MAMMOTH SHAFT MINE

MAMMOTH NO. 1 MINE DISASTER
January 27, 1891
107 Miners Killed

Mammoth, Mt. Pleasant Township,
Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania


Compiled & Edited by
Raymond A. Washlaski

Raymond A. Washlaski, Historian, Editor,
Ryan P. Washlaski, Technical Editor,

Updated Feb. 10, 2009

MT. PLEASANT JOURNAL

Vol.18          Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland Co., PA, Tuesday Evening, February 3, 1891         No. 41

Head Lines from Mt. Pleasant Journal, February 8, 1891 Even the terrible disaster at Dunbar in June last sinks almost into insignificance when compared with last Tuesday's horrible explosion of gas in the Mammoth Mines of the H.C. Frick Coke Company, situated some six miles north-east of this place (Mt. Pleasant). In the first instance but thirty-one men lost their lives;  here, of the hundred and seven miners and mine workers not one escaped to tell the awful tale of how death came.  Even the fire boss, William Snaith, who had made out his report at an early hour, showing that the mine was safe, met the same fate that befell those who were permitted to enter the mine only by his order.

It was about nine o'clock that the explosion occurred and soon a black vapor poured out of the top of the 107 foot shaft, telling those above ground plainer than words could do that death lurked in the depths.

The telephone rang the alarm throughout the region and forty minutes later General Manager Lynch was on his way from the Scottdale office to the scene, accompanied by Chief Engineer Paddock; Superinterdent Robert Ramsay, of the Frick Company's Standard Works; General Manager Morris Ramsay, of the Southwest Coal & Coke Company, and General Manager J. S. Schoonmaker, of the United Coal & Coke Company.

This party reached Mammoth about eleven o'clock by driving from Mt. Pleasant and its members at once consulted at the pit mouth with Fred Keighley, the Mammoth Mines Superintendent, and Pit Boss Eaton.  The two latter gentlemen had been here the night before attending the Burns Anniversary at the Hotel Jordan and reached home about five o'clock the  next morning, when Mr. Eaton went into the mine.  He came out about half past eight for breakfast and thus escaped although he mourns the loss of a favorite nephew.

Superintendent Keighley was the first person to go down the shaft after the explosion.  The after damp kept him from going far from the bottom, but he saw enough to convince him that no one could live through it.  No attempt was made to conceal this fact from the crowd of anxious fathers and brothers and tearful mothers, sisters and sweethearts who pressed in close around the shaft building. There was but little suspense; They were told the worst, and they returned almost in silence to their homes, there to await the bringing of their dead.

Nor was there any time lost by those upon whom the rested the responsiblity of acting.  It was decided to run the ventilating fan to its utmost capacity and follow the air. Mr. Keighley's report showed that the stoppings had been blown out and lumber and cloth for new brattices, with men to build them, were quickly lowered down the shaft, and thus the work of rescuing the victims was begun.

Scenes of Horror
How the Victims Had Met the King
of Terrors in the Thick Darkness of the
Long Underground Ways, from
which there was no Escape.

A Journal Representative was the first newspaper man to reach Mammoth, arriving there shortly before three o'clock in the afternoon.  What a scene was that which presented itself to him on being lowered to the bottom of the shaft!  On boards on either side of the heading lay fourteen bodies, burned almost to a crisp by the cruel gas and blackened, many of them, beyond recognition.  They had been found at and near the head of Flat No. 1.

But the writer had gone in to see and was soon on his way to Flat No. 4, the lowest point affected by the explosion, from which it had been determined to remove the dead first before the water, that was rapidly rising as steam connections with the pumps had been broken, would flood that section.  Boards for one in the party took one with him, even General Manager Lynch seemed to shoulder his.  The boards were given to the carpenters at the first flat, were Chief Engineer Paddock was found taking his turn with the shovel in clearing away a heavy fall of slate.

 

(More of this newspaper article will be added to this web page at a later date.)

