Tamaqua, PA Mine Accident, Feb 1858

Melancholy Accident.

By a Gazette-Extra, from Tamaqua, says the Pittston Gazette, we learn the particulars of a melancholy accident, which occurred there last week, through which two esteemed citizens, MR. J. EDWARD BARNES, the general Superintendent of the Little Schuyl. Nav. R. R. & Coal Co., and MR. DUNCAN WIER, their Mining Agent, lost their lives.
The account of this accident is thus given:

The fire originated by some of them kindling a fire against the coal, whilst so engaged, and leaving it to progress at its leisure. Efforts had been made to extinguish the fire, and it was thought it had been accomplished, but the return of winter and strong winds, carried a draft through the large vacant places where the coal had been mined and removed thus partially igniting the fire again. The Company desiring to cut off the fire, and thus prevent its further spread, it became necessary for their Mining Agent to make some explorations in order to determine the proper point to commence operations. MR. BARNES being willing, at all times, to share the dangers of his subordinates, determined to accompany MR. WIER in his examination.

Having donned their mining dress, they left the office in Tamaqua, on Monday, February 15th, 1858, about 3 o'clock, p. m. They proceeded to Slope No. 4, descended the ladder about one hundred and sixty yards, and between 4 and 5 o'clock, entered the fatal gangway, traveling westwardly. After passing along about 400 yards, they encountered, what miners term, a brattis. This is an airtight partition, erected in this case for the purpose of confining the gas injected into the mines, when the effort was made to extinguish the fire. They passed through the brattis – passed along about 200 yards further, and found a second one. They passed through the second brattis, but how far they travelled[sic] will never be known, but probably no great distance. About 15 yards East of the second brattis, a stream of gas from the vast fire above, descends through the brattis, and moves westwardly, in the same direction they were going. Passing with the current, and it being likely not very strong at the time, they could not notice their extreme danger. But soon observing the fatal symptoms, they turned to retrace their steps and escape. They were, no doubt, soon overpowered -- the force of the current and their own exertions in the opposite direction, every moment filling their lungs with the fatal gas – they dropped, in the full glow of life, into the arms of almost instant death. MR. BARNES lay on his face, about 20 yards within the brattis. MR. WIER had made an effort to escape – probably ran against the brattis, and fell also on his face, so near the brattis that one could reach through and grasp his feet.
MR. BARNES was 30 to 40 years of age, and leaves a widow and three fine little boys to mourn his loss. He began life young, in the office of the Lehigh Company at Mauch Chunk serving them faithfully many years. He was engaged on the Delaware and Hudson Canal, under a contract for the transportation of coal. After a short residence in New York City, and we think in Amboy, he came in 1854, to Tamaqua, to assume the responsible position which he so worthily filled to the hour of his death. He was ever ready to engage in anything for the benefit of his fellow men; and had he been spared, would have met his fellow citizens, on the very evening of his desease[sic], to discuss a plan of his own suggestion, for the relief of the poor of our Borough. His loss will be deeply felt by many an aching heart.

MR. WIER was about ten years the senior of MR. BARNES, leaves a widow and six children, one of whom is married. He was a native of Scotland, but has been in this country many years. The whole of his useful life was spent in mining operations, and he was esteemed a prudent competent man. He had held the position he filled at the time of his death about five years.

The Agitator Pennsylvania 1858-03-04