united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Snowdon, Gould and Company Umpire Mine Explosion
September 23, 1898
No Killed – 8
Eight Meet Sudden Death
The Cranbury Press, New Jersey
September 30, 1898
Brownsville, Penna. (Special). -- Seventy men were entombed Friday in the Umpire Mine of Snowdon, Gould and Company, one fourth of a mile below town, as the result of an explosion of gas, followed by another explosion of fire damp. Of the number entombed, all escaped or were taken out by rescuing parties, except eight, who were killed outright, and three who were more or less hurt.
The list of the dead includes John Halston, Salem Halston, Robert Davidson, John Bennett, William Pritchard, Henry Hagar, John Cartwright and James Hall. The following were injured: George Baker, John Baker and Samuel McIntyre.
The explosion is said to have been caused by the loosening of a large block of coal which opened a pocket of gas. Immediately following the explosion of gas there was a second explosion of fire damp. There were seventy men at work in the mine at the time of the disaster.
When the mine was reached, willing hands at once went to work. Everybody seemed to want to go into the mine, it was by sheer force that those in charge at the entry kept the crowd out. It was announced that there was a sufficient force of men inside to do rescue work, but a weary and painful wait of hours took place.
Just above the entrance to the mine there is an artificial plateau. From the edge of the plateau a good view of the track leading to the mine could be had. Here women stood wringing their hands in anguish and weeping. The hundreds of people realized that they stood at the entrance of living tombs.
It was several hours later that the tingle of the electric bell in the engine house announced that a train of coal cars was coming from within. The scene of the disaster is more than a mile from the entry. It took about ten minutes for the first load to reach the outside world.
When the little train of cars emerged, a shudder was visible in the crowd. First there came two cars loaded with coal. Then three cars in each of which there were two bodies. In one there were two brothers, side by side, John and Salem Halston. In the others were Robert Davidson and John Bennett, William Pritchard and John Cartwright. James Hall was in the last car.
Wagons were in waiting, and the bodies were taken to undertaking establishments. When the bodies were brought up from the mines they presented a ghastly appearance. After the first lot of bodies had been brought out the excitement and anxiety grew more intense.
It was announced that many men had come out of the mine through an abandoned entry nearly three miles distant. This allayed the fears of many, and as fast as the men were accounted for to their friends and families rejoicings and congratulations followed.