Miners Victims of Explosion at Coaldale, W. Va.
The Washington Post, District of Columbia
January 5, 1906
Bluefield, W. Va., Jan. 4. -- Twenty-one miners, three white and eighteen colored, were instantly killed this morning by an explosion of fire damp, or mine gas, in the Coaldale Coal Company's mines at Coaldale, W. Va. Only one body has been recovered.
J. W. Larne
W. L. Larne
Lars Aldar, Hungarian
Anthony Bruce, Pole
H. C. Conrad
W. T. Sullivan
Walter G. Winn
Entire Force In Mine
The explosion occurred about 11:30 o'clock when practically the entire force was at work in the mines. The shock of the explosion was felt throughout the miles of tunnels and passages. Before the explosion that shook the mountain had died away, Thomas Williams, himself some distance from the scene, staggered to his feet, and, feeling his way to a telephone, told those on the outside that there had been an explosion, and asked for help.
A great crowd, composed of relatives of the dead miners, quickly gathered at the mouth of the shaft, and rescue parties were quickly organized by the mine officials. But the heavy volume of gas and smoke that filled the mine made the work of rescue slow and dangerous.
Mangled By Explosion
It was not until 4 o'clock that the first body was brought out. It was that of H. C. Conrad, and it was literally torn to pieces by the force of the explosion. The clothing was hanging in shreds. Up to a late hour tonight no other bodies have been recovered.
The explosion took place in that section of the mine known as "Cracker Neck," between the "Smoky" and the "Big Jim" workings, and it is thought to have occurred in room No. 11. The general opinion is that the explosion was caused by gas, but the cause may never be known, as all of those who could shed light on the subject are dead.
Mine Boss Williams, who was almost suffocated, was a considerable distance from the "Cracker Neck," and James Fitch, who was painfully injured by the concussion, was in the main entry, possibly a mile from the scene of the explosion. George Webster, who was also in the main entry, received painful wounds and was almost stifled.
The force of the explosion was terrific. It is reported that at the opening near Maybury, which is in the neighborhood of the "Cracker Neck," sixteen-inch pillars were blown down and out of the drift mouth with such force that trees on the mountain side were torn away by them.
Telephone messages were sent through the Flat Top field, asking the fire bosses to come and aid in the work of rescue.
The Coaldale operation was the first to begin work west of Elkhorn Mountain and employs a large number of men. The coal runs from ten to twelve feet in thickness, and the mine is one of the best, and has been always regarded as one of the safest in the field. It is the property of Cooper Bros., Edward Cooper, of Bramwell, and Thomas H. Cooper, of Salem, being the active managers of this as well as the Mill Creek operations. It is said that the damage to the mine will be very large, but no idea can be gained of the extent until it can be explored.
Nearly all the men killed carried insurance. They were for the most part experienced miners, many of whom were thrifty and owned their little homes.
Note: The official number of dead from this disaster was 22.