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Scofield, Utah

Pleasant Valley Mine Disaster

May 2, 1900

HUNDREDS PERISHED.

Appalling Loss of Life in a Mine Horror in Utah, Caused by an Explosion of Dust or Powder.


TWO HUNDRED BODIES TAKEN OUT.

Salt Lake, Utah, May 2.
– A special to the Deseret News from Scofield at 10:30 today says:
At this hour two hundred and one bodies have been recovered from mine No. 4. It is now known that between 300 and 400 men entered the mines, and it is also known that a great majority of them have been killed in the powder explosion of yesterday.
Among the dead are about twenty young boys who acted as couplers and trap boys. In the Hunter family alone seven are missing. A large number of the dead were married men. Just how the catastrophe occurred is not known. At Provo a mass meeting has been held for the relief of the families of the victims and $3,000 subscribed.

THE STORY IN DETAIL

Salt Lake, Utah, May 2.
– Two hundred or more lives were lost in the explosion in mine number four, of the Pleasant Valley Coal company, at Scofield, Utah.
One hundred and thirty-seven bodies have already been recovered.

The work of the rescue is still progressing, although there is no hope that any of the men who are unaccounted for have escaped death.

The scene of the disaster is just outside this place on the line of the Rio Grande Western railroad. The explosion, which occurred in the winter quarters of the mine, is attributed by some to the blowing up of a number of kegs of blasting powder. The company has two mines known as Numbers 1 and 4. The explosion occurred in Number 4.

A special train was sent from Salt Lake bearing Superintendent Sharp, of the coal company; Superintendent Welby, of the railroad company, and some doctors.
As fast as bodies are reached they are taken to the boarding houses and other company buildings, where they are dressed and prepared for the coroner’s inquest. The buildings are numerous and in each are from ten to thirty-five bodies, which are laid in long rows. To those which have been identified are attached tags with name and address. These await the coming of relatives or friends.

ORDER TWO HUNDRED COFFINS.
Two hundred coffins have been ordered through local undertakers to be sent at once to the scene of the disaster. A special train bearing the seriously wounded has started from Scofield for Salt Lake.

The first news of the Scofield disaster received in Salt Lake gave the list of killed at twenty-five, but it was not until evening that the full extent of the tremendous calamity was understood. Many people of this city have friends and relatives at the mines, and the newspaper offices and the coal company’s offices were visited by numbers of anxious people who feared some of their friends or relatives might by numbered among the victims. As the list kept constantly growing, the anxiety of the inquiries increased and many of them never went to bed. The calamity was of such size and so unprecedented in the history of the state and even of the west that the mind does not seem able to grasp it.

It appears to have been one of those accidents that are common to the very best regulated mines and against the best endeavors of the most competent superintendents.

The state mine inspector is still without data to lay blame on any one. Of course and inquest will have to determine just where the blame rests, and perhaps it never can be fully determined.

RESCUED MAN’S STORY.
W. C. Wilson
was one of those fortunate ones on the lower level of No. 1 who escaped. He tells his story as follows:

“There was a low rumbling noise heard in the distance, followed by a sort of a wave that can hardly be describes, but that is known to those who have been in explosions, and I have been in several. I said to my [illegible] to ex - [rest of sentence missing] that we run to the tunnel, and with me came six men working in that section. In the main tunnel we met the driver and asked him if he had noticed the strange occurrence. He replied that he had almost been knocked off the bar by the rush of air. I was then convinced that it was indeed and explosion and advised my comrades to hasten with me to the mouth. We met two others further on, and they proceeded with us. We were none too soon, for the after damp reached us some three or four minutes before we reached the open air, almost suffocating us.”

The after damp delayed the work of the rescuing party, but the magnitude of the disaster soon became apparent. All men in the pick hole were laying in clusters. JOHN JAMES, a county commissioner, was found with his son, GEORGE, entwined in loving embrace in each other’s arms.

HOPED TO ESCAPE.
All these men apparently had realized that death was coming, for all were found as though in attitudes of defense. Some had their cloaks about them, others had tried to protect themselves by burying their faces in the ground floor of the mine, hoping thus to escape the deadly gas that was fast enveloping them. They must have lived for some time in prayerful expectations of rescue reaching them.

