Amonate, VA Coal Mine Gas Explosion, Dec 1957


Amonate, Va. (UP) -- Rescue workers today found and brought to the surface the bodies of 11 coal miners killed by flash burns and concussion from a gas explosion in Amonate Mine No. 31 of the Pocahontas Fuel Co.
The blast occurred about 6:30 p.m. e.s.t. Friday, 500 feet underground and about two miles from the main entrance of the mine.
About 175 miners, far from the explosion scene, fled to safety in a mine elevator. Fourteen others were trapped for six hours, but were rescued unharmed. THey had protected themselves from poisonous fumes by stretching canvas over openings in the shaft.
An all-night rescue operation ended with discovery and removal of the bodies of the 11 victims shortly after dawn.
The bodies were brought to the surface more than 13 hours after the explosion occurred. About 75 persons, some of them members of the families of the victims, stood solemnly in the gray morning light at a drift mouth near War, W. Va., as the bodies were brought up on shuttle cars, wrapped in canvas.
Over the drift mouth was a sign: "Have you worked carefully today?"
The bodies were unloaded onto makeshift tables in a machine shop near the entrance, placed on rough-hewn boards resting on oil drums and covered with canvas. Final identification was made in the machine shop.
The victims were identified as:
ARCHIE R. ALICIE, 32, Cedar Bluff, Va.
JAMES CHILES, 51, Valls Creek, Va.
HOWARD FIELDS, age unknown, Bandy, Va.
MAIN B. HARRISON, 43, Bandy, Va.
WILLIAM R. AMOS, 50, Warrior Mine, W. Va.
GILMER E. MONK, 26, North Tazewell, Va.
JOHN E. NUNLEY, 30, Bluefield, Va.
HARMAN B. PERRY, 50, North Tazewell, Va.
JAMES R. RUTHERFORD, Warrior Mine, W. Va.
LLOYD E. VEST, 36, Freeman, W. Va.
ARNOLD W. YOUNG, 30, Newhall, W. Va.
A four-way investigation of the disaster started immediately, by the Federal Bureau of Mines, the West Virginia Department of Mines, the United Mine Workers and the Pocahontas Fuel Co.
Seven of the victims were under notice of a layoff effective Monday. Notice had been given 500 miners in the area that they would be laid off Monday because of falling coal prices.
The 11 victims left 38 children. AMOS was the father of seven, HARRISON and YOUNG of five each.
Discovery of the bodies this morning ended a search operation that began at 6:30 p.m. Friday when the blast occurred more than two miles from the main employes entrance of the sprawling mine. Families of the dead men waited at another entrance for the bodies to reach the surface.
Fourteen other men were trapped for six hours in another section of the mine but were found and reached the surface unhurt. They had protected themselves from poisonous fumes by stretching canvas over openings in the shaft.
Rescue crews sent word to the surface that all of the victims had een killed by flash burns and concussion rather than by suffocation or by being crushed.
The mine, Amonate No. 31, is only a few miles from the Bishop, Va., mine where 37 miners were killed in an underground explosion last Feb. 4. Both shafts are owned by the same company, the Pocahontas Fuel Co., of Bluefield, W. Va.
W. A. FULLERTON, special assistant to the president of Pocahontas Fuel Co., said about 175 other miners were working when the gas exploded, but were far from the scene and went to the surface by elevator. None of them was hurt.
The firm executive said he would not identify the dead men until the bodies were brought out.
WOODROW EVANS, 44, of Amonate, foreman of the 14-man group rescued at about 1 a.m. today, said his men remained calm during their wait and "some of them even ate their lunch." The 14 joined their families at the surface and went home to rest.
The blast was so deep in the mine that officials did not feel the shock on the surface and did not know there was trouble until the gauges showed ventilation failure. While rescue parties worked, company employes tried to restore ventilation behind the blast area in the event the 11 men there were still alive.
One company official said there was surprisingly little damage in the mine, a fact that allowed searchers to reach the bodies well ahead of their estimated schedule. Ten bodies were found at about 6 a.m. and were moved toward the surface. The 11th victim was found later.
Ambulances and rescue equipment came to the scene from throughout this remote mining country along the Virginia-West Virginia border.
ELBERT SPARKS, one of the men who escaped from the mine, said the explosion "kicked up a lot of dust and there was a loud report." He was about two and a half miles from the blast, he said, and he and companions walked to an elevator and rode to the surface.
Fullerton said between 200 and 215 men were working in the mine, one of several operated in this area by Pocahontas. The explosion apparently resulted from an accumulation of gas, he said.
The blast occurred two to two and a half miles from the employes entrance, Fullerton said, and at about the 500-foot level.
The 14 men rescued during the night were working on a seam face beyond the scene of the explosion.
No shock from the blast was felt on the outside, according to company spokesman FRED WILLS. Meters on the ventilating system gave the first indication something was wrong.
WILLS said some of the miners were among the 160 Pocahontas has given layoff notices because of a reductioin in the demand for coal.
The mine is only 10 miles from the Bishop, Va., diggings where 37 miners were killed in an explosion last Feb. 4. That mine also is owned by the Pocahontas firm, which has headquarters in Bluefield, W. Va.

