At 5:30 p.m. on November 9, an explosion occurred in the Frontenac Shaft No. 2 of the Cherokee and Pittsburg Coal Company. At 4 a.m. (10½ hours), five had been rescued, and at 1 p.m. (19½ hours), four more were brought out alive.
Number of Victims of the Mine Disaster in Kansas Not Yet Known
The New York Times, New York
November 11, 1888
St. Louis, Nov. 10. -- A special to the Post-Dispatch from Pittsburg, Kan., gives details of the accident in Shaft 2 of the Pittsburg and Cherokee, or Santa Fe Mining Company, near that place last night. The company had more orders than it could fill, and in its attempt to keep up it has been running an unusually large force of miners. Yesterday morning 164 men were lowered into the mine. At noon the shots were fired all right, and later the miners descended for afternoon duty.
At 5:30 they were ready to fire their shots again. The first shot had been fired, but before a man could be hoisted, a terrible rumbling noise was heard above, and a black cloud of dirt, slate, and dust shot into the air from the mouth of the shaft, tearing away the tracks upon which the cages are hoisted, and filling the shaft with debris.
The explosion occurred on the east side, and is attributed to the inexperience of some of the new men. Before the men outside could recover their senses, one of the miners appeared at the air shaft nearly suffocated. He was helped out and followed by others until many had escaped -- how many is not known.
There was plenty of help at hand, and those at the top devoted their attention to rescuing their entombed companions. The fan house, only slightly damaged, was first repaired, canvass being tacked over the holes that had to be closed. About 12 o'clock the fanhouse was ready, and fresh air was pumped into the mine, driving back the poisonous gas and averting suffocation.
Attention was then turned to repairing the cribbing so that the cages could be lowered. Men lowered into the shaft by rope and bucket could accomplish nothing. At 2 a.m., the cage was ready to descent and the first rescuing party were lowered into the shaft. Owing to the bad air they could not remain long. On the first return of the cage it contained a number of uninjured but badly frightened men.
The bottom of the shaft was badly damaged, and it was difficult to get at the dead. As found they were piled together at the bottom, while the living and badly wounded were hoisted to the top. At 4 a.m., five had been rescued, and at 1 p.m., four more were brought out alive. At this time the rescuers struck an entry containing 12 more dead, and at 2 p.m., 25 dead and 9 wounded had been found.
Among those who were brought up dead were:
Leon Molle, single
Edward Molie, wife and two children
Joseph Bertine, single
Alexes Supley, wife and two children
Emile Barbier, single
August Barber, wife
Gustave Dufiers, wife and three children
Leon Duege, wife and three children
Joseph Jolita, single
Charles Tocca, single
Baza Bara, single
Tony Blarco, single
Frank Bocht, single
Alex Lecaille, single
Louis, a boy, burned to death
Dan Linn, single
George Koerner, boy, horribly burned
David Tweed, who has a family in Danville, Ohio
A temporary hospital was prepared in a blacksmith's shop nearby, where the most heartrending scenes were witnessed as the mangled and badly-burned men were carried in. David Tweed and W. Elwood died soon after being taken to the hospital.
Among the injured are:
Robert Richards, family at Danville, Ohio
John Moreland, family in England
Thomas Corbett, family in England
The work of rescue was continued, and the latest reports state that 90 bodies have been recovered from the mine, and it is believed there are still 46 entombed. Eight injured men are in the hospital.
There is great difficulty in ascertaining the names of the victims, because there was a large number of men who were not known to the Pittsburg people, and many may never be identified.
Further Particulars of the Appalling Accident
The Lima Daily Democratic Times, Ohio
November 12, 1888
Pittsburg, Kan., Nov. 12. -- Additional particulars of the appalling mine disaster at Frontenac on Friday evening, are about as follows:
Out of a total of 164 who descended into the mine only fourteen have been taken out alive, the greater part of them being terribly burned and cannot live. Thirty-six bodies were found on the north and west sides, where the work of rescue had to be stopped until other parts of the mine could be strengthened, so it could be explored for the remaining victims. It will probably be three or four days before the bodies can be recovered, and, many being burned beyond recognition, a full list of the names will never be learned.
The following is a list of those who are supposed to be still in the mine:
John D. Ibbey
J. W. Crockton
H. F. Harris
P. E. Bent
Up to the present a partial list of the dead can only be given and is as follows:
The state superintendent of mines is at the mine and says he is confident that the disaster was caused by the flame of an imperfect blast igniting the coal dust, which on account of the extreme dryness of the mines is a great source of danger. The miners, however, severely censure the coal company for employing incompetent miners, thus endangering the lives of all.