Three badly injured miners: Anthony Froyne; fire boss John Allen; and Robert W. Roberts were rescued from the Jersey No. 8 mine of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company following a cave-in and explosion. Their entrapment ranged from 9 to 14 hours. Sadly, all three men died from their extensive injuries after their rescue. Ironically, it was asserted that John Allen’s lamp caused the explosion. Had he not done so, all could have been rescued alive, as there was a current of air going through the chamber where the men had taken refuge, after the cave-in had taken place.
Aspen Weekly Times, Colorado
May 17, 1890
Wilkes-Barre, Pa., May 15. --- Information has just reached here from Ashley that an extensive cave-in occurred at noon in a mine operated by the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company. It is rumored 26 miners are entombed beyond the cave and have no way of escape. Many houses in the vicinity are reported toppling.
The cave-in occurred today near Ashley in the mine operated by the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company. Twenty-five men are entombed. The scene of the disaster is one of intense excitement. The relatives of the imprisoned miners and thousands of others have gathered upon the spot, discussing the best methods of affecting a rescue.
Things are in such a chaotic condition that the result is by no means certain. Many believe the rescue will be well nigh impossible, while others, as they watch the continual movement of the surface and the extensive workings of the mines, shake their heads in grave doubt.
The present cave immediately adjoins the mine in which the extensive cave occurred twelve years ago, imprisoning ten men for over a week. These were finally rescued alive. The present cave extends over half a mile square and includes a portion of a thickly settled village called "Maffetts Patch."
A large number of houses have gone down with the surface, but few are badly damaged.
Little Hope for the Entombed
LATER --- It is now known that there were 27 miners entombed in the mine. The cave occurred at 9 o'clock this morning in No. 6 colliery, covering an area of more than ten acres. The surface, almost as far as the eye can reach, was seamed and cracked with long circular fissures, some of which were over two feet wide. Thousands rushed to the scene of the disaster and the lamentations of wives and little ones were heartrending. Rescuing parties were immediately organized and gang after gang relieved one another until 5 o'clock when the news was passed that they had succeeded in breaking through the chambers beneath the cave.
About half past six the charred and blackened form of Anthony Froyne was hoisted to the surface. He was still alive but his injuries are considered fatal. Old miners said the fact that Froyne being so badly hurt lent very little hope for the safety of his companions.
Wreck and ruin was wrought on the surface of the earth, as well as in the fatal pit. Nearly a score of houses were shattered and destroyed and families were compelled to flee for their lives.
Up to 11 o'clock two men had been taken out besides Froyne, fire boss John Allen and Robert W. Roberts; both are alive but terribly injured. It is asserted that Allen’s lamp caused the explosion.
At midnight rescuing parties were driven out of the gangway. The place is full of blackdamp, and further approach in the direction of the victims is impossible even with safety lamps. Vigorous efforts are now being made to change the air current so as to drive the gas from where the victims are supposed to be.
The scenes around the mouth of the pit are sorrowful and impressive. The space in the immediate vicinity of the opening is lighted with locomotive headlights turned into the yawning cavern where details of miners have been laboring. Outside of this small circle all was darkness. Hundreds of men, women and children are arrayed in a semicircle around the opening. The men entombed are nearly all married and have large families dependent upon them. The people crowd close to the opening and peer into the darkness of the fatal depth, while the cries of women and little ones make the heart sick with pity.
Wilkes-Barre, Pa., May 16. --- 10 A. M. -- Exploring parties have penetrated the mine at Ashley. They find 16 dead, six still missing. It is more than probable that they too are dead.
Fire boss Allen was rescued from the mine last night and died this morning.
The scenes around the mouth of the pit, as the charred and unrecognizable bodies are brought up, are most heartrending. Women are rushing to the mouth of the pit wringing their hands and crying as they try to recognize the remains brought up, one at a time, on stretchers.
At 1 o'clock, all except three of those in the mine at the time of the cave-in were brought out. The body of Michael Henry is known to be under an immense pile of debris and may not be found for several days.
John Allen, assistant boss, died this morning in great agony. Anthony Frayne and Robert W. Roberts, the men rescued last night, are in a critical condition.
The men lost their lives through the negligence of assistant mine boss Allen, who insisted on relighting his lamp in the presence of large volumes of gas. Had he not done so, those now dead, could all have been rescued alive, as there was a current of air going through the chamber where the men had taken refuge, after the cave-in had taken place.
The three men rescued last night separated from the others and advised them to follow, but they refused. They then walked along the gangway on their way out by the abandoned opening through which the rescuing party entered. When about 250 feet from the surface Allen's naked lamp set fire to the gas and an explosion occurred. In the meantime, others who refused to follow were waiting at a distance of 500 feet still further in the mine for the rescuing party to enter by the slope and rescue them by digging away the debris of the fall. It is presumed they were overcome by the after-damp of the explosion and rendered unconscious.
At 8 o'clock this evening operations at the mine were abandoned. There are yet six men in the fatal chamber. The search will be resumed tomorrow.
Decatur Daily Republican, Decatur, Illinois
May 16, 1890
The official list of those imprisoned is as follows:
Ellis D. Williams, aged sixty, married, six children: resides at Hanover Township
Harry Parry, aged fifty, married, five children, resides at Newport Township
Owen Parry, his son, aged seventeen
Michael Henry, aged forty-two, two sons; residence, Ashley
Thomas C. Davis, aged sixty, married, eight children; residence, Ashley
John Scally, aged twenty, the support of a widowed mother; residence, Ashley
Michael Scally, brother of John, age twenty-seven, residence, Ashley
Daniel Sullivan, aged forty-five, married, seven children, one an invalid: resides in Wilkes-Barre
John Hanson, aged twenty-five, single; residence, Moffets Patch
John Allen, assistant mine boss, aged thirty-five, married, three children, residence Ashley; taken out seriously burned
Robert W. Roberts, aged thirty-seven, married, no children; resides in Ashley, brought to the surface at 9 p.m. fatally burned
Harry Jones, laborer of former, aged thirty-five, married, three children; residence at Newton
Robert Prichard, aged thirty, married, one child; residence at Hanover
Anthony Froyne, married, one child; residence at Ashley Plane (rescued at seven o’clock badly burned
John James, aged thirty-two, married, two children; family in Wales, resides in Ashley
John Williams, aged thirty-five, married, six children; resides in Newton
Jonathan Williams, aged thirty, married, two children; resides in Newton
Richard Jones, aged thirty, married, two children; resides in Newton
W. Edwards, aged twenty-eight, married, two children; resides in Wilkes-Barre
Thomas J. Williams, aged thirty, married, one child; resides in Ashley
Thomas Clauss, aged thirty-five, married, no children; resides in Newton
Owen Williams, aged forty-nine, married, one adopted child; residence in Ashley
John Hempsey, aged forty-two, single; resides at Moffett’s Patch