Bernard Dougall, a young engineer from Springville, Utah, who had just entered the mine a few minutes before with his assistants, was found with his instruments, etc., while his men lay dead around him. As fast as the bodies were removed they were carried to the company barn across the canyon, where they were prepared for identification.

The scene was ghastly, yet most pathetic. Between the blackened and stalwart men lay about a dozen lads who had been engaged as couplers and trappers. Some lay alongside of their fathers and elder brothers. It was a scene that made strong men turn away in tears.

After the foul air cleared away from No. 1, the work of rescue began and it was soon found that a great many of the miners of No. 1 had been suffocated. The men of the lower levels had been warned of the explosion and had made their escape before the gaseous aid had reached them. Cars were taken in and the dead were brought to the mouth of the mine.

HEARTRENDERING SCENES.
Here the scene beggared all descriptions, for the men, women and children, relatives of the dead miners had begun to gather, and as the bodies were brought out and recognized by their respective families, the lamentations were heartrending. The dead were all carried into the boarding house directly opposite the mine and at midnight 137 men, nearly all heads of families, were laid out in the cold embrace of death.

Bishop Thomas Parmley, superintendent of the operations here, gives it as his opinion that the explosion was brought about by giant powder which was taken into the mine by some of the miners, that exploded in some unaccountable way, igniting the dust and causing the explosion.

This mine has been worked for over twenty years and has the reputation, according to State Mine Inspector Thomas, of being one of the best ventilated and protected in the west. He states that he inspected it less than five weeks ago, and believed it entirely safe at that time.

MINE FREE FROM GAS.
It had never had bad air and has always been free from gas, and as the coal is all loaded with shovels, there has not been a large accumulation of dust.

Nine tenths of the men killed are Americans and Welshmen. The former come mostly from Utah, with a small number from Tennessee and Colorado. Several undertakers were sent to Scofield early this morning and the coffins will go down as they can be shipped.

The train bearing the injured men arrived at the Rio Grande western depot this morning.

Harry [illegible] the injured [missing the rest of the sentence] told of it, a few words at a time, between paroxisims [sic] of pain.

“I was repairing some backout on the dump,” said the injured man, “when I started toward the mouth of the tunnel to get some tools. I got about fifty feet away from the tunnel mouth when suddenly there was an awful report, and at the same time a black cloud, filled with rocks, bore down on me. I felt several small rocks strike me; then I felt a jolt on the side and then – then I came away,” said the injured man, with a ghastly attempt at smiling. “Next thing I knew I woke up with a man pouring some brandy down my throat and I saw the boys lying all around me, groaning for help. We were fixed up and put on the train.”

NUMBER OF DEAD UNKNOWN.
J. M. Beattie, of Scofield, who is the company’s storekeeper, said on his arrival this morning that no words could portray the sorrow, the sadness and the appalling extent of the catastrophe. When he left, non could tell how many had been killed, but it was thought that the shift on No. 4 had been wiped out and that many were killed in No. 1 Whether a powder explosion or a dust explosion, or both, had not been decided; in fact, no one had any thought but to rescue the injured, recover the dead and relieve the suffering. The scene around the mine was beyond all attempts at description. Women, children and friends, crowding around, crying and feverishly excited, waiting to see if the next body brought out was a loved one. The financial loss to the company cannot be estimated, but it will be great. In every way it is regarded as the worst disaster ever occurring in this part of the country. The nearest approach to it was the Southern pacific, Almy, Wyo., explosion a few years ago, when over 100 men were killed.

