Dunbar, PA Mine Explosion, June 1890 - Doom at Dunbar


A Furious Fire Raging in the Hill Farm Mine.

A More Terrible Disaster Threatened – The Pits Are Filled with a Deadly Gas and the Stroke of a Miner's Pick Would Explode It with Awful Effect.

DUNBAR, Pa., June 28. -- There is no longer any hope. Faith in the rescuers has been abandoned. A furious fire has sealed their fate and if their dead bodies escape the hungry flames the pilfering rats that infest the mines will have gnawed them beyond recognition. Death never came to men in a more revolting form and affliction never fell heavier on the bereaved.

This has been an awful, yet even a greater disaster threatens. A fire, fierce as a whirlwind, is raging for 2,000 feet down into the yawning mouth of the Hill Farm mine.

Pregnant with Death.
Deadly gas has generated back of the burning and the ponderous hill into which the Hill Farm, the Ferguson and the Mahoning pits are driven is now a mighty magazine, fairly pregnant with death. The lightest stroke of a miner's would explode it and the effect of such an explosion would be awful to contemplate.

The rescuing party has been withdrawn from the face of the Mahoning pit. A strong guard has been placed at the mouth of the Ferguson mines to keep out the impatient, restless miners, who would rescue the unfortunates on their own account. The flames at the Hill Farm mines are hot enough to drive away invaders.

The Flames Burst Out.
Fire broke from the mouth of the Hill Farm pit shortly after 9 p. m. It followed promptly after the drill entered the burning mine. For two hours before the flames burst out huge billows of smoke, black, dense and deadly, rolled over each other into the air and drifted upward, forming a ponderous monument of mourning to the dead inside. A rumbling, rushing sound, like a swiftly moving train through a tunnel, succeeded the flames.

Secretary WALBORO, Superintendent WATACHORN and the United Press reporter were at the pit at the outbreak. To the experts the smoke indicated approaching fire and for a half hour before its arrival could be heard. Before the fire reached the mouth of the pit it could be seen licking up the timber in the mine, and the steady stream of water which rippled down the slope seemed only to inspire and encourage to wilder efforts the angry fiends.

The Heavens Seemed Aflame.
It was indeed an awful sight, and when, with a brilliant flash, the great column of smoke was ignited, the heavens seemed aflame. Fantastic features of fire darted hither and thither, chasing each other to the clouds and burning a huge hole through the gloom of night. The surrounding country was lighted up, guiding the excited, nervous crowds to the scene.

Those who had been watching at the Mahoning mine hurried over the hill to the fire. The people of Dunbar who could see the reddened heavens from the village rushed about in confusion fearful that another calamity had occurred.

The families of the entombed miners who have waited and watched until their grief had become dead, were aroused and their suffering and distress came to them anew. Neighbors gathered into each stricken home and while they comforted the living they prayed for the dead, and while they watched the fire they seemed mentally to bury their loved ones.

Heading in the Mine.
The heading in the Hill Farm mine was not accompanied with accident. JAMES BARNHILL, a miner, guided the drill and when he touched the objective point he secured a green bag full of air and then the rescuing party were ordered out of the pit. Inspectors KEIGHLY, BLICK and EVANS then examined the face of the mine, after which they left the place to consult. They decided that any attempt to break through the dividing wall might be accompanied by accident. WATCHORN, WISE and other miners are present at the conference.

The suspension of work just when the unfortunate miners are almost within reach has been a great disappointment here, and has still further enraged the people. The false report sent out daily by the mine inspector had led them to hope against themselves, and when the fire broke out the feeling was intensely bitter against those who were responsible for the delay.

The News Frederick Maryland 1890-06-28