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Mine Disasters in
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Algoma Coal and Coke Company
Big Four Mine Explosion

Algoma, West Virginia
September 15, 1902
No. Killed - 17



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Gas Explosion in West Virginia Mine Imprisons 17 Workmen
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Indiana
September 16, 1902

North Fork, W. Va., Sept. 15. -- A gas and powder explosion occurred in the Big Four mine of the Algoma Coal and Coke Company here this morning about 8 o'clock, as the result of which James Lester, and engineer, John Recckle, a Hungarian miner, and 15 colored miners are known to be imprisoned in the mine.  There is hardly one chance for the men to be recovered alive.  The gas and smoke is so thick that all rescuing parties have been driven back.

H. F. Frankenfeld, a mine boss, and Geo. Gaspie, a Hungarian miner, succeeded in crawling over fallen coal and slate after the explosion to the lights of the rescuing party and were taken out alive although burned and nearly suffocated by the gas and smoke inhaled.

The explosion is said to have been caused by an accumulation of gas catching on fire from the lamp of a miner who was going to work, and this in turn fired six kegs of blasting powder that had been stored back of the mine.  The explosion knocked down all of the brattices for a mile back toward the mine entrance, thus cutting out all of the air from the men imprisoned behind the debris.

There had been a small gas escape in the mine Sunday last and Mine Superintendent A. J. Stuart had personally cautioned the men who worked in the mine not to attempt to work again until the air had been tested by a safety lamp.

It is now learned that the coal is burning and there is no hope of extinguishing the flames until a new air passage can be built to the point of the explosion.  There is a large force of men at work and will make a second attempt to reach the imprisoned men this evening.

The last one of the seventeen miners killed by the explosion of the Algoma mine this morning was brought out of the mine at 11 o'clock tonight.


Bluefield, W. Va., Sept. 15. -- 11:30 p.m. -- A telephone message just received from Algoma says eleven bodies have been recovered from the mines and that six more bodies are to be taken out.  So far all but one of those recovered are colored miners.



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