Skip to Content

Palos, AL No 3 Coal Mine Explosion, May 1910


Nearly Two Hundred at Work and All Are Believed to Be Dead – Three Bodies Found.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 5. - Forty-five white men and between 130 and 140 negroes are entombed in No. 3 coal mine at Palos tonight as the result of a terrific explosion occurring this morning and it is believed all are dead. Palos is forty miles west of Birmingham and the mines are owned by the Palos Coal and Coke company of this city. Three bodies were found early tonight but it is expected that few of those remaining in the mine can be recovered before morning. The flames resulting from the explosion shot into the air from the slope for a distance of 200 feet and the shock was felt for miles. Timbers from the slope were hurled several hundred feet from its mouth and rocks from the roof of the slope caved in and made access to the mouth very difficult. The fan machinery was badly damaged but air is being pumped into the mine tonight in hopes that some of the men are still alive.

Residents began to do what they could to relieve the men but the relief train arrived in Palos from Birmingham shortly after 4 o'clock with eight physicians and surgeons, four undertakers, and a number of special helpers.

The first rescuers who went into the mine after the explosion were overcome by firedamp and had to be carried out. Mr. Rutledge was among the first to enter and after working his way 1,400 feet down the slope found the second right entry caved in. The bodies recovered tonight were in the main slope.

WASHINGTON, May 5. - Geological Survey Mine Rescue Experts J. J. Rutledge and George F. Rice, who were in Birmingham investigating the Mulga disaster, have been instructed to proceed with their rescue equipment to the Palos mine.

When member of congress heard of the disaster then thoughts turned at once to the measure now in conference for the creation of a bureau of mines in the interior department.

Senator Scott, who had charge of the bill in the senate immediately took steps to get the conferees together for the adjustment of the differences between the senate and the house. The bill will become a law as soon as the conference report is adopted and the act is signed by the president.

PALOS, Ala., May 5 - Eleven bodies have been found in mine No. 3 of the Palos Coal and Coke company late tonight. Rescue parties have reached the 1,400 foot level and are working steadily toward the 2,300 foot level where the majority of the miners were working at the time of explosion.

All of the bodies found are horribly mangled and burned, some being beyond recognition. The head of an unknown white man was found several feet away from his body.

The work of bringing the bodies to the surface will not begin until tomorrow.

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE 6 May 1910


Among those identified was C. H. Stansberry, assistant mine foreman. Among the dead in the mine is said to be H. A. McARDLE, whose brother is president of the amalgamated association of tin and steel-workers in Pennsylvania.

James Liddell, one of the best known miners in the Birmingham district and a former legislator, was overcome by afterdamp while aiding in the work of rescue. His condition was serious for a time, but when he recovered he again took charge of one of the rescue crews.

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE 7 May 1910



Smoke in Palos Mines Caused Considerable Delay.

PALOS, Ala., May 7. - The discovery of a small fire in No. 4 right entry at the Palos mines, where Thursday's disastrous explosion occurred, seriously hampered the rescue work today. When the fire was discovered all miners were ordered out of the mine. The blaze was small but much smoke delayed for hours the rescue work.

While only thirty-five bodies have been brought up, the men are still working with vigor tonight. The Red Cross relief fund is still growing and the response in Birmingham has been remarkably spontaneous and substantial. Practically all the dead miners leave families.

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE 8 May 1910



Decomposed Bodies Taken From Workings at Palos, Ala.

PALOS, Ala., May 8. - The bodies taken today from the Palos mine where last Thursday's explosion occurred, were so decomposed that it was almost impossible to handle them. Disinfectants are being shipped in. In a number of cases it was impossible to get bodies into the coffins provided. The funerals in the little mining camp began today. A special plot of ground was set aside on the opposite side of the hill from the mouth of the slope and here men were engaged all day digging graves while the mourners carried their loved ones and laid them to their last rest.

The rescuers have not reached the lowest part of the slope and have been working their way back examining headings on the other side. Eight of ten bodies were found in one little group. Last night about midnight three bodies were lying close together with every indication that they had not been killed by the explosion but had died of suffocation. One of the men had taken off his coat and wrapped it around his head as if to keep out the gar. Another was lying face downward with his arms covering his face. Another was holding a cloth of some kind over his face.

At 10 o'clock tonight sixty-seven bodies had been recovered from the mine and a number of others had been located.

State Mine Inspector Hillhouse said at midnight that he expected to have everybody out of the mine by tomorrow noon. The rescuers are working constantly and bodies are now being brought up every few minutes. The work is expected to proceed very rapidly from now on unless there are further accidents to delay the rescuers.

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE 9 May 1910


James Gousby, a mail carrier, was caught by the explosion thirty feet from the mouth of the slope, and his body was hurled into the Warrior river.

The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY 6 May 1910


Jenni Lanham

I would like to get in touch with Jennie Lanham, who transcribed this article and see if she is related in any way to me and my family, since I am doing Lanham Family Genealogy.
Thanks Linda Lanham Horne.

Palos Coal Mine explosion

Four of the white miners killed in the Palos Coal Mine explosion on May 5, 1910 were my grandfather, James Clifton Pennington age 27 ; great-grandfather, James Pennington age 65, and great-uncles, Albert Pennington age 16 and Clarence Pennington, age 14 .



Palos Coal Mine Explosion

James Pennington (age 65) is my great great grandfather, too! Would love to contact you and compare research notes.


When Annie, Mary, Mom and I visited this small cemetary we were relieved to find that each man was buried separately. Thank you to Uncle Penny who placed fine markers beneath the old lovely tree where they were laid to rest.

Palos Coal Mine Explosion

Well I am also a Great Great Granddaughter of James Pennington and would like to have contact with both of you.

Palais Mine Explosion

Are you related to the late Nancy Beard Taylor?

Palos Mine Explosion and bodies

I grew up in what I called a ghost mining town: Palos, Alabama on the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior Riuver. My family leased the old mining superintendent's house for $70.00 per year. I found an overgrown graveyard and wrote a fictional story about it. It was described to me as a "Negro graveyard." When I read about the black and white minera buried in that #3 mine in 1910, this makes sense to me. I have NO IDEA where the mine entrance was. The mines I knew as a child were in Bessie (Maben), AL, which was then a deep mine. In the late 1980's and till today, Bessie was turned from a mining town into a "hard hat" mountain removal area. When I lived in Palos, there were ruins of a "commissary" and house for the mine doctor, as well as a general store, abandoned dry goods store (Sign across two windows read "Ladies Ready to Wear:" "Men's Clothing," which I made into a joke. I have been reading this description with aching grief to learn of this about Palos. My family as well as almost every family I knew of in this area of Alabama had lost members "to the mines."
When I see what mountain-top removal has done to my area of Alabama, I am filled with hate. Reading about Massey Energy's history and the miners abandoned in the recent past in mines when Massey has had the ability and nerve to remove mountain tops makes me grieve for those families whose loved ones are buried in that cold, cold ground by those cold, cold "owners."

Barry, please contact me. Elizabeth Sulzby, Ann Arbor, MI. or I am also on Facebook as Elizabeth Sulzby.

Palos Disaster

I think that the postman's last name was Goulsby. My grandfather had just gotten off his shift not long before the explosion (William Setchel), and took over the postmaster's position after the blast.

Paloes mine exsplosion

I am also doing research on this tragedy. I would like more personal accounts of the incident. Can someone help me?

article | by Dr. Radut