Osage, WV Explosion Tears Through Coal Mine, May 1942


Osage, W. Va., May 12. -- (AP) -- A disastrous explosion tore through the heart of a northern West Virginia coal mine Tuesday with an apparent loss of at least 53 lives.
Rescue crews at midnight had recovered three bodies, discovered 11 more and announced there was scant hope that 39 trapped men could still be living.
Seventy others in the big operation, working outside the explosion area, escaped from the No. 3 mine of the Christopher Coal company located four miles from the university city of Morgantown.
An official announcement at midnight said the estimate of 53 lost "muct of necessity be an approximation." There was no indication other than that, however, that a greater number was trapped.
The time of the explosion, three miles underground, was fixed at 2:30 p. m. but company officials said the cause had not been determinied. The announcement said the operation had been rockdusted as a precaution against explosion two days ago, and was inspected Monday.
FRANK A. CHRISTOPHER, company president, issued a statement that he still hoped some might be found alive but members of five crews boring into the wrecked area said it did not seem as if any of those remaining escaped.
Three bodies, near the perimeter of the blast area, were recovered soon after the explosion. Late Tuesday night crews announced they had located 11 other bodies, which would be removed soon.
At least one man was given oxygen treatment to offset, the effects of gas he inhaled.
The bodies removed were identified as:
NICK NIMECHECK, 23, address unknown.
FRED MONGO, about, 35, of Osage.
JACK JONES, 28, of Granville.

The Billings Gazette Montana 1942-05-13






Osage, May 13 -- (AP) -- Four more bodies were carried out of the Christopher Coal company's No. 3 mine late tonight by rescue workers, bringing to 45 the total removed from the operation rocked by an explosion yesterday afternoon.
Eleven other victims were still buried under the heavy falls in the center of the blast area, and company officials expressed the belief it would take hours to extricate them from the debris.
Mine Head Joins Squads.
FRANK CHRISTOPHER, president of the company, joined the rescue crews in their toll earlier in the day and was still in the pit when the four bodies were brought to the surface.
Three of the bodies recovered tonight were identified as those of J. W. MITCHELL, 52, cutter, of Morgantown; ALLEN BAUGHMAN, 32, machine operator, Fairview, and JAMES GATIAN, 33, trackman, of Riverside. The identity of the fourth man was not immediately determined.
The rescue crews hauled three bodies to the surface yesterday and removed 42 others today to the accompaniment of sobs from grief-stricken widows and children who stood among the hundreds of spectators around the mine mouth.
Autos Choke Road.
The road leading from Morgantown, four miles south, was choked with automobiles again today as throngs of relatives and the merely curious visited the operation.
Officials expressed themselves as certain there were 11 more bodies in the mine after making an exhaustive check, but all apparently were in the hard-hit third section affected by the blast.
Chief N. P. RHINEHART of the state mines department, confessing himself still at a loss about the cause of the explosion, explained that an investigation would not be started until after all bodies are found.
Hasn't "Least Idea"
Speaking of the workings as a whole, RHINEHART said:
"The mine is not so badly torn, with not a whole lot of falls. I haven't yet drawn any conclusions as to the cause of the explosion ..... I haven't the least idea."
The five rescue crews, working in four-hour shifts, still were forced to wear oxygen helmets because of fumes remaining in the affected area of the mine, three miles underground. Four were overcome as a result of overexertion but their condition was not considered serious.
Ambulances carried the victims to Morgantown to await funeral arrangements.
Brass checks, lamp and family records were searched during the day as officials sought to determine for certain those who lost their lives.
Assistant Foreman Killed.
During the check, it was discovered that TOM FRIESEN, a loader who had been reported dead, was alive. EDDIE JEFFERSON, a loader whose name was not on the original list of those trapped, was found dead.
Among those killed in the blast was Assistant Day Foreman TONY BELEC and the three shift leaders in the mechanized operation, each working in a different section.
One of the victims, THOMAS CORDWELL, 50, of Osage, a mechinist, left a widow and 13 children.
Unofficial List of Dead.
The unofficial list of 56 men dead and missing and their survivors:
TONY BELEC, 28, assistant day mine foreman, Riverside, widow and one child.
JOHN McGEE, SR., 41, shift leader, Osage, widow and six children.
HAROLD LITTLE, 32, shift leader, Morgantown R. D. 3, widow and two children.
BASIL REED LAFFERTY, 40, shift leader, Morgantown, widow and one child.
THOMAS CORDWELL, 50, machinist, Osage, wife and 13 children.
JOHN B. COOK, 40, trapper, Osage, widow and three children.
BERMAN COOKER, 42, motorman, Watson, widow and two children.
GEORGE FAGULLA, 29, machine operator, Riverside, widow.
FLOYD METHENY, 30, machine operator, Morgantown R. D. 3, widow and four children.
HAROLD MURPHY, 18, trackman, Cassville, single.
HARLAN C. MURPHY, 35, machine operator, Jere, widow and two children.
DARRELL ADAMS, 34, machine operator, Mt. Morris, Pa., widow and two children.
HOYE THOMPSON, 46, trackman, Morgantown R. D. 1, widow.
ROY BATTON, 33, morotman, Osage, widow.
SAM MAY, 46, trackman, Star City, widow and five children.
JOHN PAUL GASPAR, 32, timberman, Morgantown, wife and two children.
WILLIAM SHINKO, 50, timberman, Chaplin, single.
ROBERT JOSEPH COVERT, 33, wireman, Morgantown, widow.
EDWARD DELANEY, 33, motorman, Core, widow and four children.
RUSSELL WADE TURNER, 26, wireman, Morgantown, widow and one child.
EVERETT MARSHALL, 26, trackman, Osage, widow and two children.
EDWARD LEO McCARDLE, 27, brakeman, Morgantown, widow and one child.
DOUGLAS DONALDSON, 26, timberman, Maidsville, divorced, one child.
EARL HENDERSON, 29, machine operator, Laurel Point, widow and three children.
THOMAS O. BRINGEGAR, SR., 55, trackman, Osage, widow and seven children.
ALFONZO CROOK, 25, Negro, brakeman, Cassville, widow.
JOHN POWLEY, 29, timberman, Osage, widow.
FREDERICK LEE MONGOLD, 36, motorman, Osage, widow and two children.
NICK NIMCHECK, 22, pumper, Morgantown, widow.
ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM, 34, machine operator, Cassville, widow and two children.
HOMER DEE CUNNINGHAM, 30, mechanic, Morgantown, brother of ARTHUR, widow and one child.
ALLEN (JACK) JONES, JR., Negro, brakeman, Granville, widow.
DELFORD WHETZELL, 38, brakeman, Cassville, widow.
HARRY MOODY, 26, trackman, Smithfield, Pa., widow and two children.
EDWARD JEFFERSON, 38, Negro, brakeman, Osage, widow and six children.
HOMER MAYFIELD, 58, timberman, Cassville, widow and four children.
BRUCE STONE, 55, brakeman, Pentress, widow and three children.
JUNIOR McGEE, 23, timberman, Maidsville, son of Shift Leader McGEE, widow and one child.
FRANK POWLEY, 48, shot fireman, Osage, widow, seven children.
DAN MORRIS, 31, machine operator, Riverside, widow, one child.
The 11 believed still in the mine were identified as:
STEWART MILLS, 41, trackman, Morgantown, widow, three children.
A. P. MORRIS, 35, trackman, Osage, widow and 11 children.
WILLIAM NEWHOUSE, 48, trackman, Osage, two children.
ATTILIO DORINZI, 53, trackman, Jerome Park, widow and seven children.
ALBERT FRAZIER, 24, machine operator, Morgantown, widow.
JAMES FOLEY, 58, trackman, Deer Park, Md., widow and seven children.
JOHN FRIELD, 33, snapper, Pursglove, widow and two children.
DENNIS WOLFE, 41, trackman, Osage, widow.
WILLIAM J. CANNON, JR., 21, trackman, Albright, widow.
KERMIT MAYFIELD, 18, timberman, Cassville, single.
AUSTIN JAMES, 43, Fairmont R. D. 7, widow and three children.
EDSON McCLAIN, 31, Arthurdale, widow and two children.