THE AWFUL DEATH LIST
Names of the 107 Miners that were killed in the Mammoth No. 1 Mine Disaster.
At Mammoth No. 1 Mine of the H.C. Frick Coke Company,
Mammoth, Mt. Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
on January 27, 1891

List of identified dead who left families:

John Blaur
Martin Bramon
George Bromyard
William Burchall
Andrew Charensky
C.S. Cole
Micheal Costie
Joseph Dore
John Dufallen
Daniel Gordon
Gerhart Hilson
Andrew Hosek
William Hunker
Joseph Huranel
John Kuhn
A.C. Lazelle
Valentine Liptoe
Michael Lukosh
Stephen Okulaw
Micheal Pancoe
Stephen Saarts
John Sauteteske
Peter Schwinger
Valentine Secora
Martin Shavinsky
William Snaith
Michael Stanix
Michael Suikey
Yatso Surts
W.D.Woods
Andrew Vashol
Single Men and Boys:
Martin Adams
Stephen Ballush
Michael Bardu
John Bene
Mr. Bowman
Thomas Brown
Jacob Chongon
James Chunk
Stephen Comas
John Cosic
Jesse Crum, Jr.
Michael Dechwin
Joseph Dipte
John V. Dorn
Joseph Dushoe
John Eaton, Jr.
Andy Feedor
John Figler
Michael Gustie
George Hamya
Joseph Haragos
John Hartoss
Frank Kerky
Martin Kerky
Michael Kosinsky
Valentine Koza
William Lewis
Louis Lewis
Frank Liptoe
Andrew Lovas
August Lunk, Jr.
Jacob Myers
George Nassot
N.P.Newell
John Novotu
Andrew Nupan
John Olenk
Andrew Pareker
Stephen Platsko
James Riley
A. Rubosky
Andrew Sale
John Scott
Stephen Sinitu
Micheal Sirky
Andrew Sista
John Soxsa
Joseph Stanix
Micheal Stauka
Andrew Swarts
Martin Swarts
Joseph Swetz
John Thomas
Andrew Tosak
Michael Tosak
Martin Trabula
Patrick Tumblitz
John Uhrin
Stephen Unotsko
Bart Woytos
Steve Yatsk
Joseph Zavada
J, Zayadsky
Michael Zurtza
Jacob Zwicale

[Editors Note: This listing of the men killed in the explosion is not a complete list of those killed.]

(From the Mt. Pleasant Journal, Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland Co., PA, Vol. 18, No. 41,
February 3, 1891 & Courtesy of The Mt. Pleasant Township Bicentennial Committee)

from "The New York Times," New York, NY, 28 Jan., 1891.

Over a Hundred Killed
A Disastrous Explosion of Fire-Damp

Miners Suffocated in the Mammoth Shaft of the Frick Coke Company – Sixty Bodies Recovered and the Mine on Fire

Pittsburg, Penn. Jan. 27 – A special from Scottdale, Penn, says: By an explosion of fire-damp in the Mammoth shaft of the H. C. Frick Coke Company 110 sturdy miners were hurled into eternity and a number seriously injured.

The explosion occurred this morning shortly after 9 o’clock and it is supposed was the result of the ignition of a miner’s oil lamp. The after damp which followed the fire-damp explosion suffocated nearly every workman. A few men realizing the awful situation fell to the ground thereby preventing the gas from striking them. The persons not killed are in such a critical condition that their deaths are momentarily expected. Up to this writing sixty bodies have been recovered, all without a sign of life. The mine is on fire and it is feared that the rest of the bodies will be cremated.

The fire which broke out after the explosion was soon extinguished by the immense fans which were put in operation. The gas was about all driven from the pit, and the work of rescuing the entombed miners was commenced. General Manager Lynch of the H. C. Frick Coke Company is on the scene helping to devise means to recover the dead workmen. His assistance is invaluable, as he has had many years’ experience in mining operation. After sixty of the bodies had been taken out a new fire started, and this is still burning.

The Mammoth plant embraces 509 ovens, and is one of the largest plants in the coke region, but it is hard of [sic] access. It is situated near the United Works, where an explosion recently destroyed the entire shaft. The affair has cast a gloom over the entire coke region, and to-night hundreds of miners are flocking to the scene of the disaster offering assistance. The appalling loss of life in the Dunbar disaster is more than overshadowed by the destruction of life in this calamity. The news spread throughout the entire coke region with great rapidity, and everybody was awestricken. The coffins have already been ordered for eighty persons from Mount Pleasant undertakers, and it is understood that the Frick Company, the owners of the plant, will bear the expenses of the same. The only man who escaped from the fatal mine was Mine Boss Eaton.

