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The Calamity at Gold Hill
Morning Oregonian, Portland, Oregon
April 9, 1869
Virginia, April 8, 9 P.M. -- The fire in the Gold Hill mines still continues to burn as bad as ever, owing to a cave-in in the Yellow Jacket. The firemen cannot now reach the fire. Every effort is being made to clear the drift. Eighteen dead bodies have been taken out of the drifts and the shafts of the burning mine. Nine lay together where they had climbed to a drift one hundred feet above the one thousand foot level. Two of the miners killed, John Hogan and Joseph McClellan, were members of the Virginia Fire Department. Funeral this afternoon.
The 900 foot level of the Crown Point mine is free from smoke. The fire appears to be principally in the Yellow Jacket, south of the cave. It is thought it will take all day to remove the cave so as to get water to bear again on the fire.
Virginia, April 8. -- The efforts made in subduing the fire this afternoon have been gradually quite successful. The tunnel of the Yellow Jacket has been cleared of the obstruction caused by the cave, so that water could be brought to bear on the fire. It is now reported that there is no fire on the 800 foot level and but little on the 700 foot level. Another body, that of McCormick, has been brought to the surface. It is hoped and expected that all the bodies will be got to the surface during the day. It is now quite confidently asserted that no material damage has been done to the mines. All the hoisting works are perfect.
Virginia, April 8, 9 P.M. -- The following is a correct estimate of affairs at the scene of the Gold Hill disaster:
Twenty-eight bodies in all have been recovered. There are four more known to be in the mine, and there may possibly be eight more. The fire remains as in the morning, still burning on the 900 foot level, and on the line below the Kentuck and the Yellow Jacket near the south entry.
The tunnel has been so much obstructed by the caves that little effective work has been done today towards subduing the flames. The water gave out in the forenoon, but at four in the afternoon a supply sufficient for four or five hours was obtained and a stream sent down. The damage cannot be ascertained until the fire is subdued. It is conceded that it cannot permanently injure the mine.
This information is derived from an intelligent workman in the mine, who knows every foot of the ground and was in the mine when the fire commenced. He has since been down as near the fire as one could live. All of the bodies taken from the mine have the appearance of having died a most painful death. The features are flushed, swollen and distorted.
One was found hanging by a ladder in a shaft with one leg fast and holding with a death grip by both hands to the ladder. Some were found in the dump at the 1,100 foot level, where they had fallen from the levels above. The most were found in the 1,000 foot level, Crown Point, lying in all sorts of despairing positions, as they fell. Some are terribly disfigured, one so much so as to be unrecognizable.
Gus Bickell, who was hoisted out alive, died at noon today. Funerals have been numerous today, attended by the military, firemen, Odd Fellows and the miners Union organization.
Robert Welsh, who has worked most heroically in getting out the dead, was taken out this afternoon nearly insensible from asphyxia.
The name of John King, given in the list of the dead, should have been John Hallisey.
Eleven of the miners killed were married and two had families of five children each. It is hoped that the corporations for which their protectors lost their lives will not prove soulless in caring for them.
J. Oran, a miner in the Hale & Norcross, had the fingers of his left hand badly crushed today, disabling him for some weeks.
Wells Fargo and Company shipped last evening twelve bars of bullion weighing 635 pounds and valued at $1,589.899.
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