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Diamond Mine Disaster Historical Marker
Wilmington Coal, Mining and Manufacturing Company
Diamond Mine Inundation

Braidwood, Illinois
February 16, 1883
No. Killed - 69



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A Mine Inundated
The Ticonderoga Sentinel, New York
March 2, 1883

The town of Braidwood, Ill., has been filled with laminations owing to a terrible disaster which resulted in the death of seventy-four persons, who were overwhelmed by a landslide, a number of those killed leaving large families.  The tragedy occurred in the No. 2 shaft of the Wilmington Coal, Mining and Manufacturing Company, known as the Diamond Company, and situated three and a half miles northwest of Braidwood.

The little village of Diamond was a scene of desolation calculated to wring the hearts of persons most hardened to scenes of misery.  Sixty-eight men and six boys lay dead in the mine, and it may be weeks before even the melancholy satisfaction of recovering their bodies is recorded.  Diamond is devoted to mining, and this blow carries death into a hundred families.  In several instances all the male members of a family were swept away.

A section of prairie land forty by ninety feet, over which the floods had extended until the water stood three or four feet deep, suddenly caved, the result being the instantaneous flooding of the mine in which three hundred men and boys were at work.  Inside of half an hour the water had reached all parts of the works.

In opening this mine, a shaft seventy-five feet had been sunk into the earth.  At right angles to this two main galleries were run nearly parallel with the surface of the earth and about seventy-five feet below it.  From these main galleries narrow spurs of gangways are dug out in various directions.  The spurs rise and fall with the ledge of coal, sometimes rising to within twelve or fifteen feet of the surface.  It was at such a point, near the top, where the break occurred.

While lying on their backs picking away at the coal above the earth must have fallen upon the miners.  Through the opening thus made the water poured in, filling one gangway after another, and cutting off escape to the central shaft.  There was little time to give an alarm, for soon after the break occurred every avenue of escape was cut off.  The galleries were low and narrow, and only by painfully slow crawling could the victims escape.

No noise accompanied the rising of the water, and the first indication of their danger, to many of the miners, was a thrilling sensation of cold water trickling along the pathway in which they lay at work.  There was an air shaft offering an additional avenue of escape, of which many availed themselves, but the water came in too rapidly for all to reach it.

The news of the accident soon spread, and a great crowd gathered about the mouth of the pit where the workmen were fishing out the almost exhausted and nearly drowned men who were alive at the bottom of the shaft.  Wives and mothers knelt on the ground and prayed fervently for the safety of their loved ones, and as the truth of the calamity appeared the grief of the survivors was painful to be heard.

One poor woman bent over the shaft as her husband climbed up the ladder with the dead body of his son in his arms.  She extended her hand to receive them, but was disappointed and doomed to greater grief, for the man, worn out by the desperate struggle for life and the body of his son, fell back into the pit and was killed.  Another woman, whose husband and three sons were buried, lost her reason.

A large division of miners and several teams were at once set at work to put a dam around the hole that was admitting the water to the mine to prevent it from draining the miles of flooded prairie that surrounded the works.  Officers of the company examined the vent and found that the earth had caved in nearly in the same spot that had on previous occasions yielded to the weight of water that rested upon it.  The destitute and distracted families were next looked up, and everything possible was done to mitigate the awful effects of the calamity, falling as it did upon them without a moment's notice.


The Braidwood Horror

Braidwood, Ill., February 10.- The tragedy of Saturday was unique as it was devastating.  A section of prairie land, forty by ninety feet, over which the floods had extended until the water stood three or four feet deep, suddenly caved in, the result being the instantaneous flooding of a mine in which 300 men and boys were at work.  Inside of half an hour the water had extended to all parts of the workings.  Seventy-four human beings were choked to death in the dim recesses of the mine.

The following is the story of John Huber, an eyewitness of the whole affair, and a man who was in the mine at the time of the accident:
I was working in one of the west sections of the main corridor, and had just got my car ready for transfer when I heard a voice, which sounded weak at first, saying: "Look out!  The water is coming."  For a few minutes I did not comprehend the meaning of the language used, and so went back to block up the coal, when I heard the same warning again and again, and a small stream of water running down the center of the track.  The truth at once flushed upon me that I was in danger, and that the water was coming from some unknown locality.  I rushed as fast as the nature of the passage would allow to where I thought my two sons were at work, but found that they had gone.  I then yelled at the top of my voice to the men near me, and made as fast as I could for the air-shaft, where I knew there was a ladder, and that I could get out.  By this time the water was up to my armpits, and I had a hard time to get up the shaft, so exhausted was I from the run I had made in the stooping position.  When I got home, Great God!  What did I see?  There, upon her bed, lay my wife, tearing her hair and wailing in almost a crazy condition.  "Oh, John," she said, "Where are the boys?"  The truth then flashed upon me that perhaps they were dead.  I went back as fast as I could, and found that my horrible anticipations were only too true, and that the boys had not been seen since entering the shaft in the morning.
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It is said by the mine inspector that the work of pumping the water out will require at least two days, and until that time the anxious people who have been affected by this terrible calamity will be compelled to wait for a view of their dead friends or relatives.

