Cherry Coal Mine Disaster

Taken From the Daily Review, Decatur, Illinois
Online transcription by Nancy Piper for Genealogy Trails
Photos donated by Tracey Ristau-MacLeod

(To see a larger version of each photo, click on the photo)

Wednesday Evening, November 17, 2006

MINE FIRE HOTTER - No Hope of Entering Week - Women in Anguish

Cherry, Ill., Nov. 17 - Gas was forming rapidly in the mine this morning, caused by burning coal and the action of fire and water. An explosion was feared.

The temperature in the main shaft was taken at 10 o'clock and showed 115 degrees. This was an indication less favorable than last night, when the authorities determined to open the mine if it possibly could be done with safety.


During the taking of the test appeals from unfortunate women of Cherry for the shaft to be opened were so pathetic as to force the officials to turn their heads.


The fire got hotter as the day passed and by afternoon was hotter than it had been at any time.

The chances are, it is said, no one can enter the mine for a week. If such proves to be the case upon investigation, the mine will be sealed again and not opened for days.


State troops arrived during the night. Hints of a possible demonstration against state officers or mine officials reached the ears of the State's Attorney Eckhart yesterday and the troops were sent for. All night they did sentinel duty about the mine and the St. Paul cars containing the mine inspectors and nurses and the private coach of President Earling of the St. Paul.

During the night, tons of water were forced into the burning mine under the supervision of expert fire fighters from Chicago.

Demonstrations Feared From Frenzied Relatives as Dead Bodies Come Up

Cherry, Nov. 17 - Troops have been called for to prevent an untoward demonstration when the bodies of the three hundred miners, entombed in Saturday's disaster, are brought to the surface.

Sheriff Skoglund telegraphed Springfield late yesterday, asking Deenan to send several companies of militia. No violence has been displayed, and State's Attorney Eckhart hopes by the presence of the small guard to prevent any ill-advised move by miners whose feelings are wrought up by the loss of their comrades. "We want troops at once. We will take no chances," declared Eckhart.

Death Row - Homes of Lost Miners


When the bodies will be brought up is doubtful. None of the officials believe any of the men are alive. The fire in the mine yesterday was more intense than when the men were entrapped. No efforts were made to enter.

Fire Chief Horan of Chicago, arrived with assistance and hose and chemical extinguishers. Later a fire engine and crew were sent from Chicago.


Two hundred and fifty pine boxes in which will be buried the bodies recovered, arrived and are stored near the mine, although the fact was kept from the afflicted families.

Manager Taylor said yesterday, "Every man in the mine was put to sleep on the day of the fire. There is no reason to arouse false hopes. There is no ground for hoping that a single soul could have been found alive an hour after the fire."

"It is a mistaken idea that miners could have hastened far out in the galleries and found oxygen enough to keep them alive for a day. Tests showed that on the day of the fire the air current had a velocity of 800 feet a minute. The longest gallery is three-quarters of a mile. The fire was intense and the smoke white and damp and whirled to every corner of the mine. No living man could escape it."


"The entombed men all breathed this gas. Caught like rats in a trap, they all went to sleep about as a person would take ether. It is not a painful death. I was twice overcome by gas, but was rescued."

"We know all are dead that were there but we risked our lives to satisfy the agonized relatives. Exploration has been a dangerous business. We don't want to lose anymore lives. Yesterday I thought I was gone. I had been feeling about in the second vein 250 feet from the shaft breathing oxygen from the apparatus on my back and on returning toward the cage saw flames. My first thought was that the cage had stuck owing to warping heat. I thought my end had come, but when I reached the cage and gave the signal my heart lightened as the cage shot up through the smoke into the free air."


"It is a mistake to think sealing the shaft cuts off circulation of the air. Our anometers had shown all along good circulation of air in the shaft, but fatal damage was done long before the mine was sealed the first time. We will do everything possible to recover the bodies because we believe it is essential that the sufferers be allowed to bury their dead. Then they feel much better for a chance to clasp their dead in their arms."

Cherry Mine Office


That's What the Officials Brand Reports of Anarchistic Plots

Cherry, Nov. 17 - Despite the Sheriff's assurance that no apprehension prompted the call for troops, rumors were circulated that crowds from points outside are determined to carry out the rescue work themselves, and that a plot had been formed to blow up a number of private cars here, one of them the car of President Earing of the St. Paul railroad. The rumors are branded as absurd by the officials.


Washington, Nov. 17 - According to the records of the Technologist department, the Cherry disaster will rank as the second greatest in this country. Only that at Monongah, W. Va., in which 356 miners lost their lives, furnished a greater death list.

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