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Gates, Pennsylvania

Frick Coke Co. Mine Explosion

February 2, 1922

Explosion of Gas in Gates Mine Entombs 25 Men Bodies of 16 Recovered, Others Believed Dead

Martin J. Brennan, Connellsville Young Man Among Identified Dead

Blast Occurs at 1:30 O’clock in Ross Section, Mile and Half From Opening; Canaries Used by Rescuers to Test Mine and Several of the Tiny Birds Fall Victims of the Gases.


Twenty-five men were entombed by an explosion of gas this morning at 1:30 o’clock in the Gates mine of the H.C. Frick Coke Company along the Monongahela River.
At 2:30 o’clock this afternoon the bodies of 16 had been recovered.

It was believed the others were dead. Among the dead are Martin J. Brennan of Connellsville and Thomas Horne of Gates. Brennan’s body was identified by his brother, James, of this city. Mr. Brennan was unmarried and lived on the West-Side, Connellsville. Most of the dead and missing are foreigners. The explosion occurred in the Ross section of the mine, about a mile and a half from the entrance. The cause is said to have been blowing out of a shot in coal, igniting mine gases. The explosion was confined to a section of the mine. Jim Haggerty, well-known ball player, was about a mile and a half from the scene of the explosion. First news of it was brought to the surface by Jim. He was hurled to the floor of the mine by the force of the blast, but was not much hurt. William Guy, a machine boss, was at a lesser distance from the affected section. He, too, was hurled violently to the floor but escaped with bruises. Mine Inspector Girod was overcome by gas but soon was revived and continued the direction of rescue work. It is said there were only about 50 men in the mine at the time. With the exception of those caught in the immediate vicinity of the blast they made their way out.

None of the bodies was mangled, indicating that death was due to asphyxiation. The bodies recovered were taken to the undertaking rooms of H. S. Johnson at Masontown on a special train over the Monongahela railroad. A train was standing on a siding near the mine to rush the injured to the Brownsville Hospital should any be taken out alive. Rescue workers were in charge of Assistant General Superintendent W. C. Hood and Mine Inspector Girod. They worked their way into the mine by the use of canaries to test the atmospheric conditions. A half dozen foreigners working between the scene of the explosion and the mine entrance managed to escape. How the gas was ignited has not been determined and possibly never may be. A great throng of people, among them relatives and friends of the entombed men, gathered about the mine. State police from the several stations in the south end of the county were called to keep them back from the opening. The explosion was the first in many years in Frick mines and was the first of consequence since that at the Darr mine of the Pittsburg Coal Company December 19, 1907, in which 231 men were killed. The last great explosion in a Frick mine was at Mammoth, January 27, 1891, in which 109 were killed. The Hill Farm explosion, near Mount Braddock, June 26, 1890, claimed the lives of 31 persons out of 51 in the mine. There were lesser explosions at Youngstown and West Leisenring at earlier dates. Roland and Thomas Richardson, both mine foreman, and John Winsing, assistant superintendent at the plant, are cousins of Miss Katherine Hart of this city. Miss Hart got into telephone communication with the works this morning, however, and learned that all her relatives were safe. There were not so many men in the mines, it was said, because of the fact that yesterday was a lay-off day. Winsing, she was told, was due to go to work at 2 o’clock, but the explosion occurred at 1:30. Thomas Connelly, a son of Mrs. Jane Connelly of Leisenring No. 3, is also employed at that plant but did not happen to be in the mine at the time of the accident. Miss Hart was told during her conversation at 11 o’clock that five bodies had been recovered and that there were 20 or 21 still in the mine.


Thomas Horne, single, dead
Martin J. Brennan,
single, dead
Joe Hrebar,
John Gallokovicz,
John Campelin,
Elary Claico,
John Dellango,
Andy Kopolar,
Tony Stodyhar,
Joe Smash,
James Argenti,
John Murinch,
Albert Petralia,
Peter Malik,
Walient Konicka,
Nick Rabbits,
James Poganelli,
Mike Setefanck,
Mike Crickovick,
Joe Popson, Sr.,
Steve Popson,
Andy Roppella,
Arist De Caroceica,
Nick Yourchusky,

The Daily Courier, Connellsville, PA 2 Feb 1922


Death List in Gates Mine Explosion 25; Bodies of All But One Removed

That Not Recovered Located Under Slate Fall in Blast Area


Becomes Necessary to Halt Operations From Mine Entrance and Work From Edenborn Opening; Only Two Americans Among Those Killed.