Charleston Gazette West Virginia 1942-05-14


A.p. Morris

Arthur Pear Morris was my grandfather on my father's side. I never met him, but remember my grandmother, Mabel, well. I know very little of him, except that he drank heavily, not uncommon for a miner. I hope that you write back.

J powley

He was my mothers uncle,his sister was my grandmother,she married Charles marteny,his daughter Helen was my mother who married Edgar Wilson. Helen was born in meadow brook,wv then the family moved to flemington,wv.my grandmother died when my mother Helen was young and her older sisters (ruby,madge,pearl and Virginia) helped raise her. Charles and his wife(my grandparents) and aunt pearl (who married Grover crumrine) are buried at the ioof cemetary near rosemont,wv. I remember my mother telling me she had an uncle that died at Osage.

Osage Coal Mine: John Powley

John Powley was my great grandfather. He was killed along with his brother Ronald and their father, Frank. My mother was born two months later on July 9. I created a ceramic sculpture about my grandfather which included all of these men's names on round disks like the ones mentioned above. It is nice for me to see their family members' comments here on this post. I'm sorry for your loss and glad that part of them lives on.

Uncle Allen Space Baughman

Just found this article, my Uncle Allen died in this coal mine accident.
Remember my mom telling me this story about her brother.

Frederick Mongold

Frederick L Mongold also known as Bud was my daddys uncle. My dad was named after him. They also called my dad Bud. My brother is Frederick Lee Mongold the third.

Added information ...

Harold Murphy was the stepson of Orval Paul Cunningham, brother of Arthur and Homer Cunningham, brothers of my father James Howard Cunningham who died at Four States, WV, March 8th, 1954.

The horror of that disaster still lingers. I recall watching from a hillside and seeing the smoke come out of the mine shaft and hearing the prayers of other victims families that were never answered. We had been told by our parents that Uncle Orval, my father and one of my father's closest friends, Walter Stonebreaker would enter the mine in search and rescue. It was still very dangerous down there.

And for those too young to remember, "checking the brass" in the article above, was the process of checking everybody's "check number" stamped into a brass disc about the size of a half dollar, only thinner. At one time many brass "checks' were issued to identify who had loaded given coal cars so they could be paid, and later to exchange them for lamps showing who was in the mine ... many miners rivited them to their belts just in case of such a disaster.

The exact cause of the explosion was never really determined, but the best guess is that fine coal dust ignited from one of the machines and in turn set off a lot of gas. Osage was known for gas in those days, and the coal was a bit more hard, anthracite, than most of the Pittsburgh Vein which is primarily bituminous, or soft coal.

Peace upon the families, survivors and victims who are not forgotten.

Colonel Robert F. Cunningham

Darell Adams correction

My Grandfather, DARRELL ADAMS had three children (2 girls and 1 boy) not two as listed.

Osage Mine Explosion

My Uncle, Tony Belec, was killed in this mine accident. My aunt Delma (Tony's wife) remarried. My cousin, Tony Belec and my Aunt Delma still live in Westover, WV.
Having been born in 1947 I never got to know my Uncle Tony.

osage mine explosion

The man listed as fred mongo is really fred mongold he was my mothers uncle.

Osage Mine Accident

My great grand father was A.P. Morris, and I remember well the stories my great grandmother, and grandmother told me of this terrible disaster.