DuBois, PA Berwind-White Mine Explosion, Mar 1896

GREAT MINING DISASTER

Fatal Explosion of Gas at a Shaft Near Dubois, Penn.

KILLED BY THE FOUL FUMES.

Five Colliers Tried to Rescue Their Companions Before Coming Up in the Cage but Were Driven Back by Fire Damp – Twelve of the Dead Left Families – The Mine Was Regarded As Safe.

DUBOIS, Penn., March 24. -- The first great mining disaster is this neighborhood during the fifteen years since mining became an industry of magnitude hereabout occurred at 9:20 o'clock yesterday morning at the Berwind-White shaft, just east of this town. There was an explosion of mine gas that killed thirteen men, all of Dubois. The dead are:
JAMES GRAHAM,
JAMES GRAHAM, JR.,
JOHN MONROE,
GEORGE POSTLETHWAITE,
JESSE POSTLETHWAITE,
HENRY HARVEY,
GEORGE HARVEY,
HARRY SMITH,
LINDSAY E. BRADLEY,
ANDREW MOWAK,
DAVID BELL,
REUBEN NOBLE,
GEORGE AINSLEY.

All of the dead leave families except JAMES GRAHAM, JR.

As soon as the explosion occurred and before the extent of the disaster was known messengers were sent to town to summon all the physicians who could be found. When the news reached Rochester mines, which are three miles from the shaft, the men working there concluded that the services of practical miners would be wanted underground, and about forty at once came out and started for the shaft. Conveyances were found for some and others went as far as they could in the street cars and walked the rest of the way. Superintendent REED, of the Rochester mines, followed them, and as soon as he arrived at the shaft went below with a cageful of his own men.

The air was so bad below that the men who went down in gangs of ten, could not stay long at a time, but the opening seemed to clear up later on and better progress was made. About 1000 persons were at the scene in an hour, including many of the friends of those underground, but as far as possible the report of the accident was kept from the families until the bodies could be recover.

Seventeen men went down the shaft at 7 o'clock in the morning, thirteen went into a heading north of the shaft, and the other four went in the opposite direction. The party of four and the mine boss were the only ones that escaped. The four men were half a mile away from the shaft when, soon after 9 o'clock, they felt what they believed was the shock following an explosion of gas. Immediately afterward Mine Boss HARVEY came running toward them and directed them to hurry to the foot of the shaft. When they came to the shaft they ran into a body of gas, and they knew that there had been an explosion. Their first effort was to put of some brattlees [sic] which had been blown off by the explosion, hoping thus to turn an air current on their comrades in the other parts of the mine, but before they had accomplished much they began to feel the effects of the gas and had to be taken up in the cage.

The shaft is about 390 feet deep, and for some time it has been known that there were traces of gas in the chambers, but precautionary steps were taken and the mine was regarded as safe. The mine is in an early stage of development, otherwise there would have been more men at work at the time of the explosion.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1896-03-27