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Mine Disasters in
the United States


Palos Coal and Coke Company
Palos No. 3 Mine Explosion

Palos, Alabama
May 5, 1910
No. Killed - 84



Related Correspondence from 1910-1925   (8.0 Mb)

(From Federal Geological Survey investigator's notes)

The explosion resulted in the loss of 83 men inside and 1 man on the outside of the mine and did much damage to the underground equipment.

The coal is mined by pick and is blasted with permissible explosives but dynamite is used for brushing the roof and for breaking the "middleman."

The mine liberates methane, and where ventilation is not properly conducted there are accumulations of the gas.  The ventilating current is continuous throughout the mine.

Fine dry coal dust was much in evidence all through the mine.  Miners used open-flame lamps, and the only flame safety lamps were those carried by the firebosses.

The explosion originated in the 6th right entry through the ignition of a body of gas by an open-flame lamp and dry coal dust propagated the explosion throughout the mine and out the mouth of the slope.

Source:
Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I


Many are Killed in Mine
The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE
May 6, 1910

Birmingham, Ala., May 5. -- Forty-five white men and between 130 and 140 Negroes are entombed in No. 3 coal mine at Palos tonight as the result of a terrific explosion occurring this morning and it is believed all are dead.  Palos is forty miles west of Birmingham and the mines are owned by the Palos Coal and Coke Company of this city.

Three bodies were found early tonight but it is expected that few of those remaining in the mine can be recovered before morning.  The flames resulting from the explosion shot into the air from the slope for a distance of 200 feet and the shock was felt for miles.  Timbers from the slope were hurled several hundred feet from its mouth and rocks from the roof of the slope caved in and made access to the mouth very difficult.  The fan machinery was badly damaged but air is being pumped into the mine tonight in hopes that some of the men are still alive.

Residents began to do what they could to relieve the men but the relief train arrived in Palos from Birmingham shortly after 4 o'clock with eight physicians and surgeons, four undertakers, and a number of special helpers.

The first rescuers who went into the mine after the explosion were overcome by firedamp and had to be carried out.  Mr. Rutledge was among the first to enter and after working his way 1,400 feet down the slope found the second right entry caved in.  The bodies recovered tonight were in the main slope.


Washington, May 5. -- Geological Survey Mine Rescue Experts J. J. Rutledge and George F. Rice, who were in Birmingham investigating the Mulga disaster, have been instructed to proceed with their rescue equipment to the Palos mine.

When member of congress heard of the disaster then thoughts turned at once to the measure now in conference for the creation of a Bureau of Mines in the interior department.

Senator Scott, who had charge of the bill in the Senate immediately took steps to get the conferees together for the adjustment of the differences between the senate and the house.

The bill will become a law as soon as the conference report is adopted and the act is signed by the president.


Palos, Ala., May 5 -- Eleven bodies have been found in mine No. 3 of the Palos Coal and Coke Company late tonight.  Rescue parties have reached the 1,400 foot level and are working steadily toward the 2,300 foot level where the majority of the miners were working at the time of explosion.

All of the bodies found are horribly mangled and burned, some being beyond recognition.  The head of an unknown white man was found several feet away from his body.

The work of bringing the bodies to the surface will not begin until tomorrow.


The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE
May 7, 1910

Among those identified was C. H. Stansberry, assistant mine foreman.  Among the dead in the mine is said to be H. A. McArdle, whose brother is President of the Amalgamated Association of Tin and Steel Workers in Pennsylvania.

James Liddell, one of the best known miners in the Birmingham district and a former legislator, was overcome by afterdamp while aiding in the work of rescue.  His condition was serious for a time, but when he recovered he again took charge of one of the rescue crews.


Rescue Work is Hampered
The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE
May 8, 1910

Palos, Ala., May 7. -- The discovery of a small fire in No. 4 right entry at the Palos mines, where Thursday's disastrous explosion occurred, seriously hampered the rescue work today.  When the fire was discovered all miners were ordered out of the mine.  The blaze was small but much smoke delayed for hours the rescue work.

While only thirty-five bodies have been brought up, the men are still working with vigor tonight.

The Red Cross relief fund is still growing and the response in Birmingham has been remarkably spontaneous and substantial.  Practically all the dead miners leave families.


Burial of Mine Victims
The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE
May 9, 1910

Palos, Ala., May 8. -- The bodies taken today from the Palos mine where last Thursday's explosion occurred, were so decomposed that it was almost impossible to handle them.  Disinfectants are being shipped in.  In a number of cases it was impossible to get bodies into the coffins provided.  The funerals in the little mining camp began today.  A special plot of ground was set aside on the opposite side of the hill from the mouth of the slope and here men were engaged all day digging graves while the mourners carried their loved ones and laid them to their last rest.

The rescuers have not reached the lowest part of the slope and have been working their way back examining headings on the other side.  Eight of ten bodies were found in one little group.  Last night about midnight three bodies were lying close together with every indication that they had not been killed by the explosion but had died of suffocation.  One of the men had taken off his coat and wrapped it around his head as if to keep out the gar.  Another was laying face downward with his arms covering his face.  Another was holding a cloth of some kind over his face.

At 10 o'clock tonight sixty-seven bodies had been recovered from the mine and a number of others had been located.

State Mine Inspector Hillhouse said at midnight that he expected to have everybody out of the mine by tomorrow noon.  The rescuers are working constantly and bodies are now being brought up every few minutes.  The work is expected to proceed very rapidly from now on unless there are further accidents to delay the rescuers.


James Gousby, a mail carrier, was caught by the explosion thirty feet from the mouth of the slope, and his body was hurled into the Warrior River.



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