The grocery of the company will be open to those who are in need.  The principal thought that is found is that the company is not willing to pay the force of men that are kept busy night and day working on the dam, It is alleged the company is not doing what it should in the matter, but from a careful examination it would appear that the people have been receiving a great deal of consideration from the corporation and that they have no cause to complain.


The Diamond Mine Horror

Braidwood, March 26.--The business houses on Main street in Braidwood are appropriately draped in mourning.  The scene in the morgue are most melancholy.  A man came in, hastily scanning the faces of the dead.  He at last stopped beside one, claiming it as a brother.  At the same time a woman who had been looking for the body of a lost one, claimed that the same corpse was that of her husband.

A dispute arose, when the woman said she could tell if she was right when the boots were removed, as her husband, upon the fatal morning, finding one of his socks wet, had taken one of his wifeís.  The boots were removed and disclosed one manís sock and one womanís stocking.  By such means only are bodies identified.

The funeral train, consisting of two coaches, and two flat cars, draped in mourning, stood on the track near the mine, ready for its next load of victims during the day.  About a foot of water still remains, and although the pumps are steadily at work the water seems not to lower much.  Immense piles of soapstone, which have fallen from the roof, stop up the passages in some places, so that it is necessary to crawl on the hands and knees to get through.

Along the route are relics of the dead-here a dinner pail or a canteen coated with mold, there a mildewed coat or mittens and bodies of mules are scattered along with the debris.  The bodies were found in all positions.  One was found on top of the supporting timbers of the roof.  It will take several months to clear the mine of the tons of rocks and dirt.

A shift of men was set to work to night at the mouth of the shaft to clear the debris away so that a car can be run on the tracks and utilized to take away the rubbish.  Many victims doubtless lie beneath these masses of debris.  It is stated that no more bodies will be taken out before tomorrow night.  As the bodies were brought out today they were viewed by the coroner and his jury.  No time has yet been set for the formal inquest and the rendering of a verdict.  The mine officials state that only twenty-two bodies have been recovered so far.  The previous report that twenty-six were taken out seems to be false.

Diamond Mine List of Victims

John Anderson, 28
John Atkins, 24
Samuel Atkins, 31
A. Babington, 28
John Boyd, 33
John Brookman, 50
Frank Butskousky, 21
George Butskousky, 32
James Carroll, 33
Carl Chillers, 30
Thomas Costigan, 23
John Cullock, 48
August Damm, 43
Ernest Damm, 35
A. Dembrosky, 17
John Dembrosky, 41
Henry Eadie, 23
John French, 29
Alex Fulton, 33
Joseph Gootes, 24
D. Groter, 38
August Haake, 30
Robert Harper, 30
Andrew Holton
Chris Huber, 16
John Huber, 43
Lewis Huber, 15
John Johnson, 44
Fritz Kae, 32
A. Kalenburg, 30
Henry Klessner, 22
William Klessner, 26
Frank Klass, 50
Jacob Lenz, 30
George Mathey
Joseph Mattern, Sr., 54
Joseph Mattern, Jr., 26
Frank Matts, 53
Frank Murray, 24
Dan McBride, 29
William McCauley, 28
A. McQuiston, Sr., 46
A. McQuiston, Jr., 19
Robt. McQuiston, 23
Wm. McQuiston, 14
Frank Motto
John Neil, 34
Hugh Nesbit, 16
Martin Neyski, 23
Martin O'Chenick, 32
Frank Ocups
Alex Orr, 31
Issac Pearson, 23
James Pearson, 19
John Pearson, 13
John Polenkas, 28
R. Rabart
August Rambart, 32
Hugh Ramsey, 23
Mat Redmond, 13
P. C. Redmond, 42
Thomas Rodgers, 32
Joseph Rysseek
Blazius Schatzel, 34
William Scholtz, 44
William Sekora, 30
John Smith, 23
Joseph Smith, 26
Adam Stewart, 21
Robert Stewart, 14
Simon Stumps, 33
L. Sullivan, 25
Herman Unger, 31
P. H. Wall, 25



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