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FIRST NAME


LAST NAME


LOCALITY


Cheswick, Pennsylvania

Harwick Coal Company Mine Explosion

January 25, 1904

TWO HUNDRED MEN

Imprisoned at Bottom of a Burning Coal Mine.


EXPLOSION BRINGS DISASTER

Rescue Parties Are Making Desperate Efforts to Extricate the Men With Little Hope of Success – Believe All Will Perish.

PITTSBURG, Pa., Jan 25.
-- Between 125 and 150 men were entombed by an explosion in the shaft of the Harwick Coal company near Cheswick this morning, shortly after 8 o'clock. None of the men had been rescued at 11 o'clock and it is believed that many of them were wither killed outright by the explosion or have been suffocated by the gas. Several hundred men are at work trying to liberate the imprisoned miners. There are employed at the mine 200 men, 150 working inside and the remainder on the tipple. Three men on the tipple were badly burned by the explosion.

Escape Is Shut Off.
With a loud report and an upheaval like an earthquake the woodwork of the tipple was destroyed. The shaft was filled with debris, rocks and earth completely shutting off all means of escape from the mine. Whether the explosion occurred at the far extremity of the mine and killed the men by the concussion, or whether it occurred nearer the shaft, and imprisoned the men, is not yet known.

They Fear the Worst.
There has been no way as yet of finding the exact nature of the disaster or the number who were killed. If the mine entrance cannot be quickly cleared out so the men can get fresh air all will have perished within a few hours. Help was summoned from all sources available and as many are engaged in the work of rescue as can be crowded in. Half a dozen men working near the mouth of the pit on the tipple were caught in the wreckage and at least three were seriously injured. One man, it is thought, cannot recover.

Aid Quickly Sent.
Superintendent GEORGE SHEETS immediately sent to Cheswich and Springdale for men and other assistance. Gangs of workmen were sent in response and physicians hurried to the scene to take care of the injured. The mine is about one mile from Cheswich and was opened about two years ago. The company is allied with the Allegheny Coal company and is operated by Cleveland capitalists. The mine has always been a gaseous one, but there has never been any serious trouble previous today. There are two shafts, 200 feet apart and about 220 feet deep. In the inside of the mine the headings had not been made more than half a mile.

Number Entombed Grows.
A later report says the number of men entombed is larger than at first reported, it now being said that from 150 to 180 men are in the mine, including a fire boss and the pit boss. Just how the explosion occurred is not yet known. Intense excitement was aroused in Cheswick and Springdale. The three injured tipple men were sent to Allegheny hospital on train, one of the three were brought to the city and died when the train reached the West Pennsylvania station in Allegheny. His body was brought to the hospital along with the other injured.

Fifty Men at Work.
A rescue party of 50 men has entered the shaft and is working hard to reach the imprisoned men. It is feared, however, that they cannot be reached before they will have been suffocated. The mine was gaseous at all times, but was never considered absolutely dangerous. Many of the imprisoned men are foreigners and their names are unknown.

The Fort Wayne News Indiana 1904-01-25

       

NO HOPE FOR MINERS.

Not One of the 200 Men Entombed is New Alive.

RESCUE PARTIES PERISHED.

Brave Men Urged On by Scenes at Mouth of the Shaft Die in an Attempt to Save Lives of the Unfortunates Below.


PITTSBURG, Jan. 26. -- The mysteries of one of the most dreadful mining catastrophes in the history of Pennsylvania, or of the world, for that matter, are yet unsolved – Harwick mine, at Cheswick, has not given up its secret or its dead.

Nearly Two Hundred Dead.
It can be reliably stated that between 180 and 190 miners were in the pit when the dread fire-damp ignited, blowing the cages clear out of the shafts and burying the inmates. Of these miners but two have come out, one dead and one half dead from injuries and effects of the deadly after damp. Even the rescuing parties have not escaped, and SELWYN M. TAYLOR, the eminent mining engineer of this city, who platted the mine and led the rescuers into the dark depth, is lying dead, while his companions escaped with their lives only with the greatest difficulty. The work of attempted rescue was signalized by instances of the greatest bravery, and the scenes around the pit mouth are tragic in the extreme.