THE DEAD.
The list of known dead recovered up to this morning, follows:
JOHN HUNTER, sr.
DAN MUER, boy.
PETER COCKLETT.
JAMES WILSON.
ROBERT FERRICH.
WILL WILLSTEAD.
ROBERT WILLSTEAD.
R. T. EVANS.
LLEWLYN EVANS,
boy.
JAMES WALLACE, sr.
BEN LLOYD.
JOHN LLOYD.
ROBERT HUNTER.
JAMES C. HUNTER.
DICK THOMAS.
DAVID PADEFIELD.
WILLIAM JONES.
WILLIAM HOWE,
boy.
VALENTINE LOXON.
WILLIAM REESE.
GEORGE JAMES.
JOHN JAMES.
SAMUEL LIVESAY.
R. DIXON.
ANSELMO JACHETTA.
FARARIE JACHETTA.
J. MAY.
SOL. LAPPI.
MATT KROSKIE.
HARRY MILLER.
R. V. MILLER.
ISAAC MILLER.
WILLIAM DAVIS.
A. LANGSTAFF
AND SON.
DAVIS
AND SON.
WILLIAM SAMUELS
AND SON.
ANDREW ADAMSON.
T. J. REILEY.
WILLIAM PARMLEY.
JOHN THOMAS.
JAMES WEBBER.
_______ ANDERSON.
THOMAS PADEFIELD.
HENRY WILSON.
CHAS. EDWARDS.
BERNARD DOUGALL.
ANDREW HUNTER
AND SON.
THOMAS WILLIAMS
AND SON.
JAMES GATHERMAN.
WILLIAM GATHERMAN.
JOHN BURNS.
JOHN PRICE.
ALEX WILSON, jr.
GEORGE COULTHARD.

The difference between this list and one hundred and thirty-seven bodies recovered is accounted for by the unidentified. Several of the injured will not survive the trip to the hospital at Salt Lake City.

Among the injured are:
Thomas Liverey, Sandy Wilson, John Wilson, John Kirton, Wm. Boweter, John Beddoe, Thomas Sellers, Wm. Liverey.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel, Fort Wayne, IN 2 May 1900.

       

WORST IN HISTORY

 Scofield Mine Explosion Has No Parallel.

 AN OLD MINER TALKS

 Latest Estimates Place the Dead at 250 – Town Is in Deep Mourning.

Salt Lake, May 2 – Every house in the little town of Scofield is a house of mourning.  The awful scene of yesterday had passed away when day dawned this morning and an awful calm of despair had taken its place.  The agonized shrieks of the widows and moans of the fatherless are no longer heard.  The stricken ones are beyond all that and their grief could find no utterance.

According to the closest estimate there were about 300 men all told employed at the two mines, which are practically one mine.  About fifty of these were working in what is known as No. 2, back of the level and raise, for far from the explosion that it had spent its force before the shock could reach them, and they all got out.  One of the miners sent over from Castle Gate to aid in the rescue work talked interestingly when he came out of the tunnel.

“This explosion is the most disastrous, so far as the loss of life is concerned, that ever occurred in America.” said he.  “There will be 200 dead when we get through work.  In the great explosion at Almy, Wyoming, a few years ago, 65 were killed.  We had some hard experiences digging through the mine.  Several members of our party were overcome by damp, but we got them out in time.  We found bodies of men in every conceivable shape, but generally were lying on their stomachs with their arms about their faces.  The men died almost instantly when struck by damp and did not suffer.  They just became unconscious and were asphyxiated. Their faces were all calm and peaceful as though they had just fallen asleep.  The men in No. 1 might possibly have escaped had they started to run as soon as the explosion in No. 4, which is connected with it, occurred.  Evidently they did not appreciate this fact until too late, as they put on their coats and arranged their tools before starting. They started, however, just in time to meet the damp half way.  The bodies found near the entrance were badly crushed, as they got the full force of the explosion.”

All efforts are now being concentrated to bring out the large number of bodies known to be in No. 4, where 85 men perished.  Here the force of the explosion broke down the timbers and the bodies can only be got at through No. 1.  Up to noon 149 bodies had been brought out. 

The Durango Democrat, Durango, CO 3 May 1900

Articles transcribed by Jenni Lanham.  Thank you, Jenni!

       

137 BODIES ALREADY TAKEN OUT

Harrowing Scenes in Scofield – Nine-tenths of the Dead Were Americans and Welshmen.

Salt Lake, Utah, May 2
– Two hundred or more lives were lost in yesterday's explosion in Mine No. 4 of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, at Scofield. One hundred and thirty-seven bodies have already been recovered.

The work of rescue is still progressing, although there is no hope that any of the men who are unaccounted for have escaped death. The scene of disaster is just outside of Scofield, on the line of the Rio Grande Western Railroad. The explosion, which occurred in the winter quarters of the mine, is attributed by some to the blowing up of a number of kegs of blasting powder.

