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Mine Disasters in
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Oglebay-North Coal Company
Burton Mine Explosion

Craigsville, Nicholas County, West Virginia
October 28, 1958
No. Killed - 14



From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Successful Rescue

Four men who miraculously escaped death after being trapped underground were hospitalized.  The first of four men rescued reached the surface on his own feet, leaning on the shoulders of his rescuers, some four hours after the blast.  He was Artie Humphreys of Craigsville.  Three others, two of them horribly burned, were brought out on stretchers.


Explosion Hits Nicholas Mine
Raleigh Register, Beckley, West Virginia
October 28, 1958

Summersville, W. Va. (AP) -- An explosion shook the Oglebay-Norton Co's Burton coal mine near here today, and first reports said as many as 20 men may have been trapped.

The sheriff's office of this Nicholas County seat town said early reports did not specify the number of men at work at the time, but unofficial word was that about 20 had been trapped underground.

The sheriff's office said that figure "sounds about accurate."

The scene of the reported disaster is about 60 miles east of Charleston.

The Oglebay-Norton operation, formerly the Richwood Sewell Coal Co., employs about 125 men.

The operation is located about 11 miles from Richwood and 21 miles from Summersville, although the company's address is listed as Summersville.


13 Bodies Removed from Nicholas Pit
Raleigh Register, Beckley, West Virginia
October 29, 1958

Summersville (AP) -- Rescuers brought out the last of 13 bodies from the blast-shattered workings of a southeastern West Virginia coal mine early today.

Four other men who miraculously escaped death after being trapped underground were hospitalized in Richwood.

Tuesday's blast centered a mile and a half deep in the Burton mine of the Oglebay-Norton Company, a Cleveland-based mining, marketing, ore and shipping concern between here and Richwood.

Fifty-four men were at work underground, but 37 were working on the surface-side of the explosion and scurried to safety without injury.

The Burton operation is a slope mine, bored into the side of Curtin Mountain.  It is located in a barely accessible hollow on the banks of the small Gauley River in Nicholas County.

The first of four men rescued reached the surface on his own feet, leaning on the shoulders of his rescuers, some four hours after the blast.  He was Artie Humphreys of Craigsville.

Three others, two of them horribly burned, were brought out on stretchers.

In critical condition were Paul Davis, Craigsville, and William Tucker, Persinger, less seriously burned was Okey Donaldson, Summersville.

State Mines Director, Crawford L. Wilson, said all the evidence indicated a gas ignition.  What ignited the gas remains to be determined, probably at the inquest.  The mine was listed as gassy.

There was no ensuing fire, a benevolent circumstance which probably spared the lives of the four survivors.

Old time mining men marveled at the escape of Humphreys and the others.  They had taken refuge in passages least affected by the blast.

Marvin Harless of Camden-on-Gauley, one of the 37 who scurried out of the mine soon after yesterday's forenoon explosion, said he was standing about 1,000 feet from the blast center.  It was so terrific he was deafened temporarily in the left ear.

"It was like putting a cork in your ear and pulling it right back," Harless said.

Another member of the group of 37 who were first out of the mine was Herbert Harris of Craigsville.  He said the blast was so forceful that some of his colleagues were bowled off their feet.

Officials last night were unable to estimate the area covered by the explosion.  They said it centered in what is called Room 17 of No. 3 Entry, off the North Main.

The Burton mine employs 113 men on two shifts and produces from 1,200 to 1,400 tons of coal a day.

The tipple is on the opposite side of the Gauley River from the mine mouth, and coal is shipped on the Baltimore & Ohio Railway.

There are no houses or other settlement about the mine operation.  The nearest town is the village of Craigsville, some six miles away by country road.

Craigsville is on W. Va. 20, between Summersville and Richwood.


List Of Dead
Raleigh Register, Beckley, West Virginia
October 29, 1958

Summersville (AP) -- The 13 miners killed in yesterday's mine explosion at the Oglebay-Norton Company left 49 dependents, including widows and children.

The revised list of dead follows:
  • Olan G. Gates, 50, of Craigsville, mine superintendent, survived by widow and two daughters
  • Eddie Stephenson, 34, of Craigsville, assistant mine superintendent, widow and son
  • Harry Fletcher, Camden-on-Gauley, widow, two sons and a daughter
  • Leonard (Pete) Weese, 52, Richwood, widow and one son
  • William Anderson, 29, Camden-on-Gauley, widow, one daughter and two sons
  • Donald Davis, Richwood, widow, one daughter, two sons
  • Ralph Adams, Craigsville, widow, two sons, one daughter
  • Howard Chaffin, Fensick, widow, one son, two daughters
  • Henry Bryant, 34, Summersville, widow, one son, one daughter
  • Gwyn Wyatt, 38, Craigsville, widow, six small sons and three small daughters
  • Kyle Spencer, 34, Craigsville, widow and one adopted daughter
  • Harry Westfall, Craigsville, widow, three sons, two daughters
  • Joe McVey, Craigsville, widow



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