united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Southern Mine Roof Fall
January 31, 1939
No. Killed – 5
Hard-Rock Miners Push Efforts to Recover Two Bodies Still Covered by Slab in Mine
February 2, 1939
Treece, Kan., Feb. 1. -- Hard-rock miners tonight prepared to blast huge boulders as they worked to recover the bodies of two men still covered by a mass of rock and dirt which fell in a drift at the Southern mine near here yesterday afternoon killing five men and injuring two.
The bodies not yet recovered are those of Harry Burtrum, 32 years old, of Galena, and Frank Porter, 40, of Wilburton, Kan. At 4:30 o'clock this morning the miners uncovered the body of James Orval Campbell, 34, of Galena. The bodies of the two other men, Jesse Crossland, 28, living on the Oklahoma-Kansas state line near Picher, and John Frederick McCumber, 24, of Black Jack, near Galena, were found yesterday.
Officials could only guess how long it might be before their grim work could be completed. Some of the miners estimated that almost half of the huge mass already had been removed. Others said they believed the remaining bodies were under a 35-foot slab that would have to be blasted, and that it might be many hours before the work could be completed.
The work was delayed because the roof of the chamber was reported as "creaky," and other rock falls were feared.
Tonight a crew of approximately 45 men was on the job, working in groups of 15. Another crew took the place of the first at 10 o'clock.
At the American Hospital, the attending physician expressed belief that John Wesley Anderson, 28, of Columbus, seriously injured in the accident, would recover. Anderson was reported to have suffered a skull fracture.
Still a patient in the hospital was Louis Hannesbaugh, 35, of Galena Route 2, who was recovering from hip and ankle injuries. His condition was not regarded as serious.
H. C. Snodgrass, Kansas district mine inspector, who was assisting in directing the work at the mine, declined official comment as to the cause of the accident beyond saying that pillars in the drift, with the exception of the one which collapsed, appeared to be in good shape. He said he inspected the ground following the accident and pronounced it safe.
Hannesbaugh, who gave an eye-witness account of the disaster, reported hearing a "creaking" noise befoe the huge slab fell, and said he had heard the same "creaking" several times before. The slab which fell was estimated to weigh almost 4,000 tons. Crowds of curious persons still congregated in the vicinity of the mine today.
Meanwhile, grieving relatives of the dead men prepared for funeral services.
Services for McCumber will be held at 10 o'clock Friday morning at the Little Mission Church in Galena Heights. The Rev. Clifford Thacker will assist in the services. Burial will be in the Oak Hill Cemetery at Galena. The body will lie in state at the home of a brother, Joe McCumber, in Galena Heights, until the funeral hour.
Funeral services for Campbell will be held at 2 o'clock Friday afternoon at the Galena Assembly of God Church. Burial will be in Hill Crest cemetery.