The company has two mines, known as Nos. 1 and 4. The explosion occurred in No. 4. A special train was sent from Salt Lake bearing Superintendent SHARPE of the Coal Company, Superintendent WELBY of the Railroad Company and some doctors.

As fast as bodies are reached they are taken to the boarding houses and other company buildings, where they are dressed and prepared for the Coroner's inquest. These buildings are numerous and in each are from ten to thirty-five bodies, which are laid in long rows.

To those which have been identified are attached tags, with name and address. These await the coming of relatives or friends.

Two hundred coffins have been ordered through local undertakers to be sent at once to the scene of the disaster. A special train bearing the seriously wounded has started from Scofield for Salt Lake.

The first news of the Scofield disaster receiced [sic] in Salt Lake gave the list of killed at twenty-five, but it was not until evening that the full extent of the calamity was realized. Many people of this city have friends and relatives at the mines, and the newspaper offices and the coal company's offices were visited by numbers of anxious people, who feared some of their friends or relatives might be numbered among the victims. As the list kept constantly growing, the anxiety increased, and many of the inquirers did not go to bed. The calamity was of such size and so unprecedented in the history of the state and even of the West that the mind of the people did not seem to be able to grasp it.

It appears to have been one of those accidents that are common to the very best regulated mines and against the best endeavors of the most competent superintendents.

The State Mine Inspector is still without the data to lay blame on any one. Of course, an inquest will have to determine just where the blame rests, and perhaps it can never be fully determined.

W. C. WILSON was one of those fortunate ones on the lower level of No. 1 who escaped. He tells his story as follows:

“There was a low rumbling noise heard in the distance, followed by a sort of wave that can hardly be described, but that is known to all who have been in explosions, and I have been in several. I said to my partner that if gas was known to exist in the mine. I should say that an explosion had occurred. I advised that we run to the tunnel and with me came six men working in that section. In the main tunnel we met the driver and asked him if he had noticed the strange occurrence. He replied that he had almost been knocked off the bar by the rush of air. I was then convinced that it was indeed an explosion and advised my comrades to hasten with me to the mouth. We met two others further on and they proceeded with us. We were none too soon, for the after damp reached us some three or four minutes before we reached the open air, almost suffocating us.”

The after damp delayed the work of the rescuing party, but the magnitude of the disaster soon became apparent.

All men on the raise known as Pike's Peak were lying in clusters. JOHN JAMES, a county commissioner, was found with his son GEORGE, entwined in loving embrace in each other's arms.

All these men apparently, had realized that death was coming, for all were found as though in attitudes of defense. Some had their cloaks about them; others had tried to protect themselves by burying their faces on the ground floor of the mine, hoping thus to escape the deadly gas that was fast enveloping them. They must have lived for some time in prayerful expectation of rescue reaching them.

BERNARD DOUGALL, a young engineer from Springville, Utah, who had just entered the mine a few minutes before with his assistants, was found with his instrument set, while he and his men lay dead around it.

As fast as the bodies were removed they were carried to the company barn across the canyon, where they were prepared for identification.

The scene was ghastly, yet most pathetic. Between the blackened and stalwart men lay about a dozen lads who had been employed as couplers and trappers. Some lay alongside of their fathers and elder brothers. It was a scene that made strong men turn away in tears.

After the foul air cleared away from No. 1, the work of rescue began and it was soon found that a great many of the miners of No. 1 had been suffocated. The men of the lower levels had been warned of the explosion and had made their escape before the gaseous air had reached them. Cars were taken in and the dead were brought to the mouth of the mine.

Here the scene beggared all description, for the men, women and children, relatives of the dead miners, had begun to gather, and as the bodies were brought out and recognized by their families their lamentations were heartrending.

The dead were all carried into the boarding houses directly opposite the mine and at midnight 137 men, nearly all heads of families, were laid out in the cold embrace of death.

Bishop THOMAS PARMLEY, superintendent of the operations here, have it as his opinion that the explosion was brought about by giant powder which was taken into the mine by some of the miners, and that had exploded in some unaccountable way, igniting the dust and causing an explosion.

This mine has been worked for over twenty years and has the reputation, according to State Mine Inspector THOMAS, of being one of the best ventilated and protected in the West. He states that he inspected it less than five weeks ago and believed it entirely safe at that time. It has never had bad air and has always been free from gas, and, as the coal is all loaded with shovels, there has not been a large accumulation of dust.

