Century Mine Disaster

Clarksburg Daily News
March 23, 1906


Hundreds Were In Danger

__________ At 4 o'clock this afternoon a long distance telephone message from Century stated that the death list was twenty-three, of which number six are Americans. The Americans were all named Jones, the father and two sons of one family and the remaining number from another family.


Twenty-one persons are dead at Century, Barbour county, as a result of the awful mine explosion there Thursday evening. A number of men were injured and more than two hundred barely escaped with their lives. Ten dead bodies have now been taken from the mine and there remains eleven dead men which as yet cannot be recovered.

This information came direct from the scene of the great disaster late Friday afternoon with the word that excitement ran high there and that men were working like demons to reach the unrecovered bodies.

But three of the dead men are Americans, they being Henry Jones and two sons. The names of the other dead could not be secured.

The explosion occurred in the first main entry, where about one hundred men were at work at the time. It is now believed that gas was the cause of the explosion. The remainder of the men in the mine were in another entry farther back in the mine and escaped without injury. The shock warned them and they fled to safety.

The terrific explosion shook the entire community and did much damage to the mine generally. The entire village shook and a shock of horror came over the people, as they well knew that a terrible accident had happened and that is was most evident that many lives were lost.

The entire entry where the explosion occurred fell in and it is [l]ittle short of a myracle [sic] that any of the hundred men there escaped with their lives.


One of the worst mine explosions that ever occurred in the State happened at 5 o'clock Thursday evening at the Century mines, Barbour county. The explosion was caused by dust in a lead of the second south main. The mine is a shaft with a free opening.

The Century mine, which is owned by Shaw Bros. of Baltimore, Md., and is situated on the Belington and Buckhannon branch of the B. & O. Railroad. More than two hundred men are daily employed in the mine and had the explosion been a little earlier the loss of life would have been great, but it occurred at a time when the day's work has been completed and a greater portion of the miners had left for their homes. Those who had remained in the mine were mostly foreigners, which accounts for the loss of life.

The fan which furnished the air for the shaft was partially wrecked, but Superintendent Ward soon repaired it and within an hour after the accident had a relief gang at work relieving the living found and bringing to the surface those who had suffered death. The first trip out brought ten men - five dead and five living. They were found in the main heading near the bottom of the shaft. The living were unable to give any details of the explosion, stating that they were on their way to the surface when the explosion occurred.

The second expedition entered the shaft and explored the main heading, but returned with the information that the main heading was uninjured with the exception of the battices [sic] being blown out. Four more bodies were also found and twenty living, who were making their way to the surface when the explosion came.

When the explosion became known the superintendent, aided by other officials, began an active canvass of the homes, which resulted in the finding of 160 miners who had been in the shaft but had made their exit before the occurrence.

Relief trains from Philippi and Buckhannon bearing physicians and friends were hurried to the scene and the wounded received every care known. Following the explosion wives and children of the killed and injured gathered at the mine, and the scene was very pathetic, many of whom endeavored to enter the opening.

The officials labored all night to rescue the wounded and bring to the surface the dead. The whole town turned out to view the remains of the unfortunate miners and render assistance to caring for the wounded. There was very little sleep last night in Century. Telephone messages today convey the intelligence that those who did escape with their lives are utterly unable to account for the explosion, but are sanguine in their opinions that the dust theory is the right one.

While every effort is being made to ascertain the exact number of the deead [sic] and their names some of the bodies brought to the surface are so badly mutilated that recognition is entirely impossible and it may be that they never will be recognized by friends.

The miners employed in the mines were about equally divided between Americans and foreigners, but as the latter were prone to linger in the mine after completing their day's work this accounts for the loss of life among them.


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