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Mine Disasters in
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Negaunee Mine Cave-in

Negaunee, Marquette County, Michigan
January 7, 1902
No. Killed – 10



Editor’s Note:  This disaster is not included in the CDC/NIOSH list of mine disasters in the United States External Link.  Because of this, the official number of miners killed in this accident is not certain.  The most reliable information here comes from the March 13, 1902 article below which makes reference to 10 victims.

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
(news links open in a separate window)


Miners Caught in a Shaft and Entombed
The Sandusky Star Journal, Ohio
January 8, 1902

Negaunee, Mich., Jan 8. -- From 13 to 17 men are thought to have lost their lives in an accident at Negaunee mine.  The accident was the result of a cave-in at the bottom of the shaft, and had it occurred half an hour sooner about 150 men would have been killed.  The names of the dead, so far as known are: William Williams, John Sullivan, John Pascoe, John Pearce and Jacob Hunlalla.  Thus far, but two bodies have been taken out, Hunlalla's and an Italian, Dominic Basso, alive.

Hundreds of men are at the mine eager to help in the work or rescue, but it is thought the other bodies cannot be found within 24 hours.

The Negaunee mine is one of the most unlucky properties in the Lake Superior district.  Much trouble has resulted in sinking and drifting from surplus water and quicksand.  It was at this mine that $1,000,000 was recently expended to sink a shaft to the ledge.


Seventeen Lives Lost in Michigan Mine Accident
The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE
January 8, 1902

Negaunee, Mich., Jan. 7. -- The most distressing accident that has occurred in this county for years took place at the Negaunee mine today noon, by which from thirteen to seventeen miners are thought to have lost their lives.  The accident was the result of a cave-in at the bottom of the old shaft and had it occurred half an hour sooner 150 men would have been killed.

The names of the dead, so far as known, are:
William Williams, married
John Sullivan, single
John Pascoe, single
John Pearce, married
Jacob Hunlalla, married

Thus far but two bodies have been taken out, Hunlalla's and an Italian, Dominic Basso, alive.

Survivor Tells the Story

Basso's story is as follows:
We were sitting around the pump at the bottom of the shaft, when, without warning, thousands of tons of ore came down.  I remembered nothing more until I heard the sound of picks and shovels in the hands of rescuers and their shouts.  I was in total darkness and my feelings cannot be described.  What seemed ages to me were but minutes.  When rescuers found me I was seventy-five feet from the place where I was sitting, and found myself in a drift.  How I got there is a mystery, but can only be accounted for by the concussion of the wind.
Hundreds of men are at the mine eager to help in the work of rescue, but it is thought the remaining bodies cannot be found within twenty-four hours.

The Negaunee mine is one of the most unlucky properties in the Lake Superior district.  Much trouble has resulted in sinking and drifting from surplus water and quicksand.

It was at this mine that $1,000,000 was recently expended to sink a shaft to the ledge.

From the condition of the shaft it would seem that the men are surrounded by a large mass of dirt and broken timber.  The lower portion of the shaft is so badly twisted that the cage will not operate within 100 feet of where the men are entombed.  A rescuing party of about fifteen of the most skillful miners at the mine was organized immediately.

First Intimation of Horror

Thirty men were working on the level during the morning but the majority of them went to the surface to eat their dinners, those later caught under the debris having taken their lunch with them.  A dull roar and a sound of crashing timbers gave to the men on the surface the first indication of the disaster being enacted nearly 500 feet underground.  A rush was made for the shaft and when all had quieted down, volunteers under the lead of Capt. James Piper descended in the cage in an attempt to rescue.  It was found, however, that the shaft was badly damaged, it being impossible to get within eighty feet of the level in which the men were buried.

Cries for help were heard at the lowest point reached, and upon the removal of the timbers which blocked the way, a man was found who shortly before the cave-in had started for the surface.  He was uninjured.  The man could throw no light on the fate of his associates, the majority of whom are thought to be Italians and Finlanders.

The steam pipes leading to the underground pumps were so damaged that it would be impossible to operate the pumps even if possible to reach them.  The shaft is making water very fast and it is feared the pumps cannot be put in operation in time to prevent the water from flooding the mine.

A big force of rescuers working in relays is making desperate attempts to get to the damaged level before the water reaches it.  If the workmen are not rescued within the next ten or twelve hours all hopes of getting them out alive will be abandoned.

The officials would not make a statement for publication as to the condition of the mine nor the number of men underground.  In fact they will not be able to tell until all the other workmen in that level report at the office.  It is assumed that this will be done tomorrow.


Progress made in Draining Mine at Negaunee, Mich.
The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE
January 8, 1902

NEGAUNEE, Mich., Jan. 8--The latest news from the Negaunee mine is that additional pumps are working and the water is under control.  Officials state that it may take a week or more to recover the bodies of all the victims.  A complete list of the men entombed is not yet obtainable.  Captain Piper states that at least nine or ten have met their fate.


Four of Ten Bodies Recovered at Negaunee, Mich.
The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE
March 13, 1902

NEGAUNEE, Mich., March 12.--The bodies of four of the ten victims of the Negaunee mine disaster of January 7 were recovered today.  Some of the other bodies are in view of the workmen and it is expected that all will be recovered within the next twenty-four hours.

The bodies are mutilated beyond recognition.  The drift where the bodies are is in a treacherous condition owing to quicksand.



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