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Mine Disasters in
the United States


Roane Iron Company
Rockwood Mine Explosion

Rockwood, Roane County, Tennessee
October 4, 1926
No. Killed - 27



See also:   Rockwood Mine Explosion, July 23, 1925

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Six Bodies Taken from Tennessee Mine
The Kinsgport Times, Tennessee
October 5, 1926

Rockwood, Tenn. (AP) -- Two more bodies making a total of six, were removed at 11:10 o'clock today from the Roane Iron Mining Company's mine where 28 men are believed to have perished in an explosion in Rodgers entry yesterday. Those brought out were Clarence Stevens, who had previously been identified in the mine, and his laborer, Philip Gallion. There are believed to be 22 still in the mine.

The almost superhuman struggle of one miner to escape and his failure when fresh air and safety were but a hundred feet away, was revealed as rescue crews penetrated deep into the mine.

Crawls 1,000 Feet

Apparently crawling more than 1,000 feet in an effort to reach an air holes, Stevenson fell victim to the deadly "afterdamp" a few minutes before he would have reached a safety zone, members of the rescue crew which found his body, declared.

Indications of the fire in the explosion zone impeded rescue work today. Rescue crews were forced to withdraw while "deadlocking" of the dip where the men were trapped, was undertaken to assure safety of rescuers.

Captain J. T. Thompson, local postmaster, who has taken charge of rescue operations, said "deadlocking" of the entry tended to suppress fire and make the area safe for rescuers.

Relatives Anxious

Anxious relatives -- mothers, with babies in their arms -- waited at the mouth of the entry for the rescue workers to emerge. All of them brought the same discouraging reports -- that no life could exist within a quarter or half mile of the scene of the blast.

Living with a constant fear of such a catastrophe hanging over them, the relatives of the imprisoned men seemed resigned to the apparent fate of those entombed.

Rescue parties worked in shifts throughout the night clearing a passage to the dip where they were trapped. Their work was made difficult by cave-ins. If any falls occurred in the vicinity of the explosion area, the recovery of the bodies of the men might require days or weeks, miners say.

The explosion occurred in one of the furthermost regions of the mine, nearly three miles from the mouth of the entry and approximately 800 feet under the mountainside.

The rescuers must proceed approximately a mile and a half in a straight direction from the mouth, then turn sharply to the right for a distance of three quarters of a mile, make another sharp turn to the right for a half mile and then enter the shaft to the right of where the men were working.

Retards Work

This indirect course of approach still further retards the work of pumping air into the gas infested region and clearing away the passage, blocked by slight cave-ins. In virtually the same section of the mine, the 12 men who were killed in the 1925 explosion were trapped. All of the bodies were not removed until three months later and although the blast occurred in July, the mine will not re-open until November.

Ambulances wait at the mouth of the mine for the bodies to be removed. Although first aid workers are in readiness on the scene, they have little hopes of being called upon. The American Legion has converted a downtown hall into a temporary morgue to receive the bodies.

A United States Bureau of Mines car with rescue equipment and a rescue party from Birmingham arrived last night.

Peay Offers Aid

Governor Austin Peay communicated with mine officials and offered state assistance. Those in charge of rescue operations advised him that state aid was not needed at this time.

Operations in all of the Roan Iron Company's mine in this section have been suspended while the miners concentrate on the work of reaching the entombed men.

Workers in other mines also have also refused to return to their jobs pending rescue operations, it was reported today. They gather by the scores at the Roan mine volunteering assistance in the rescue work.

Tragedy Not Evident

The little town of Rockwood, huddled at the foot of a mountain, shows few signs of being the scene of a great mine disaster. Hardy and grim faced miners, to whom the dangers lurking under the surface have come to mean little, move about with their headlights as though at their daily tasks and at the mouth of the mine they sit around in groups, waiting for their turn to enter to search for bodies of their fellow townsmen.

Yesterday's explosion seems almost a re-enactment of the disaster in the same entry in July, 1925, which snuffed out the lives of 12 men. Some of the bodies of those were not recovered for three months. Fire, which raged in the entry then, blocked rescue efforts.

Fear that such a fire will delay recoveries of victims of the present catastrophe has arisen with signs of smoldering flames in the entry where the explosion occurred.

Will and Arthur Teague, who bratticed themselves when they heard the sound of the blast, were unhurt. G. E. Boles was seriously injured by the explosion and gas and Ebbie Davis was found a mile from the scene in an unconscious but not serious condition.

"I was knocked unconscious by the explosion and don't remember anything after that," Boles said. Smith could remember nothing after the blast.

The explosion occurred about 9:30 o'clock yesterday morning with 200 or more workers working in the Rogers entry.

Rockwood, whose principal industry is mining, has a population of approximately 6,000.


The mine executives place the number of dead at 32. They are as follows:
  • Will Rodgers, married, 5 children
  • H. M. Griffs, married, 4 children
  • A. J. Griffs, single
  • Ben Gibson, single
  • Sam Taylor, married, 3 children
  • Lee Jolly, married, several children
  • Ira Nelson, single
  • Van Kirby, married, 4 children
  • Elmer Lewis
  • P. C. Craven, married, 2 grown children
  • S. P. Whittier, married, 6 children
  • Harry Lingo, married
  • Will Teague, married, 7 children
  • Arthur Teague, married, 5 children
  • W. C. Elliot, single
  • E. G. Boles
  • C. B. Davis, married, 1 child
  • Eddie Davis
  • Clarence Stevens, married, 10 children
  • Phillip Galyon, married
  • Jess Dale, married
  • Walter Cunningham, married, 2 children
  • E. G. Smith, married, 1 child (son-in-law of Will Rodgers)
  • Clyde Teague, single (son of Will Teague)
  • Will Armour, single
  • Frank Boles, single
  • Hector Smith, single
  • J. A. Freels, married, 4 children
  • G. C. McCoy, married
  • Frank Hinds, married, 3 children
  • Dave Brummett, married, 6 children
  • Tom Rodgers
  • George Riddle, married, 6 children
The above listing from the Rockwood Times, Rockwood, Tennessee, October 4, 1926.

Note: NIOSH lists 27 as the total killed in this disaster.



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