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Lackawanna County Pennsylvania Disasters

1869 Coal Mine Fire


1869 Coal Mine Fire
Transcribed by Nancy Piper

New York Herald (New York, New York) September 8, 1869

The Coal Mine Horror

The Shaft Cleared and Air Pumped Into the Mine

Several Descents Made Without Results

Hope Abandoned of Any Lives Being Saved

Great Excitement in the Mining District

Arrival of as Engine and Fan-Air Being Passed into the Shalft - Meetin of Miners - Descent of Miners Down the Shaft - Narrow Escape of Two from Death by Suffocation - Carbonic Acid Gas and Black Damp Prevent Explorations - All Hope Abandoned of Any Lives Being Saved.

Scranton Pa, Sept. 7, 1869

The following bulletins to the Scranton Morning Republican have been received from Avondale:

6 O'clock A.M. - The train with the donkey engine and fan has just arrived. They will be hauled up the hill to the mouth of the shaft at once, and all haste made to put them in place and get ready for work.

8 O'clock A.M. - The engine is nearly ready and preparations are going on rapidly. A rope has just been stretched around the shaft and a large police force has been deputized and is under charge of Chief Daniel Brown, of Plymouth, assisted by Levi Carvickaner, constable for Plymouth township. The ground has been cleared of all not actually engaged in busy preparation. The hill side, rising abruptly back of the shaft, is crowded with women and children, and men from other localities.

9 O'clock A.M. - The most experienced men all agree that every person in the mine has perished. Preparations are hastily being made to force air down the shaft. A descent will be made within an hour. All mining experts feel sure that every man in the mine is dead.

A meeting of miners has just been convened in the woods near by, James George acting as president. He stated in a spirited speech the object of the gathering to be to organize a force of fity experienced men from amont the representatives of the several districts present to hol themselves in readiness to volunteer to descend the shaft. He stated that seventeen miners were there from Hyde Park, and called for nominations from other localities.

Thomas J. Phillips, Superintendent of the Jersey Mines, waited upon the meeting to say that when the preparations were ready the carpenters, machinists, and others would give place to the miners, who would co-operate with the officers of the company to exploring the mine.

9:15 O'clock A.M. - The engine and fan have just started, and every pulse is quickened at the busy hum they create.

9:30 O'clock A.M. - Men are pouring in from all quarters in great numbers. Mr. J. C. Wells has just arrived, with 300 miners, from Coalville.

9:40 O'clock A.M. - The fan was worked only a few minutes on trial, when it was stopped to connect the canvas air conductor, which will reach the bottom of the shaft, 297 feet. All is nearly ready; the miners are close at hand and a roll of their names is being called.

10:05 O'clock A.M. - The fan has just been started. Forty six miners have been enrolled under the superintendence of James George, of Plymouth, and Henry W. Evans, of Pittston. George Morgan, of the Nanticoke Mines, is appointed foreman of the part of the mines, and Thomas E. Davis, of Nanticoke, and John H. Powell, of Taylorville, as advisers. They are to have the direction of operations after the descent is made.

10:20 O'clock A.M. - Thomas Corwin, Superintendent of the Hampton Mines, and John I. Davis, carpenter at Avondale, are making the first descent of the shaft. They proceed only 100 feet and lower three lamps, which burn freely. The obstructions prevent the lamps from reaching the bottom within fifteen feet.

10: 45 O'clock A.M. - Carson and Davis remain in their position reconnoitering the shaft. The lamps still burn and the fan continues to force down air. The Rev. Thomas P. Bunt appeared on the ground, and after a few remarks proposed the following gentlemen as a committee to solicit aid for the families of the sufferers - E. O. Wachams(?), James McAlarney, J. Fuller, Reynolds G. Evans, Dr. Ritchards, Jacob Roberts, J. W. Eno, H. J. Tapie, Harry Bakes, Samuel Shaffier, B. J. Woodward, R. N. E. Woodward, Robert Boston, J. G. Wren, Nathan Van Horn, F. Thorner, H. Turner, H. H. Harvey, Richard Stillwell and John B. Smith. Several small books, previously prepared, were handed to all the committeemen present and the canvases of the immense multitude here is progressing.

11 O'clock A.M. - The two men have ascended and the miners' committee are getting ready to go down. They will take axes, saws, &c., to clear the passage.

The crowd has become so great as to interfere with the relief operation, and the free passenger trains are necessarily suspended.

11:15 O'clock A.M. - George T. Morgan of Nanticoke; John Howell, of Taylorville; Thomas David, of Belleville, and Thomas E. Davis of Nanticoke, a committee of miners, begin to descend the shaft. They proceed slowly and with care.

11:35 O'clock A.M. - They now ascend to the mouth of the shaft. They report that after leaving the platform on which they went down they proceeded about thirty feet into the gangway, and, finidn a great deal of carbonic acid gas and black damp, retreated, after conveying the end of the large canvas air conveyor as far into the lode as they went. The damp was between two and three feet deep on the bottom of the mine.

11:55 O'clock A.M. - Rees Evans, Thomas Carson, Charles Jones and Isaac Thomas, another miner's committee, now begin to descend the shaft.

12:30 O'clock P.M. - The second party of men returned safely, as had first. They penetrated the gangway for a distance of seventy-five feet and found the large door wide open. They then went a hundred feet further in one of the passages, and found a small door closed. After opening this door to give a circulation of air around to the entrance they returned. Had this small door been open there might have been a shade of hope, as the gas and smoke and fire would have had a free passage around the circuit and out again. As it is, the fears are that the smoke has penetrated the inner mine and suffocated all the men. The main doorway leading to the mine has not yet been reached.

12:45 O'clock P.M. - The third set of men, four in number, went down and came back in fifteen minutes, two of them so overcome with the effets of the gas that they are being restored with difficulty. The gas is coming out of the outer mine very fast since the passage way was opened.

1 O'clock P.M. - The two men are not yet revived. Drs. Throop and Everhart, of Scranton, and Wilson, of Plymouth, are in attendance. The wildest excitement prevails, and the mass of people are kept back with great difficulty.

1:30 O'clock P.M. - The two miners are saved at last. It seems idle to peril life by any further attempt to go down as long as the gas is so strong. No attempt can of course be made to reach the main door or to penetrate the mine until the outer gangway is cleared of gas. It is uncertain how long this will take. There is really no groung to hope that a single life remains of those who were at work in the mine. Everybody gives them up, and nothing probably remains to be done but to recover the bodies. What horror an suffering yesterday witnessed beneath this spot, and whether it was of long or short duration none will probably ever know.


The Air Becoming Purer - Two More Descents Made - The Fire in the Furnace Still Burning

Scranton, Sept. 7, 1869

At a quarter past three o'clock this afternoon four Men descended, returned in good condition and reported the air much purer.

At half-past six o'clock this evening four men, John Tisdale, Colonel Harkness, John Selteree and R. E. B. Jones, went down. After letting down the water hose to the bend of the air piper and over the furnace, to put water on and deaden the fire in the furncace, they returned in fifteen minutes, saving that the water hose was landed in the shaft and that they could not find the hole by which they expected to enter. They were not seriously affected by the foul air.

At ten minutes past seven o'clock this evening another relay of four men - F. Bray, Evan Morris, Evan J. Evans and William Gregory - went down. They returned in about twenty minutes, reporting that they had been at the furnace and found everything all right except the fire in the furnace, which was still burning. They could not arrange the water hose until it was hoisted up a little. They were not seriously affected by the foul air.

Transcribed by
Courtney Birkes

Mar 31, 1904
Fourteen are Killed
In an Explosion in a Squib Factory at Scranton and Factory is Wrecked

Scranton, PA, Mar 31 1904
Through an explosion in a squib factory at Priceburg, a few miles from Scranton today, fourteen girls were killed, a majority of them being so badly mangled that it was with great difficulty that they were identified.
Six bodies have already been taken from the building.
The explosion, it is thought, was caused by one of the girls throwing squibs into the stove.
LATER - The number of dead is uncertain and is estimated at from six to thirteen, while five are fatally burned. The building was wrecked.

Mar 31, 1904
Explosion in Factory Near Scranton Causes Disaster
Wounded Victims Burned Alive.

Scranton, .Pa., March 31. 1904
Six persons were killed and five injured, some of them fatally in a terrific explosion in the Dickson Squib company's factory at Priceburg, shortly after 11 o'clock this morning. Five of the dead are girls and the other a little boy who lived with his parents over the factory. All of the bodies have been moved from the factory.
List of the Dead: Bessie Lewis, Providence; Lizzie Mahon, Dickson City; Lizzie Bray, Dickson City; Thomas & Mary Callahan, also the children of Thomas Callahan, Dickson City.
The injured are: Oscar Asher, foreman; Cassie Ealls, Dickson City.
In the borough exists there today, and heartrending scenes are witnessed on every hand. Distracted mothers and other relatives of the dead workers are wailing through the street inquiring for the fate of their children.
Only Two Escaped.
It is thought that only a few of the twenty-five or more girls employed in the factory escaped uninjured. One family named Callahan, composed of father, mother and three children, living in an upstairs part of the demolished building were all killed. Two of the dead girls were blown out of the window and their remains picked up fifty yards away. The cause of the explosion is not yet known. When the shock came, the whole borough was shaken and windows broken in nearly every building.
Wounded Are Cremated.
Soon after the explosion, flames burst out from the ruins and the cries of the dying and wounded could be heard in the debris. Many of the girls on the lower floors rushed out, their hair and clothing aflame. Many of the dead and dying could be seen from the street pinned down with heavy timbers and being consumed with the flames, the fire alarm was sounded and hurried calls were sent to the local drug store aid and the physicians of the borough who administered to the suffering girls. The fire was soon under control and shortly after 12 o'clock the first bodies were taken from the ruins. Four in all were taken out. They were burned beyond recognition. The work of searching for other bodies is still going on.

Apr 1, 1904
Hoyden's Prank Hurls Six to Sudden Death
Girl Throws Squib Into Stove and the Explosion Wrecks and Sets Factory Ablaze

Scranton, Pa., March 31. -
Six persons were killed and five fatally injured by an explosion In the factory of the Dickson Squib company at Priceburg near here today. The dead are:
Lizzie Bray, Priceburg
Beckie Lewis, North Scranton
Lizzie Matthews, Olyphant
George Callihan, Priceburg
Teresa Callihan, Priceburg
Lillian Mahon, Priceburg.
Twenty girls were employed in the factory. What caused the explosion is not known but it is said that one of the girls threw a squib into a stove and that the force of the explosion was so great that it wrecked the building and set fire to it. The squibs are used in coal mining.

Apr 1, 1904
Squib Explosion Kills Six.
Five Persons also Fatally Hurt in Mining Town Accident.

Scranton, Penn., March 31.
Six persons are known to have been killed and five fatally injured by an explosion in the factory of the Dickson Squib Company at Priceburg, near here, to-day. The dead are LIZZIE BRAY, Priceburg; BECKIE LEWIS, North Scranton; LIZZIE MATTHEWS, Olyphant; GEORGE CALLAHAN, Priceburg; TERESA CALLAHAN, Priceburg, and one other.
What caused the explosion is not known, but it is said that one of the girls threw a squib into a stove, and that the force of the explosion was so great that it wrecked the building and set it on fire. The squibs are used in coal mining.
The Dickson Squib Company occupied only the first floor of the structure, the Callahan family having rooms on the second floor, where the two Callahan children lost their lives. Thomas Callahan, their father, was at work, and Mrs. Callahan had just left the room when the explosion occurred. The children aged three years and six months, respectively, were playing on the floor, and both were instantly killed.
The building caught fire and the flames communicated to two adjoining buildings, one occupied as a hotel and the other as a butcher's shop, and both were destroyed. The bodies of the dead were so badly burned that it was with great difficulty that they could be recognized.

Twenty-Five Girls Lose Their Lives
Scranton, Pa., March 31

Twenty-five girls lost their lives this morning through the explosion of Dickson's squib factory at Priceburg. Bodies of the victims were found blocks away from the scene of the disaster. Scores of other girls were wounded. Cause of explosion unknown.

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