Among those killed are John Beverage and James Boles, formerly of this place. The former resided here for many years and was held in high esteem by everybody. He was a road man in the shaft. Ex-Mine Inspector Keighly, the Superintendent of the fatal shaft, is nearly distracted. It is a singular fact that misfortune seems to have followed him, his experience in the Hill Farm disaster resulting in the tendering of his resignation as Mine Inspector.

Master Workman Peter Wise, ex-Master Workman R. D. Kerfoot, James McBride, Mike Disman, John R. Byrne, Secretary Parker, and James Keegan, all prominent labor leaders, left to-night for Mammoth to render any assistance in their power, financially or otherwise, to the stricken and bereaved families. It has been estimated that there are sixty wives and families left wholly dependent on the charity of the world by this disaster. In fact, they are almost penniless, as the plant has not been running full for some time, and work has been exceedingly scarce since the dullness in the demand for coke. Every means possible will be resorted to to supply the widowed mothers and their children with the necessaries of life. The Frick Company will be liberal in this direction, and it is understood that a subscription paper will shortly be circulated to obtain money to support the unfortunate families.

Master Workman Peter Wise addressed the following letter to the miners and cokers of the region to-night:

Scottdale, Penn. Jan 27, 1891

To the Members of the Knights of Labor and Workingmen of the Coke Region

The sad news of a disastrous explosion at Mammoth Mines has just reached me and I fear many families have been left destitute. I therefore appeal to you to promptly render what aid you can to assist the families of your brethren who have been killed. The Master Workman and committees at each works will kindly take the matter in hand and act as a relief committee. Let the committee select a “check member,” and each miner run as many wagons as he can under the circumstances contribute, and arrangements will be made with the companies to pay the amount, and thus prompt aid can be given.

Drawers can adopt the same plan, and day men can contribute from their day’s work and have the same deducted in the office. This aid will be separate and apart from any public contributions, and will be forwarded to district officers, who will apply it to the relief of those for whom it is contributed.

(from "The New York Times," New York, NY, 28 Jan., 1891.)

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, September 24, 2000

118 killed in 1891 Frick massacre and mine explosion
to get markers.
Sunday, September 24, 2000

By Milan Simonich, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

They were slurred in life and forgotten in death.  Now the mass grave dedicated to 118 immigrant laborers killed in 1891 in Westmoreland County will be marked. Two Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission markers will be placed on the site Friday. A pair of personalized headstones also will be added to the grave, which has never been graced with anything so elaborate.

The recognition is for men and boys who were part of Pennsylvania's struggle for safe and fair working conditions, though most of them never knew they were part of any labor cause.

Of those killed, 109 were coal miners from Eastern Europe. They died Jan. 27, 1891, in the explosion of Mammoth Mine No. 1, near Mount Pleasant. After their deaths, mine safety reforms became a political cause.

The other nine laborers were striking coke oven workers who were shot to death April 2, 1891. Their early morning clash with deputized agents of Frick Coke Co. began with words and escalated to bullets as the deputies fired at their adversaries.  In labor lore, the strikers' deaths became known as the Morewood Massacre, for the men had been employed at Morewood Mines of the Frick coke works.

Most of the bodies from both events ended up in a common trench in St. John's Cemetery in Mount Pleasant. The Pennsylvania Labor History Society believes 79 of the miners and seven of the strikers were buried there.

Many miners were mangled so badly in the explosion that there was little left to bury.
Like the coke workers, they were employed by Henry Clay Frick, the industrialist who was born only minutes away from the spots where the 1891 deaths occurred.

Frick, a millionaire before he was 30, was a legend while he lived. A certain animosity hung over his laborers. Mostly Poles and Slavs, they struggled with English and with the customs of a strange, new world.  They were welcome to pick up a coal shovel and go to work. But if they dared to ask about pay or safety, they were quickly reminded that plenty of other foreigners with strong backs could replace them.  By word of mouth and in the newspapers, they were often referred to as "Hunkies," a generic slur for Eastern Europeans who were considered dim and unimportant.  Only in death did the miners get a bit of empathy. The Mount Pleasant Journal wrote these sentences about the gas explosion that killed them:
Of the 109 who went to work that day, "not one escaped to tell the awful tale of how death came. Even the fire boss, William Snaith, who had made out his report at an early hour, showing that the mine was safe, met the same fate that befell those who were permitted to enter the mine only by his order.

"It was about 9 o'clock that the explosion occurred, and soon a black vapor poured out of the top of the 107-foot shaft, telling those above ground plainer than words could do that death lurked in the depths."

