Original Document
Original Document
The Mining Calamity at Avondale, 1869

Unsuccessful Efforts to Save the Buried Miners.
Heart-rending Scenes in the Great Crowd About the Mine.
Extent of the Poverty and Suffering Caused by the Disaster.
Aid for Widows and Orphans Called For.
Heroism of the Men Working at the Shaft
A Theory of the manner of Suffocation–The Loss of Life Terrible, but Overestimated–Futile Efforts to Penetrate the Recesses of the Mine–Aid for the Widows and Orphans.

Special Dispatch to the New York Times

Avondale, Sept. 7, 8 P.M., Scranton 11 P.M.– The great disaster foreshadowed in the dispatches of yesterday, has become a certainty. The miners of Avondale are yet entombed, and scarcely a hope remains that a single one of them will be found alive. At first it was supposed that 200 men were in the mine when the fire broke out, but later investigations have shown that the number was exaggerated. Not less than 138 nor more than 150 men and boys were in and down the shaft at the time. There are fifty-nine chambers in the mine and in each of these chambers are one miner and one helper, but as some of these men, it is known, were not at work, one hundred is the number allowed for miners and helpers. There were in addition nine drivers, nine door boys, eight gangway men, one oiler, one boss mule driver, one rodman, one roofman, one footman and six extra hands. This places the number shut up at 138. The General Agent will not admit that there were any more in the mine. But whether they are two hundred or less, they are all dead, and probably, from a fatal mistake made by their friends above.


Some of the men who went down the shaft last night, reported that that the fire in the furnace was all out. The presumption was that when the fire broke the miners had kept their senses, and having drugged the fire, had fled to the upper chambers, closing the doors behind them. Supposing this to be true, the rescuers proceeded on the simple plan of forcing fresh air into the mine by means of a fan working by an engine, both machines having been taken from Scranton, and got to work about 10 o'clock A.M. Forty-six men had been enrolled as volunteers to descend the shaft, and in less than half an hour the first two went down the shaft to reconnoiter. They lowered lamps which burned freely. Nearly an hour later four men descended, but quickly returned, reporting that they had encountered "black damp," as the miners call the deadly carbonic acid gas, which had forced them to retire. They penetrated the gangway 30 feet. In another hour more men went down seventy-five feet and opened a set of doors. Thus it went on until nearly 4 P.M., when a party of men, penetrating two hundred feet and opening the door, made the discovery that the fire was still burning in the furnace, and had even ignited the coal piled outside it.

Credit: "The Mining Calamity," The New York Times, September 8, 1869.
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