Cherry, IL Coal Mine Disaster, Nov 1909
HUNDREDS OF COAL MINERS MEET DEATH.
MILWAUKEE RAILROAD COMPANY MINE AT CHERRY, ILLINOIS, VISITED BY EXPLOSION AND FIRE, CAUSING DISASTER.
RESCUERS BURN IN CAGE.
DISTRACTED WOMEN AND CHILDREN RELATIVES OF VICTIMS WEAP AND PRAY ABOUT MOUTH OF SHAFT.
By United Press.
Spring Valley, Ill., Nov. 13. -- The most appalling mining disaster in the history of Illinois and one of the most disastrous in the history of the United States took place this afternoon when the lives of several hundred miners were snuffed out in a fire in a second vein of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad coal mine at Cherry, seventy-seven miles from here.
With the fire still raging at midnight, 500 feet in the depths of the mine, the shafts of which have been sealed, it was impossible to estimate accurately the number of men who perished.
Whether 200 or 473 men perished was not certain at midnight. At that hour the officials of the railroad company issued a statement that between 200 and 250 miners were still in the mine -- presumably dead, while persons who have been constantly at the mouth of the shaft since the disaster, declare the time keepers records indicate that 473 have perished.
The railroad officials insist that of the 485 men who went into the shaft this morning about 200 have been taken out alive. Late reports from Cherry, however, deny this assertion and say that of the men who went into the mine in the morning only twenty-four are now on the surface and living.
The heroes of the disaster are twelve rescuers headed by IKE LEWIS, a Cherry storekeeper and mine foremen BUNDY and DONNELLY. These men went into the shaft in an effort to aid the imprisoned men and a few moments after were taken out dead. Their bodies were burned almost beyond the semblance of human beings and were terribly contorted by the intense heat.
President A. J. EARLING and General Manager BUSH of the Milwaukee railroad accompanied by W. W. TAYLOR, general manager of the mine, arrived here tonight and took personal charge of the situation.
Many Were Saved.
The first that was known of it was when there was a deafening explosion and a column of fire and smoke shot out of the mine shaft. The cage was instantly lowered and a moment later it was pulled up packed full of miners who staggered to the ground as it reached the surface and gasped out the story of the scenes of horror they had witnessed below.
Before they could tell their story the cage was sent down again and again, each time bringing up its burden of blackened and weakened men. Finally there was no signal from below to draw up the cage and when it came up it was empty.
Then the survivors told the story while physicians attended them. They said all the men were at work at 3 o'clock when there was a terrific report and almost in an instant the whole mine was filled with flames. They seemed to go everywhere, and it was impossible to escape from their horrible heat, they said. There was a wild dash for the shaft and when the cage came down the living men fought each other to clamber in. All of them were blackened and burned with coal dust and the bodies of some of them were terribly burned.
Rescuers Burned Alive.
Volunteers were called for to attempt to rescue the entombed men.
ART LEWIS, of Ladd, Ill., was the first to respond and within a minute eleven other men stood at his side. They were JAMES Y. EARLEY, Spring Valley; ALEXANDER STRANGBERG, Spring Valley; JAMES JAMIESON, Cherry, miner; HARRY STEWART, Cherry, miner; ROBERT CLARK, Cherry, miner, and DONNELLY, mine foreman.
They got into the cage and it was shot down into the mine. The men above waited for a few minutes -- long enough to hear from the party -- and when no signal was received the cage was drawn up again. The twelve rescuers were all there -- dead. Their faces were burned almost beyond recognition and the trunks were still smoking hot when the cage reached the surface.
Later tonight reports from Cherry declare hope of taking any of the imprisoned miners out alive have been abandoned and the mine has been sealed up. It is not believed possible any of the entombed men can have escaped for according to the survivors the flames reached to the innermost recesses.
The mine is the property of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad.