united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Jermyn No. 1 Mine Fire
September 28, 1897
No. Killed – 5
Five Die Fighting Mine Fire
Lebanon Daily News, Pennsylvania
September 29, 1897
Scranton, Pa., Sept. 29. -- Five men yesterday afternoon met a horrible death from "blackdamp" after the accumulation of fire in the Jermyn No. 1 mine, near Rendham.
The dead are:
Isaac Watkins, fire boss, 55 years old, leaves a wife and one child, Rendham
William Tomkins, 22 years old, single, boarded with Watkins
Joseph Smith, 35 years old, wife and one child, Mudtown
John Gallagher, 42 years old, wife and seven children, Minooka
William Franklin, 26, years old, wife, Rendham
Since last Tuesday the fire had been raging in the mine. The men who lost their lives represented one "shift." They went on duty at 3 o'clock, and nobody knew of their death until the discovery of the lifeless bodies. Not a man in the party survived to tell the story. In the case of each body the head pointed toward the shaft, indicating that they had groped and struggled toward the shaft for fresher air while suffocation was overtaking them.
When the catastrophe was discovered word was passed to the surface, and the excitement was intense. Gangs of men were lowered on the mine carriage, and at 6:30 last evening all the bodies excepting that of the fire boss had been brought one by one to the surface. The scene at the head of the shaft was tragic for a time, while wives, mothers and children in frenzy fought for a sight of the bodies in the possibility of learning that more than the actual number had lost their lives.
The colliery employed about 200 men. The mine consists of three veins. On Tuesday of last week a gang of ignorant Hungarian miners set off a body of gas in the "Digwoods" counter. Nobody was injured by the explosion. The burst of flame ignited the coal in the counter, and an attempt to extinguish the flames was begun. The presence of the deadly blackdamp was not suspected, and no fear of a widespread blaze until Monday.
The spread of the flames was then found to be beyond the efforts to subdue them by ordinary process, and the order was given to close the mine. A systematic "fire fight" was started, and three eight hour shifts were set at work. The fatal mission of the shift which entered the mine at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon was not known until the supply party found the first body.