An Inspector's Statement.
A long distance telephone message from Cheswick, received in Pittsburg at 5 a. m., says: F. W. CUNNINGHAM, mining inspector of the fourteenth district, came out of the Harwick mine of the Allegheny Coal company this morning and stated that he had gone about one-fourth of a mile from the mouth of the pit, and did not think there were any living persons in the mine. He went into the left wing between the sixth and seventh headings and saw several dead mules, a number of demolished cars and about sixteen dead men. He said he thought the great majority of the men met death through the after-damp.

Must Remove Obstruction.
Investigation between the sixth and seventh headings was abandoned when Inspector CUNNINGHAM came to a big cave-in that could not be passed. Until this obstruction is removed there will be no means of discovering what may be the conditions in a large part of the mine. Several men were placed at work removing the obstruction and the work of rescue was abandoned until daybreak. The fans are all working in the mine, but at one of the cave-ins it was impossible to pump the air in properly. The water pipes of the mine are all blown in and the mine was left dry, and there will be no danger from a flood.

Scenes Are Heartrending.
Scenes at the shaft, where all the life and hope of many spectators was centered, were pathetic. These heartrending scenes are what inspire brave men to noble deeds. The saddened sights influenced SELWYN M. TAYLOR, the distinguished and wealthy mining engineer of Pittsburg, with three others, to descent to the bottom in a bucket. He was reported to be dead an hour after he made the descent, and in the early hours of this morning his lifeless body was hoisted to the surface, placed upon a stretcher and carried to the village school house, that had been arranged as a hospital, but will doubtless serve as a morgue. It is not now thought that the services of physicians or nurses will be required in connection with this horror.

Rescuer's Narrow Escape.
MR. TAYLOR'S companions narrowly escaped a fate similar to his. SELWYN TAYLOR was one of the best known mining engineers of western Pennsylvania. Of late years his work and investments had brought him rich returns and he was rated a very wealthy man. As soon as he heard of the accident at the Harwick mine he hurried there. He had platted the mine and knew it thoroughly, and hoped that this knowledge would be of great help in the work of rescue, as he believed that not all of the miners had met instant death. In his attempt to save the lives of others he lost his own. MR. TAYLOR was 43 years of age.

Relief Party Exhausted.
Word received in Pittsburg at 9 o'clock this morning states that since 5 o'clock this morning no attempt has been made to enter the Harwick mine. At that hour the last rescuers came out and on account of the scarcity of men with enough experience to permit of their going down into the dangerous mine, the work of rescue is much hampered. No bodies have been recovered since that of SELWYN M. TAYLOR, brought up early this morning. There were this morning only a dozen experienced men who could do relief work, and they were exhausted by daylight.

In Temporary Hospital.
In the temporary hospital which has been made of the school house nearby are two men, ADOLPH GONIA, the only miner of those caught in the explosion who has been rescued. Should he survive he will probably be totally blind from the injuries he received. His face and the upper part of his body is badly burned and it is yet impossible to learn the extent of his injuries.

Describe the Explosion.
GONIA told his rescuers that at the time of the explosion he was between the sixth and seventh headings on the south slope and managed to get to the bottom of the shaft. He did not know the fate of the others in the mine. He may not recover.
GEORGE HORVATH, who was down in the shaft with SELWYN M. TAYLOR when the latter lost his life, is the other occupant of this hospital. He was taken out of the mine at 1 a. m. He is suffering from slight hemorrhages, but it is thought he will recover. The hospital was in charge all night of two heroic women who volunteered their services and kept everything in readiness for expected emergency – MRS. CASSIE MAMALEY, whose brother, A. W. SHANER, is down in the mine, and MRS. MAUDE McGRAW. DRS. W. R. McCULLOUGH, R. MILLS and R. C. JACKSON were also on duty all night at the hospital.

