Monongah Mine Disaster

Fairmont Times
December 7, 1907

All Hope Is Gone

425 Are Dead

Most Appalling Disaster In The History Of Coal Mines

Cause Of Explosion May Never Be Known

(By C. E. Smith.)

The lives of more than 400 men and boys snuffed out and the wrecking of two of the finest coal mines in the United States was the extent of the most appalling mine disaster in the history of the country which occurred at Monongah, six miles south of Fairmont, yesterday morning at 10:20 o'clock. This morning hundreds of men are toiling in their efforts to clear the way for removing the bodies of the dead to the mogue [sic].

It is not believed that of the 425 men who went to work yesterday morning inside the ill-fated mines that one of them will live to relate his experience.

Fairmont was not prepared to meet the shock which the news of the explosion caused. Today will dawn with the citizens of both Fairmont and Monongah unable to grasp the awful situation.

Few bodies have been recovered, but down at the foot of No. 6 slope the mangled remains of 65 men lay side by side. They will be taken out at daylight.

The mines wrecked are the Nos. 6 and 8, and the cause of the explosion, which was felt for may miles around, will probably never be known. An official investigation by the coroner will likely begin in this city on Monday.

Today Chief Mine Inspector J. W. Paul, of Charleston, will arrive upon the scene.

This morning President C. W. Watson is personally directing the operations with General Manager Malone. Aiding them in every way are President Murray, General Manager Fitzgerald and other high officials of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, whose special train was rushed to the scene of the explosion last night.

In the morgue, which was established in the new Monongah National Bank building, are six dead bodies and Undertakers Cunningham, Musgrave and Jones and a number of assistants are there to care for the army of dead.

A dozen physicians stood about the opening of the two mines all day, but their services were but slightly needed. Those who went to their work undreaming of the calamity awaiting them have no need for physicians. When the shock came they died suddenly. It is not believed there was any suffering in that pit of horror. The end came in an instant and out of the four hundred few knew what had happened. Some men died without changing their positions. One was seated upon a bench in the shanty at the foot of No. 6 slope. His dead body was found sitting upright in the same attitude. To others the death was more horrible. One man was blown almost to pieces, but in the pocket of his vest his watch was still ticking. Four men near an air hole in No. 8 did not hear the explosion, but feeling the supply of oxygen giving out rushed toward the open air. The body of one was found lying face downward in a pool of water, and seated astride his back was the senseless body of his brother. He was carried tenderly out, but succumbed before the hospital was reached.

All day long frantic women grouped about the opening of the mines and their shrieks of agony were enough to move the hardest heart to pity. One woman, an Italian, whose husband, son and brother were among the doomed, tore out her hair and with her nails cut gashes in her face. Friends tried to quiet her, but in vain, and she was finally carried home.

All day long until darkness set in these grief stricken mothers, wives, sisters, sweethearts waited and watched and wept. Some prayed, some sung and some in the very heighth [sic] of their sorrow became hysterical and laughed.

One Polish woman broke through the guards and started to rush down the No. 8 slope. It took a strong man to carry her back.

Such scenes were common all day and yet Monongah scarce realized what had befallen her.

Thursday was a holiday and the mines were closed, but yesterday morning the men wishing to regain the time lost, started to work with a will. Shortly after the clock struck 10 a trip of loaded cars broke loose on the No. 6 slope. They rushed back down to the bottom and piled up. Almost at that instant there came an awful explosion. It shook the very earth and anxious women rushed from their homes little dreaming what had occurred.

The worst of the explosion occurred in the No. 8 mine and so great was its force that the concrete roof of the engine house was blown in fragments and one piece, weighing many hundreds of pounds, was blown onto the hill side across the river 500 years away. Both boiler house and fan and none of those who worked about these properties escaped. Two of the unfortunates are in the Miners' hospital and anther one is dead. A large section of the fan is imbedded in the mud on the opposite bank of the river and scattered for a half mile around are fragments of the outside equipment. A great cloud of dust was blown from the mine and this covered the waters of the rivers with a thick coating.

The news of the disaster spread quickly and in less than one hour a special trolley car bearing officials of the company had arrived from this city.

A general call was then issued for physicians and thirty minutes later a car bearing the doctors, other officials and a few newspaper men was speeding to the scene. It did not take long to determine that it would require hours of hard labor [t]o restore conditions so that an entrance to the mine could be made.

A temporary fan was installed at No. 8 and was put in operation by the early afternoon. The fan at No. 6 was not greatly damaged and it was started in a short time. Material was then gotten and finally squads of men were sent into the mine to follow the air and brattice up [t]he openings. It required brave men to face the lurking dangers and enter the pits of the mines, but scores volunteered and there were more present than were needed. The first parties could make but little headway and some of the heroes were carried out half senseless from breathing the foul air.

Later however better progress was made and by midnight the main ways were almost cleared. The party which came from the mine shortly before 12 o'clock had reached a distance of nearly 2,000 feet. The wreckage at the foot of No. 6 slope had been cleared away and hte [sic] mine was bratticed back as far as the F-cross section.


West Virginia Archives and History