Thirty-one men left families behind. The other 78 were single or mere boys.
Though they remained anonymous in their mass grave at St. John's Cemetery, the miners played a role in Pennsylvania politics. The Mammoth disaster prompted state legislation that strengthened mine safety inspections.

The strikers shot dead were far less sympathetic to the public and the press. They were among 16,000 who walked out for higher wages in the coke region.
A march and rally put them in the path of the company's militia. After the bloodshed, the shooting deaths went largely unquestioned by the citizenry and the newspapers, whose natural sympathies were with Frick.

The seven strikers who died immediately were buried in the same mass grave with the miners.

"These were people who had nothing," said Russell Gibbons, a labor historian. "It's amazing that they didn't end up in a pauper's cemetery."

The coke workers' strike collapsed a month after the shootings.

For more than a century, the stories of these miners and strikers have been largely overlooked. But the state has decided that both are compelling enough to be noted by the historical marker program.

"The events must have statewide or national significance for that to happen," said Marilyn Levin of the state Division of History.

Along with the formal markings of the grave, the Pennsylvania Labor History Society will make both events part of its 27th annual conference Friday and Saturday.
Its theme is the struggle for worker organization and safety -- both centerpieces of Mammoth Mine and Morewood Massacre stories.

(From the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette," Pittsburgh, PA,  Sunday, September 24, 2000

Reprinted from the "Tribune-Review," Westmoreland News , Greensburg, PA, Thursday, September 28, 2000
In memory of miners
Article by Marsha Forys, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Their graves are distinguishable, not because of elaborate headstones marking their final resting places, but because there are no headstones at all. In fact, a visitor to the "old" St. John the Baptist Cemetery in East Huntingdon Township would have no idea that beneath the neatly mown patch of grass, measuring about 30 by 70 feet, lie the victims of two of the region's most infamous mining tragedies - the Mammoth Mine Explosion and the Morewood Massacre. While the area is bordered by weathered headstones dating from the late 1800s, not even a wreath or bouquet of flowers indicate this quiet country cemetery, located off Route 819 just south of Scottdale, is the site of the mass graves of 86 men killed just two months apart more than a century ago. But that oversight is due to be rectified on Friday when Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission markers will be placed at the site of the Morewood Massacre and at the mass graves in St. John the Baptist Cemetery.

"This action gives us an appreciation of our history, our past, our tradition. Unfortunately, we don't always value those things, but it's good that we're doing this now. A valuable lesson can be learned from their sacrifice," said Joe Dreliszak, principal of St. John the Baptist School in Scottdale. The first tragedy took place Jan. 27, 1891, when an explosion ripped through the H.C. Frick Coke Co.'s Mammoth No. 1 Mine, whose portal can still be found just a few hundred yards from the Mt. Pleasant Township Municipal Building, off Poker Road, in Mammoth. while accounts vary, it is believed 109 coal miners - mostly Polish, Hungarian and Italian immigrants working to build a new life in the United States - died that day. Seventy-nine of the victims are buried in the mass grave at St. John the Baptist Cemetery. It was the worst mining disaster of that time in southwestern Pennsylvania's bituminous coal region, and it led to state legislation that would strengthen mine safety inspections.

Just a few feet away from the unmarked grave of the Mammoth victims is another mass grave, one that holds the bodies of seven of the nine miners shot and killed April 2, 1891, during a strike at H.C. Frick Coke Co.'s Morewood Mines, located off what is now Route 981 just south of Mt. Pleasant. The nine miners killed were among 16,000 miners striking for higher wages in what was then known as the Connellsville Coke Region. Two months after the shooting, the strike collapsed and attempts to organize the region's coal miners and coke workers suffered a severe blow. According to an account by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the miners were fired upon by Westmoreland County sheriff's deputies. Other accounts blame Pinkerton guards hired by the company during the strike for the shooting.

The markers will be dedicated in conjunction with a two-day conference being held by the Pennsylvania Labor History Society at West Overton Museums, north of Scottdale.

(from the "Tribune-Review," Westmoreland News , Greensburg, PA,  Thursday, September 28, 2000,)

Return to "History of the Mammoth No. 1 & No. 2 Mines,
Mammoth, Mt. Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania "

Coal Miners Memorial, Mammoth Mines,
Mammoth, Mt. Pleasant Twp., Westmoreland Co., PA

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