Hunting Her Family.
MRS. MIKE SUMOSKIE, haunted the hospital and the mouth of the shaft all night, just as she had done all day yesterday since the explosion, as she was still doing this morning, looking for her husband and two sons who were buried in the mine and whose fate, like all the rest, is in the most profound mystery. She procured a lantern when night came on and went about with it trying to find her missing ones. During the night, when a couple of the rescuers had thrown themselves down on the cot in the school house, MRS. SUMOSKIE went up to them and, lifting the lantern to their faces, peered into them to see if they were her men. JOE PURCLEY, the lamp-tender at the mine, this morning revised his estimate of the number of lamps he gave out before the explosion, and instead of its being 150, he said this morning that he had given out 180 lamps. Casks of oxygen were ordered from Pittsburg this morning for facilitating the work of purification of the mine.

The body of SELWYN M. TAYLOR has not yet been brought to the city. It was placed in the office of the company near the mouth of the shaft until an undertaker could come from Pittsburg to take charge of the remains. A small cut on the forehead and a few scratches on the face are the only marks on the body, and this was caused when he was overcome by the after-damp and fell on the floor of the mine. Inspector CUNNINGHAM, the last man out of the mine at 5 o'clock this morning, said at 10 o'clock that he had no reason to revise his statement that probably all those in the mine had perished.

Expect the Worst.
That the worst is to be expected in connection with the fate of the entombed men is evinced at the county coroner's office. Coroner JESSE M. McGEARY this morning dispatched three deputy coroners to the scene, and the morgue officials have been instructed to prepare for the reception of many bodies. From an early hour this morning there had been a steady stream of curious people at the Allegheny morgue, bent of viewing the bodies of JOHN WALDMAN and HENRY MAYHUGH, two of the victims of the Cheswick mine disaster, who were brought to the top immediately after the explosion yesterday and succumbed to their injuries during the afternoon.

Try Rescue Again.
At 10 o'clock a volunteer rescue party of eight, accompanied by an inspector, swung down the shaft. An hour later another volunteer eight and another experienced inspector entered the cave of death – while women, children and aged men, together with the anxious throng wait at the pit mouth tramping in the six inches of fresh fallen snow. The creaking of a cable pulley about the shaft is the signal for a rush towards the shaft but although the mine bucket has made many trips not one of the imprisoned miners have come out today. Bodies will soon come, however, rescue volunteers are now coming to the front fast enough. A squad of Pittsburg policemen now suround[sic] the pit mouth and they find a hard task in restraining the almost crazed relatives of the imprisoned miners upon whose countenances is deeply furrowed with agony born of love and suspense.

Last Hope Has Fled.
The last vestage of hope has fled and there will be no hurry now. “Brattice the mine, close up the entries; protect the life that seeks the remains of the dead.” These are the latest orders of the inspectors. The air in the mine is now pure; there shall be no more sacrifices. Word came from Inspector BELL who was in the mine at noon. “The men are dead. They are piled against the north shaft. The explosion occurred near the south shaft. The north shaft is stuffed as solidly as if rammed with a mammoth ramrod, and human bodies form a large part of the wadding. There is no need of haste. The mine must be bratticed. The air must be kept pure. The rescuers must string out for when the barricks to the north shaft is broken through there will be an inrush of after damp.”

Some time will be consumed in introducing the necessary precautions but it will not be long now until the heroic efforts led by intelligent and experienced men will gain its reward. It is possible that other rescuers will soon join those already in the mine. It is now reported that twenty bodies were found between the shaft bottom and the sixth entry; that many others have been located near the bottom of the shaft. A report also has it that none of the bodies will be brought to the surface until after night fall.

The Fort Wayne News Indiana 1904-01-26

       

BRING BODIES TO SURFACE

Awful Scenes Are Enacted Today at the Mouth of the Hardwick Mine.

WORK OF RESCUE DIFFICULT

Ice and Water, Foul Air and After Damp Unite to Hinder the Workers.


REMAINS TERRIBLY MANGLED

Forms of the Loved Ones Waited for Are in Condition That Is Revolting.

