Dunbar, PA Mine Explosion, June 1890 - 31 Miners or More Dead



The Explosion One of the Most Disastrous Ever Recorded in the Coke Region's History.

DUNBAR, PA., June 16 – This morning at 11:10 a sullen shivering roar shook the lowly miners' dwellings on the Hill farm, in Fayette county, near this place, and hundreds of affrighted persons, who knew the sound too well, feared another mine disaster and they were reassured far too well. In a moment the fearful news had spread that the Hill farm mines, owned by Philadelphia parties, had exploded. The low browed hill from which the slope entered from mouth to pit and the score of miners' houses lining the fatal hills shook for a moment an then poured out their frenzied inmates by the hundreds. A rush was made to the mouth of the pit, but ingress was impossible, as smoke in dense volumes was issuing forth. Fifty-two miners went to work this morning and were in the slope when the explosion occurred. Of these fifty-two twenty were in the right heading. Those in the left heading got out all right. The retreat of the others was cut off and not one escaped.

There names were:
JOSEPH BRIGNER, married; RICHARD BRIGMER; MILT FRANEY, married; BARNEY MAUST; EMAUNEL MAUST; PAT COURTNEY, aged 40 years, married; GEORGE COURTNEY, son, aged 17 years; J. W. MITCHELL, aged 40 years, married; JOSEPH BIGLEY, aged 30 years, wife and two children; PETER EAGAN, aged 44 years, married; ROBERT McGILL, single; MARTIN CAVENER, JNO. COPE, married; ANDREW COPE, son; PATRICK DEVLIN, married; JOHN DELANEY, married; JOHN JOY, married; JOHN DEVANNEY; DAVID DAVIS, married; THOMAS DAVIS, son; PATRICK CAHILL, married; WM. CAHILL; PATRICK COURTNEY, married; JOHN COURTNEY, son; JACK MITCHELL, married; DAN SMITH, married; DANIEL SHEARN, single; WM. HAYES, aged 19 years; JAMES McCLEARY, married; THOMAS McCLEARY, married; ELMER DENNEY, single; PETER McGOUGH, single.

At 7 this morning the gang turned in at the mines, the smaller gang drifting off to the left while the larger, some 35 in number, drifted to the right and descended some 800 feet from the surface, and but a mile from the opening. These two drifts are connected, but the connection is from the main stem some half mile from the entrance. The mine, it seems, had been somewhat troubled with water and air, and an open air shaft had been drilled from the surface to the juncture of the right and left shaft, where the water seemed to be most abundant. As the miners branched off from this point they knew that an air hole had been drilled there, that had not yet been broken into the mine, but they did not know that the shaft was broken into to-day. This shaft, by the way, being a six-inch pole, a miner named KERWIN, had left in the right drift near where that branch joined the main exit and in the course of his labors broke into the perpendicular shaft. The moment this was broken into, a flood of water gushed out, and KERWIN and a man named LANDY standing by yelled out for some one to save the men in the right drift, as the water poured down the hill in a stream, and he feared they would drown. Young DAVID HAYS, who had seen the affair, leaped forward at the call, and turned down the left drift in a deluge of water to warn his endangered comrades below. Just as he passed the air shaft that had been broken into, the rush of the waters had changed to the ugly roar of a flood, which blanched the cheeks of the men who stood behind and toward the light. The flow of water had changed to a deadly volume of fire damp, and as young HAYS swung by the shaft a flash of blazing light shot through the shaft from end to end, it seemed. The daring youth carried an open, burning miner's lamp in his hat, and he had hardly taken a step beyond the roaring shaft when the spark ignited a reservoir of the deadly fire damp that had already accumulated, and he sand a corpse 10 feet toward the men whom he had certainly doomed. In an instant an unquenchible [sic] fire sprang up in the mine foot vein, buts between the main entrance and on the right drift, forever shutting the 32 men imprisoned there. The mines are owned by the Dunbar Furnace Company, and the owners are Eastern men and employ about 150 men. The disaster is the worst even known in the Connelsville region, the nearest approach being the Leisenring explosion seven years ago, when 28 were killed.
The rescuers are still at work and will continue throughout the night. A large crowd still surrounds the mouth of the pit, but all hopes of reaching the entombed men before morning have been abandoned. The damage to the mine cannot now be estimated but the owners fear the slope is lost. The Hill Farm mines was one of the most valuable in this section of the region. If the fears of the furnace people are realized the loss will reach far into the thousands.

The Warren Ledger Pennsylvania 1890-06-20