Coal Creek, TN Fraterville Mine Disaster, May 1902 - Terrible Disaster
EXPLOSION IN A MINE.
TERRIBLE DISASTER OCCURS NEAR COAL CREEK, TENN.
GAS EXPLODES IN A PIT, KILLING EVERY MAN IN THE MINE -- THE DEATHS ARE ESTIMATED AT FROM 175 TO 225.
Coal Creek, Tenn., May 20. -- The worst disaster in the history of Tennessee mining occurred at 7:20 o'clock Monday morning, when between 175 and 225 men and boys met instant death at the Fraterville coal mine, located two miles west of this town, as a result of a gas explosion. Out of the large number of men and boys who went to work in the morning, developments at midnight show that only one is alive, and he is so badly injured that he cannot live.
This man was WILLIAM MORGAN, an aged Englishman, who was a road man in the mine, and was blown out of the entrance by the force of the explosion. One hundred and seventy-five miners were checked in for work Monday morning by the mine boss. In addition to these, there were boys who acted as helpers and drivers, and road men and others to the number of perhaps 50.
Fraterville mine is the oldest mine in the Coal Creek district, having been opened in 1870. It is fully three miles from the mines opening to the point where the men were at work. They had not been at work long before the terrible explosion occurred. There was a fearful roar, and then flames shot from the entrance and the air shafts. News of the disaster spread like wildfire, but as soon as order could be brought out of chaos, two rescuing parties were started in, one at the main entrance, the other through Thistle mine, which adjoins, and in which no men were at work. The Thistle party was unable to make any headway, as the gas stifled the workers. The Fraterville party went fully two miles under the earth, until a heavy fall of slate was encountered. At this barrier men worked like demons, hoping against hope that those beyond might be safe.
The scenes at the mouth of the mine while the workers were within was beyond description. Business had been suspended in Coal Creek and all its mines as soon as the news of the disaster became circulated, and men, women and children gathered around the Fraterville entrance. Women whose husbands and sons were within were wild with grief.