CHESWICK, Pa., Jan. 27.
-- “We have sighted fifty-seven bodies in the mine,” said inspector CUNNINGHAM, as he stepped from the cage at 7 o'clock this morning. “Of this number, we have succeeded in getting twenty-two bodies to the bottom of the shaft. Our men are pushing forward as rapidly as possible, locating the bodies and removing the debris obstructing their way.” Searchers coming from the mine this morning state that the conditions withing the mine are fast becoming unendurable. The air, poor at best, is now heavily laden with the odor of decomposing bodies. A car load of burial caskets arrived this morning and are being carted to the improvised morgue, where, after the bodies have been prepared for interment, the families will be admitted to identify them.

Hard to Enter the Shaft.
The bodies which are lying at the bottom of the shaft are ready to be brought to the surface, but the shaft has become so encrusted with ice that it is now impossible to drop the cage to the bottom. Until the accumulation is picked away the bodies must remain in the mine. The work of removing this obstruction is progressing as rapidly as possible. This is the information given by the tired workers who came from the pit at 7 o'clock this morning. The cheerless dawn had brought little news and no comfort to the band of thoroughly chilled and weary watchers that can not be persuaded to abandon their vigil at the top of the shaft. The workmen who came out this morning differ in their estimate of the number of bodies now at the bottom of the shaft. One stated that there were twenty-two, another eighteen. Three said they had counted twenty. Others tell of seeing more that a hundred bodies in various parts of the mine, and with few exceptions they agree that all of the bodies are horribly mutilated, scorched and torn.

Watchers Still Hope.
But it is the simple faith of the women and old men gathered around the mine mouth which is simply wonderful. With child-like simplicity, sympathy or blindness to the awful facts, they are yet trusting and hoping against hope that the living faces of their loved ones will be seen again. As the moment approaches when the mine must give up its secret and its dead, the scenes about the opening are so intensely tragic, so infinitely pitiful that none would dare describe in detail the horrors of it. Today the climax of the tragedy will be enacted – today the dead will be disclosed to the vision of the living and the heart-wearing grief, suppressed for a time, now breaks forth in the outbursts of agony and despair. An awful, indescribable pathos is swelling over the valley and its little village of Harwick, a throbbing grief seems to pervade the very air of the countryside. It is a situation to burst asunder the stoutest nerve cords.

Bodies Coming Out.
At 9 o'clock the words, although in whispered tones, “the bodies are coming out,” spread with the rapidity of an electric flash and in a incredible time a multitude surrounded the yawning chasm. The little pulley wheel, high in the air, over which slowly passed the heavy cable attached to the hoisting cage, moved fast, but, oh, how slowly did the cable seem to travel. Ages seemed to fly, but it was only a moment until the cage was in view. An unspeakagle horror was presented. A sight – it cannot be described – came from the earth into God's sunlight. It was a hellish trap, that Harwick mine, else how could creatures featured in God's own likeness become such hideous, revolting spectacles. The one body was quickly carried away from the cage to the morgue, and the hoist was fairly dropped again to the bottom of the shaft. These trips followed in rapid succession.

A Horrible Sight.
Eighteen bodies, blackened, bruised, torn, crushed, burned, some of them without a shred of clothing, are now out, and more are coming. The fragments of humanity, stiffened into all the horrors of contortion, are placed upon stretchers. These, two at a time, are placed on sleds and taken to the improvised morgue. The morgue is small and the bodies, fashioned by fire and gas beyond the most hideous, morbid apparation [sic] lie on the floor side by side and are fast filling the limited space. Identification under present conditions is an absolute impossibility, and no attempt at it is being made. Crowds are rushing to the scene from far and near.

To Inspect the Mine.
The following superintendents of coal mines throughout the country came from New York to Cheswick mine at 11 o'clock this morning: D'AFILITTO ARTURO, PELLGI OTTEROTWO, PETER FRANCESEO and MORETTO CANDE. They will inspect as to cause present conditions, etc., for the companies they represent.