Nine-tenths of the men killed are Americans and Welshmen. The former come mostly from Utah, with a small number from Tennessee and Colorado. Several undertakers were sent to Scofield early this morning and the coffins will go down as soon as they can be shipped.

The special train bearing four of the injured men arrived at the Rio Grande Western depot this morning.

HARRY TAYLOR, one of the injured men, said he remembered the moment of the awful explosion, and he told of it, a few words at a time between paroxysms of pain.
“I was repairing some track out on the dump,” he said, “when I started toward the mouth of the tunnel to get some tools. I got about fifty feet away from the tunnel mouth when suddenly there was an awful report and at the same time a black cloud, filled with rocks, bore down on me. I felt several small rocks strike me and then I felt a jolt on my side and then – then I came away,” said the injured man, with a ghastly attempt at smiling.

“The next thing I knew I woke with a man pouring some brandy down my throat, and I saw the boys lying all around me moaning for help. We were fixed up and put on the train.”

J. M. BEATTIE of Scofield, who is the company's storekeeper, said on his arrival in Salt Lake this morning that no words could portray the horror, the sadness and the appalling extent of the catastrophe. When he left no one could tell how many persons had been killed, but it was thought that the shift in No. 4 had been wiped out and that many had been killed in mine No. 1. Whether the cause was a powder explosion or a dust explosion, or both had not been decided; in fact, no one had any thought but to rescue the injured, recover the dead and to relieve the suffering. The scene around the mine was beyond attempts at description, he said. Women, children and friends were crowding around the shaft, crying and feverishly excited, waiting to see if the next body brought out was a loved one.

The financial loss to the company cannot be estimated, but it will be great. In every way it is regarded as the worst disaster that ever occurred in this part of the country. The nearest approach to it was the Southern Pacific Almy, Wyo., explosion five years ago, when over one hundred men were killed.

The list of dead recovered up to midnight is as follows:
JOHN HUNTER, sr.; DAN MUHR, boy; PETER COCLETT; JAMES WILSON; ROBERT FERRISH; WILL WILLSTEAD; ROBERT WILLSTEAD; R. T. EVANS; LEWELLYN EVANS, boy; JAMES WALLACE, sr.; BEN LLOYD; JOHN LLOYD, brothers; ROBERT HUNTER, JAMES C. HUNTER, father and son; DICK THOMAS; DAVID PADFIELD, WILLIAM JONES; WILLLIAM HOWE, boy; VALENTINE LOXON; WILLIAM REESE; GEORGE JAMES; JOHN JAMES, son and father; SAMUEL LIVESAY; R. DIXON; ANSELMO JACHETTA; FERARY JACHETTA; J. MAY; SOLL LAPPI; MATT KROSKIE; HARRY MILLER; B. V. MILLER; ISSAC MILLER; WILLIAM DAVIS; A. LANGSTAFF and son; MR. DAVIS and son; WILLIAM SAMUELS and son; ANDREW ADAMSON; T. J. REILLEY; WILLIAM PARMLEY; JOHN THOMAS; JAMES WEBBER; MR. ANDERSON; THOMAS PADFIELD; HENRY WILSON; CHARLES EDWARDS; BERNARD DOUGAL; ANDREW HUNTER and son; THOMAS WILLIAMS and son; JAMES GATHERMAN; WILLIAM GATHERMAN; JOHN BURNS; JOHN PRICE; ALEXANDER WILSON, sr.; GEORGE COULTHARD.

The difference between this list and the one hundred and thirty-seven bodies recovered is accounted for by the unidentified.

In one pile at No. 1 mine there are ten men, foreigners, as yet unknown. The injured, eight in number, were taken on a special train to Salt Lake.

There are several of the injured that will not survive the trip to the hospital. The injured taken to Salt Lake are:
THOMAS LIVESAY; SANDY WILSON; JOHN WILSON; JOHN KIRTON; WILLIAM BONETER; JOHN BEDDOE; THOMAS SELLERS; WILLIAM LIVESAY.

Brooklyn Eagle New York 1900-05-02

Submitted & transcribed by Stu Beitler  Thank you, Stu!

       

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