Coal Creek, TN Fraterville Mine Disaster -- More than 200 Miners Entombed


Appalling Disaster in Mine at Fraterville, Tenn.

Only One Man Escaped Instant Death, and He Was Blown Out of the Entrance of Mine by the Force of the Explosion


COAL CREEK, Tenn., May 19 — The worst disaster in the history of Tennessee mining occurred at 7:30 o'clock this morning when between 175 and 225 men and boys met instant death at the Fraterville coal mine, 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 this morning, developments at 10 o'clock to-night 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 who was blown out of the entrance by the force of the explosion. One hundred and seventy-five miners were checked In for work this morning by the mine boss. In addition to these were boys who acted as helpers, and drivers, roadmen and others to the number
of perhaps fifty.

Fraterville mine is the oldest mine in the Coal Creek district, having been opened in 1870. It is fully three miles from the mine's 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 possible 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 Fraterville mine is owned by the Coal Creek Coal Company of which Major E. C. Camp Is President. He was in Cincinnati, and is now hurrying to the scene of the disaster. In 1901, after inspecting Fraterville mine, State Commissioner of Labor K. A. Shiflett reported that the ventilation was not up to requirements; that the furnace was inadequate to ventilate the mine and that the air ways were choked in places. Commissioner Shiflett found that 164 men were at work on the day of his visit, requiring by statute 15,200 cubic feet of air per minute. The volume of air entering the mine, he said, was only 8,000 cubic feet per minute.

May 20, 1902 edition of The New York Times