Twenty-five bodies were taken out by 11 o'clock. Many coffins are arriving. After washing with embalming fluid, bodies are not greatly marred, but twisted. Work of identification in some cases will be easy.

Work of Rescue.
PITTSBURG, Pa., Jan. 27.
-- In the face of the terrible weather conditions, the work of penetrating the wrecked Harwick mine has been pressed since daybreak yesterday. A biting wind has blown about the mouth of the shaft and into it until it has been a test of endurance to stay for more than a few minutes at a time away from shelter. Along the walls of the shaft ice has formed until it has been all but impossible to operate the wooden cage that has been built to take the place of the iron structure that was blown through the tipple when the explosion occurred. Despite strenuous efforts the adverse conditions have made progress slow. Many think that a full month must elapse before all the bodies have been recovered; some doubt if all the entombed men will ever be accounted for.

The Fort Wayne News Indiana 1904-01-27

       

GHASTLY WORK IN MINE SHAFT

Bodies of the Two Hundred Victims of the Explosion Being Brought Out.

SCENE BEYOND DESCRIPTION.

Improvised Morgue Has Been Filled and Work of Rescue Has Been Postponed.


EXPERIENCED MEN ARRIVE

New Force of Willing Miners to Relieve the Exhausted Rescuing Party.

CHESWICK, Pa. Jan. 29.
-- Work in Harwick mine was slow last night so far as the recovery of bodies of victims of the terrible explosion was concerned, yet much was accomplished in the clearing of caves and debris, making possible more rapid progress in concluding the gruesome task today. At 9:30 o'clock this morning the hoisting cage again became wedged in the shaft by reason of the accumulation of ice, a condition similar to that of yesterday morning. The removal of this obstruction is slow and dangerous, but the hoisting cage will soon be in operation. Eighty-five bodies have been brought to the surface. Fifty-three have been prepared for burial and the bodies placed in caskets. Twenty-seven lie in a blackened heap in the little school house awaiting the attention of the undertakers who at a late hour last night were thoroughly exhausted and stopped work until morning. Five bodies are at the bottom of the shaft and they will be brought out as soon as the cage can again be started.

Volunteers Are Arriving.
Before noon today 125 volunteers, middle aged and experienced miners, all of whom have passed through similar scenes, will reach here from Monongahela City and will immediately assist in the work of rescue in the mine. They are picked men and eminently fitted to assist. The gallant little band of rescuers that is now working with heroic effort to get the work completed is fast becoming exhausted, but they work on uncomplainingly. The dead bodies have already been in the mine 72 hours and the need for the utmost haste is readily apparent.

Stop Bringing Bodies.
The bringing of the bodies from the mine has been temporarily stopped. There is no longer room for them in the school house – dead room until at least some of those already there have been prepared for burial and removed. The cage was operated a few minutes this morning and again stuck fast in the shaft. One body was brought out on the first trip. The latest statement is that eighty-six bodies have been brought to the surface and twenty-six are at the bottom of the shaft ready to be brought out. The embalmers resumed their work at 10 o'clock this morning. Crowds are again flocking to the shaft and to the morgue houses.

Little Demonstration.
The throng seems to have become accustomed to the horrible environment and today there is less demonstration of emotion. This will probably break forth afresh, however, when the bringing of bodies from the mine is continued. The north entry of the mine has been explored to the end. The bodies found there have been piled along the passage and can be brought out as soon as the shaft is cleared of ice. The searchers are now in the south entry and sights awful to behold will be found there for it was in this entry that the explosion occurred, and bodies already found in this vicinity were in horribly mutilated condition.

Cage Again at Work.
At 10:30 a. m. the mine cage was again in operation and five more bodies have been brought out. Some of them are much swollen. Fourteen identifications of bodies in the morgue were established this morning. Inspector ADAMS came from the mine shortly before 11 o'clock and has ordered all possible haste. He says that conditions are such that it will be much better to have the bodies lying outside in the cold than within the mine entries, where the temperature has become very high and stifling.

