the Kingston mine of the Kingston Pocahontas Coal Company were located today by rescue workers about 800 feet from the surface.

One of the bodies was that seen by one of the 53 survivors while fleeing to safety and the other two were found nearby, burned almost beyond recognition.

Kingston, Jan. 26. — A terrific explosion in the No. 5 mine of the Kingston Pocahontas Coal Company early today was believed to have trapped eighteen men, one of whom was reported by survivors to have met death.  Fifty-three of those inside the mine at the time of the blast escaped through another entry on the opposite side of the mountain.

After hasty conferences with mine officials preliminary to starting rescue work, Chief R. M. Lambie, of the state mining department, announced that eighteen men were unaccounted for but that the others of the 71 men who composed the night crew had made their way to safety.

One of the survivors reported that while making his way out he came across a body in a passageway which he recognized as that of Blanie Parker.  Another survivor said he saw a huddled bundle which might have been another body but that he did not stop to investigate.

The blast, which was heard within a radius of a mile, came from the pit with such force that it knocked over one small building and damaged others.  No one was injured on the surface.  The survivors reported that the underground passages were badly wrecked.

Fire Is Extinguished

The rescue crews tackled the wrecked mine from two openings, one on each side of the mountain two miles apart.  One of them, the main entry, was near Kingston and the other was along Coal River.

A fire which Lambie described as minor developed on the Kingston side following the blast but it was reached and extinguished shortly after daybreak.  Meantime, rescue crews had entered the Coal river side and started the laborious and dangerous task of exploring the gas-choked workings.  Lambie organized a crew of runners to maintain contact with those in charge of the rescue work at the two entries.

The usual scene of anxious women and terror-stricken children at the mine mouth were lacking at Kingston because of the topography of the country.

The mine pierces the mountainside and is reached after a difficult climb up a steep grade of a quarter of a mile.

The missing men were at work along the main haulage way when the blast occurred.  Those who escaped were distributed about other sections of the mine.  In small groups they worked their way to the Coal river entry after the blast had ripped through the workings.  Two or three quick blasts of air, the survivors said, warned them that an explosion had occurred in another section and they started for the nearest entry along the Coal River, familiar to all of them.  By twos and threes they made their escape and walked over the mountain in the darkness to report themselves safe at the Kingston entry.

Lambie was assisted in the rescue work by several district inspectors and rescue teams from nearby mines.  The U. S. Bureau of Mines rescue car was ordered to the scene from Welch and mine rescue equipment came from the New River mines.  In keeping with procedure of mine rescue work, Lambie listed among the missing the man whose body was reported seen, until rescue crews reached that section of the mine.


CLIPPED FROM: The Leader / Hinton, West Virginia
31 Jan 1929, Thu  •  Page 7

Recover 14 Bodies; Mine Inquiry Today
Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia
January 27, 1929

Kingston, Jan. 26. — Extinguishing the last of three fires that had hampered rescue operations all day, squads of 15 men each, working in relays, shortly before midnight brought to the surface the bodies of the last five of the 14 men who lost their lives when trapped in the Kingston mine of the Kingston Pocahontas Coal Company here by an explosion early this morning.

The last five bodies were located in tunnel No. 4 to the left of the main shaft about a half mile from the entrance.

A formal inquiry and inquest will be conducted here tomorrow by Squire G. R. Wright.  The toll of lives was first thought to be 18 but repeated check-ups revealed that all but 14 of the 69 men in the mine when the blast occurred had escaped.

The Dead

The list of the dead is as follows:

  • W. A. James, married
  • Willard Mullens, single
  • Eustace Cremeans, married
  • Alva Anderson, married
  • Blaine Parker, night foreman of the mine, single
  • Doyle Terry, married
  • James Hagen, married
  • James Clevenger, single
  • Tracy Stover, aged 16, single
  • John Leffel, married
  • Carus Williams, single
  • Sanford Boling, married
  • Elmer Denny, married
  • Arnold Frazier, single

All live at Kingston.

Leffel’s body was the last to be recovered.  It was partially buried under the mass of debris torn loose by the blast which hurled things helter-skelter in the main entrance for a mile back from the mouth.

Believe Dust Cause

While officials have not given out any statements relative to the apparent cause of the blast, it is the general opinion that it was caused by the ignition of coal dust.

A temporary morgue was constructed in the hall of the Junior Order of American Mechanics not far from the mine.  The bodies were carefully wrapped in heavy burlap before being carried out on stretchers to the hoist and taken down to the company store at the bottom of the mountain.

Last Blaze Extinguished

The fumes from intermittent small fires greatly hampered rescue efforts until 10:30 o’clock tonight when the last blaze was extinguished.  Rescue squads were also faced with the difficulty of forcing their way through the rock-filled corridors of the main shaft.

The blast occurring at 1:30 o’clock this morning, happened about a mile back from the mouth.  The bodies still underground were located in No. 4 drift to the right of the main passageway.  Those who escaped did so by groping their way through the network of tunnels to another entrance on the opposite side of the mountain, near Coal River.

So terrific was the explosion that those, a considerable distance from the spot, felt the rush of air and accepted it as evidence that a blast had occurred.  It was some time before the survivors made their way from the Coal river exit to the mouth and notified officials.

No Gas Found

The first body was carried out at 1:30 o’clock this afternoon.  Rescue work continued to advance at a slow rate because of the many obstacles faced by the crews.  No gas, however, was found to exist in the workings and the principle difficulty was the fumes from smoldering fires.

Beckley Post-Herald / Beckley, West Virginia
26 Jan 1956, Thu  •  Page 4
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CLIPPED FROM: Hinton Daily News / Hinton, West Virginia
25 Feb 1929, Mon  •  Page 5
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CLIPPED FROM: St. Joseph Gazette / St. Joseph, Missouri
27 Jan 1929, Sun  •  Page 2
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CLIPPED FROM: The Marshall News Messenger / Marshall, Texas
27 Jan 1929, Sun  •  Page 1
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CLIPPED FROM: The Marshall News Messenger / Marshall, Texas
27 Jan 1929, Sun  •  Page 6

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