Simpson's Leader Times Kittanning Pennsylvania 1957-12-28


Was a sad time in Bandy, Va

Was a sad time in Bandy, Va that week in Dec.1957. I was the oldest son of Maim B Harrison. I know its been a long time ago but I still miss him. He had one son born after his death he never got to see and Ricky never got to see his dad.


We lived near the sub-station in Amonate, just above the ball diamond. I was 7 yrs. old. They say the explosion didn't shake the ground but it did at our house. My dad went to the front porch, he had a very serious look on his face. He told us the mine had exploded. He immediately went to the entrance of the mine at #31 then later to the shaft, there was smoke coming out of it. Hours later my Uncle Ray Gills came from Montcalm, WV as he was on the Rescue and Recovery Team. He would come from the mine to eat,take a bath, and back he would go. He talked with Mom & Dad about how bad it was. I know it hurt my dad that he wasn't able to help in the rescue, but he had one artificial leg and the other was in a brace from an accident he had in 1954. Mom would send food and coffee to the shaft where many families waited for any news.

I remember many families moving from Amonate since the mine was closed. It was sad in Amonate for a very long time.

It breaks my heart what the Obama Administration has done to the coal industry. When we have no electricity or affordable electricity, I suppose they will be happy.

Amonate will always be HOME to me.

Amonate Mine Explosion

Are any of the newspaper articles on the web? If so, can you share the web address so I can look them up?


My mother was Elaine Boyd

My mother was Elaine Boyd and my sister is Patty. So Anxious to talk to anyone from Joe Monk family.

Kathy Monk Rice. I am sorry

Kathy Monk Rice. I am sorry this post took so long to find me. I never knew anyone would respond to this. You are my great aunt and my grandfathers half sister. I recall many times being told my great grandfather Joseph Cephus also had two daughters but I didnt know your names. I have the monk family bible. your fathers bible dated 1918 I think. I would love to speak to you and your names into this bible as well as your children and grandchildren.I would be honored to do so. Your number no longer works but if you see this email me at

Half brother

Was your mother Elaine Boyd? Do you have a sister Patty?
Gilmer was my father, Joseph C. Monk of Tazewell, Va was my Grandfather.

Amonate Mine Explosion

I can still remember this day as clear as if it were yesterday, I was 5 years old and we had just finished supper when my sister Dixie came in and said there were men saying the mine had blown up. Dad (Pat Griffith) jumped up and took off for the mine. I was so scared I didn't know if he would ever come back. I talked with him several times over the years about the explosion, what they did and how the mine was. When I got older I went to work for the same company, and after 8 years I went to work for the Mine Safety and Health Adm. I got a full copy of the report and I took it to Mr. Evans who was still alive at that time, as he read it on his front poarch he cried so hard telling me about the good friends he lost that day, and what it felt like being trapped and not knowing if they would get out. We all need to pray for our coal miners today because it is still very dangerous work.

Info. Request

I am trying to find out if Gilmer was my half brother. My father was Joseph Monk of Tazwell. Any info. you have will be greatly appreciated.

Amonate Mine Explosion

I was 5 years old when this happened, I remember dad (Pat Griffith) leaving for the mine as soon as we heard, I was scared to death. He later told us that he, and about 6 more went into the mine to try to locate survivors. He said every breath you took felt like it would burn your lungs.They finally got to the section where Woodroe Evans and his men were found alive and brought them to the surface. All of the rescuers eventially had serious lung problems, bleeding, etc. and they all died from lung problems later in life. At 18 I went to work for Consol which bought Pocahontas Fuel Co. I worked 8 years, 4 of which was as a foreman, I then went to work for MSHA as a federal mine inspector. While I was at the mining academy I obtained a full report of the Amonate explosion, and both of the Bishop explosions. Woodroe Evans was still living at this time and I took him a copy of the report. As we were sitting on his front poarch and he was reading the report, he cried so hard, telling me about the ones that did not get out. The one year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch explosion was this week so please continue to keep all coal miners in your prayers.

Gilbert Eugene Monk

He was my half brother. Joe Monk was my father. I never knew him because he died when my mother was pregnant with me. Actually, I never knew anyone from his side of the family until Cathy Cole found me and my sister about 15 years ago. I would love to hear anything you could share with me. I remember my mother talking about Eugene and what happened to him. Please reply if you would like to. I live in Houston Texas and my cell is 281-204.3038.

Kind Regards.