Funerals On Sunday.
Sunday has been set as a day of funeral services. Definite arrangements have not yet been completed. Twenty men are digging graves on the hillside near the shaft and a cemetery will be made in a day. A report is current that the searchers have reason to fear the presence of after-damp in the unexplored south entry and volunteers are becoming very scarce. At 10 o'clock a call for volunteers was made. One man, an Irishman, from a crowd of a hundred or more was the only one to offer his services. Four more bodies have been identified, making a total of eighteen identified this morning.

In Great Confusion.
The bodies are now coming from the mine much faster that the limited space in the school house and morgue will accommodate. The bodies lie on stretchers in the snow near the pit mouth and at the road side. Approximately one hundred and eleven are now above ground, but in the indescribable confusion, excitement and frenzy, the accurate count has been lost. The morgue holds no more caskets and the late unidentified arrivals from the embalmer's room are being placed outside of the building upon the snow covered ground, while an almost uncontrolable [sic] throng surrounds them.

The Fort Wayne News Indiana 1904-01-28

       

IDENTIFY ONLY A FEW BODIES

Although 134 Mangled Forms Have Been Taken From Hardwick Mine.


WORK ONCE MORE IMPEDED.

Ice Forms in the Shaft and Renders Descent Difficult and Dangerous.

SECOND BIG FUNERAL TODAY.


Discover Cause of Explosion to Have Been a Poorly Tamped Power Blast.'

CHESWICK, Pa., Jan. 29.
-- A total of 114 bodies have been brought from the Harwick mine. The searchers are today working in the south course, exploring the butt entries. It was in this part of the mine that the explosion occurred, and much time will be required to disentangle the bodies from the debris. The mine inspectors have found the exact spot where the gas in the mine had been fired, and hey have definitely established the cause. A shot imperfectly tamped with newspaper, instead of clay, worked the havoc. Instead of tearing out the coal, the shot left the wall of the mine like a bullet from a rifle, and the flashing fire ignited the gas and the explosion followed.

Second Funeral Today.
The second funeral of the victims will be held this afternoon. But three positive identifications of corpses were made this morning. The work of establishing the identity is both slow and difficult, on account of the bodies. The mine shaft was again plugged with ice accumulation this morning, and three hours chopping was necessary before the cage could lower the thirty-eight rescuers into the mine. It is reported that gas in considerable volume has been found in the south course, where the searchers are now working, and some apprehension is felt for their safety.

Total Number 132.
CHESWICK, Pa., Jan. 29
. -- At 12:30 p. m., the cage brought from the mine a number of bodies, some of which were much mutilated. The total number now out of the mine is 132.

The Fort Wayne News Indiana 1904-01-29

       

TO BURY THEM IN ONE GRAVE

NO ATTEMPT WILL BE MADE TO IDENTIFY ANY MORE OF THE MINE VICTIMS.

CHESWICK, Pa., Jan. 30. -
- Work continued all night in the Harwick mine, and much in the way of removing debris was accomplished. Several bodies were sighted, but none were brought to the surface. One hundred and fifty is the total number thus far brought up the mine shaft. The bodies remaining in the mine are in such condition that no attempt will be made to embalm or identify them by exposure to view above ground. The remains will be placed in the coffins at the pit mouth, just as they come from the mine, and buried immediately. Some of the bodies found last night were taken from under eight feet of debris.

No Funerals Tomorrow.

About twenty-eight funerals will be held today. No bodies will be buried tomorrow. The unidentified bodies will be help until Monday, and then buried without further delay. The dead pit mules in the mines will be brought out this afternoon. Manager GEORGE N. SCHEETS stated this morning that the list of dead may exceed 184; that several men answered a call to work in the mines the day before the explosion. The extra service men were checked, but the mine officials are uncertain as to their exact number. Seven additional identifications of victims was affected this morning.

The Fort Wayne News Indiana 1904-01-30

Articles submitted & transcribed by Stu Beitler  Thank you, Stu!

       

Mining Disasters: Cheswick, Pennsylvania, United States (January 25, 1904) 179 killed.

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