Cherry Coal Mine Disaster
Table of Contents

Taken From the Daily Review, Decatur, Illinois
the LaSalle Daily Tribune, LaSalle, 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)

Just north of town of Cherry , Bureau County, Illinois are remnants of the Cherry Coal Mine, where 259 miners lost their lives in one of the worst mine disasters in United States history.

On Saturday, November 13, 1909, the mine caught fire. A load of hay, intended for the mule stables at the bottom of the mine, was apparently ignited by burning oil dripping from a kerosene torch.  

Read and see how this terrible tragedy was relayed to the people around the state from the newspaper articles and photos taken.

  • Sunday Morning, November 14, 1909 :  (Decatur Review) 400 Miners Trapped by Fire: all thought Dead - Awful Catastrophe in St. Paul Railroad Mine at Cherry Due to Miner's Lamp - No Escape for Workers.
  • Monday Evening, November 15, 1909:   (Decatur Review) 300 IN MINE, NOT ONE LIVING:  Latest Conclusion in Mine Disaster - Bodies Now Being Brought Up
  • Monday, November 15, 1909- Page One :  (Daily Tribune)
    • 385 MEN ENTOMBED - Subterranean Fire at Cherry, Ill., Mine Entraps Hundreds of Workmen - Party of Heroic Rescuers Lose Lives After Helping Scores to Escape From Depth.
    • HEARTRENDING SCENES PRESENTED AROUND MINE - Wives, With Babes In Arms and Tots Trailing at Their Heels, Crowd Around Shaft, Screaming and Crying For their Relatives - Special Trains Bring Doctors, But None Are Brought Up From Below - Rush Water To Fire on Special Cars.
    • ALL HOPE IS GONE FOR CHERRY MINERS - Flames in Mine  Beat Back Those Who Would Rescue the Imprisoned Men.
    • Fire Burst Out Afresh when the Fan is Started. - Shaft Openings Are Once More Sealed Up in the Hope of Smothering the Fire -- Officials do not Expect to Reopen Mine Until Tomorrow at Least -- All Those Entombed are Thought to be Dead
  • Monday, November 15, 1909 - Page Eight    (Daily Tribune)
    • Former Miners From Here Dead - List Shows Number From La Salle and Jonesville Lost Lives at Cherry - Heroes Lived in Jonesville
    • Jonesville Man Gives Life In Disaster At Cherry To Save Others
    • La Salle Mine Sends Fan To Replace One Destroyed At Cherry
    • CORONER OPENS INQUEST SUNDAY - Village Hall at Cherry Scene of Inquiry  into Death of Rescue Party - Several Jurors inclined to censure Him For Failure to Raise Cage At Once - Resume Hearing This Morning (To Be Continued......)
  • Tuesday Evening, November 16, 1909:  (Decatur Review) NO HOPE, COAL IN MINE ON FIRE - Widows Gather and Plead - Rain Falls - Funerals Held - Only Misery at Cherry.
  • Wednesday Evening, November 17, 1909:   (Decatur Review) MINE FIRE HOTTER - No Hope of Entering Week - Women in Anguish
  • Thursday Evening, November 18, 1909:   (Decatur Review) GO INTO THE MINE: Encouraged By Lower Temperature At Surface - Soldiers Surround Shaft and Keep Crowd Off. No Demonstration
  • Friday Evening, November 19, 1909:  (Decatur Review) GET BODIES FROM MINE: Bodies, Followed by Mourners, Taken to Temporary Morgue
  • Saturday Evening, November 20, 1909:  (Decatur Review)
    • FORTY OUT ALIVE: (Actually Only 22) MAY BE 150 MORE:  Walled Themselves In From Fire -- Seven Days In Darkness -- Two Come Up Smiling.  
    • FORTY BODIES BROUGHT UP - Ghastly Procession From Mine Before Village Is Awake
  • Sunday Morning, November 21, 1909:   (Decatur Review)
    • ANOTHER FIRE BREAKS OUT, MAY KILL MANY - Twenty Men Safely Out of Cherrry Mine
    • Graphic Stories Told By Survivors
  • Monday Evening, November 22, 1909:    (Decatur Review)
    • NO MORE RESCUES AT CHERRY MINE - 200 Missing, Many Are Dead, Some May Be Alive
    • ARE AFTER PROOF - Miners' Representatives Will Try to Fix Responsibility on Company
    •  WROTE WILLS - Some Pathetic Letters  Were Written by the Miners Facing Horrible Death

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