The death toll in the explosion Thursday morning in the Gates mine of the H. C. Frick Coke Company stands at 25. All others have been accounted for.

Of the dead, the bodies of 24 were recovered and the remaining one has been located under a fall of roof slate and coal. Sixteen bodies were recovered Thursday. This morning at 4 o’clock six more were brought to the surface, at 10 o’clock another and at 11 the eighth of the day.

Owing to Danger from farther falls of the roof the rescue workers were compelled to give up operations from the Gates entrance and enter the mine from the Edenborn opening. The names of only two Americans appear in the list of the dead. They are Martin J. Brennan of Connellsville and Thomas Horne of Filbert. Not a person escaped from that section of the mine in which the explosion occurred.

Official identification of the bodies, all of which were taken to the morgue of H. A. Johnston at Masontown, was under way today. That of Mr. Brennan was established by his brother James A. Brennan, of Connellsville Thursday afternoon. Great care is being exercised in the work of identification.

Coroner S. H. Baum viewed the bodies this afternoon. When the inquest will be held has not been announced.

A large floral wreath, purchased by the coke company, has been placed in each casket.

Every indication points to the men having been asphyxiated. Several were found with handkerchiefs in their hands as if to place them to their mouths and noses. Indications were that others had dipped their handkerchiefs in dinner pails and stuffed them to their mouths to prevent asphyxiation.

It is believed that some of the men had finished their work and were leaving the mine when the explosion came.

Backfiring of a shot, which ignited gas, is told by mine experts to have been the cause of the disaster. The explosion occurred in Butt 19, about two miles from the entrance to the mine.

No time was lost after the alarm had been given in organizing rescue workers to begin the work of removal of the men from the mine.

Superintendent Samuel W. Brown, Patrick Mullen, Frick inspector, State Mine inspector E. E. Girod taking charge, President W. H. Clingerman, Clay Lynch, General superintendent, and V. C. Hood, assistant general superintendent, were among those who were early on the scene.

Rescue workers were gathered from all parts of the coke region. Mrs. Brown, wife of the Gates superintendent, organized a staff of women and began serving hot coffee and sandwiches to the rescue workers. They did efficient work, men about the place testify. W. P. Schenck, general secretary of the Fayette County Red Cross, visited the mine and offered the services of the Red Cross in whatever capacity it might be needed.

The bodies brought out at 4 o’clock today were those of James Pagnella, Joe Popson, Steve Popson, Nick Stefanic, Artis De Coreceina and Andy Swablic. At 10 o’clock the body of Peter Malik was found and an hour later that of Mike Cinkovich.

The body remaining in the mine is that of Elroy Claico.

Thos recovered yesterday were Martin J. Brennan, Thomas Horne, Joe Hrebar, John Gatlokovicz, Andy Kopolar, Tony Stadyhar, Joe Smash, John Marbach, James Argenti, Albert Petriella, Wallent Konicka, Nick Rabbits, Andy Koppella, Mike Yourchusky, John Dallangelo and John Chubela.

The Daily Courier, Connellsville, PA 3 Feb 1922


Funeral of M. J. Brennan Probably Will Be Monday

Martin J. Brennan, Connellsville, young man killed in the explosion Thursday morning in the Gates mine, had been employed at that plant since last October. Before that time he was with the Frisbee Hardware Company of Connellsville and previously had been employed by the H. C. Frick Coke Company at Adelaide and Trotter. He was a son of Jos. Brennan, Blackstone road, West Side. His mother, Mrs. Bridget Kennedy Brennan, died February 4, 1913. His father has since remarried. Mr. Brennan served 22 months in France with the 15th Cavalry during the World War. The unfortunate young man was 25 years old. He was born in England but had been in this country since a small boy, the family first locating at Trotter. He was a member of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church and of the Youghiogheny Council of the Knights of Columbus. The only surviving member of the family besides his father and step-mother, Mrs. Catherine Brennan, is a brother, James A. Brennan, who identified the body Thursday afternoon at Johnson’s morgue at Masontown. The brother was accompanied by Rev. L. D. McNanamy, assistant rector of the Immaculate Conception Church. Arrangements were being made by Funeral Director J. E. Sims to bring the body to Connellsville this afternoon. The funeral will probably be Monday morning. Mr. Brennan would have been ready to leave the mine within 30 minutes after the time he was killed, his brother said.

The Daily Courier, Connellsville, PA 3 Feb 1922

Articles transcribed by Michelle.  Thank you, Michelle!


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