Original Document
Original Document
Accounts of the Anthracite Mine Disaster, April 1911.

As early as 3 o'clock in the afternoon it was evident that the men were all dead. The rescuing gangs had no more than penetrated past the burned engine house when they found three bodies. The smoke and heat was so intense where the rescuers worked that they who had entered the mine six hours after the fire had started, reeled and fell and required stimulants to keep revived.

"What show have these men got?" said one grim workman, stepping from the carriage. "What chance have they got when the rescuers themselves are falling over? They're all dead. No man can live down there."

No attempt was made to take the bodies from the mine in daylight. Carrying bodies from a mine in the face of a crowd of 5,000 people, among whom were wives and children of the dead, would not have served to quiet the thousands that crowded against the ropes.

All of the twenty-one bodies recovered up to midnight were found in groups of threes and fives, all lying face down in the ditch alongside the track. Many of them held handkerchiefs pressed against their faces, showing how they fought to resist suffocation.

Gloomy looking "Black Marias" ratted up to the colliery office from all directions. It was the coming of darkness and the ambulances just as dark that the scene took on a different aspect. Here and there from the crowd came the sobbings of women, whose husbands were in the mine. Near the entrance to the mouth of the shaft a woman who had waited and waited from early morning became hysterical. She tried to break through the rope, but was held back by the crowd. Her husband was in the China vein.

Cedit: The Tribune-Republican, Scranton, PA, Saturday, April 8, 1911.



Sad Episodes of the Disaster.
Mine Owner Dickson Issues Statement-
Chief Roderick Says It Will Revolutionize Laws-
Widows Number Fifty-six; Orphans, 123.

"If proper care had been taken there would have been no fire," declared Chief Roderick. "I believe an inquest will establish many of the circumstances that now appear clouded. I don't know much about the fire, but I will have this information. I understand that the fire started at 8:30. If it did I am afraid that there was too much delay, though I feel that the men were dead a half hour after the fire started."

Continuing, Chief Roderick stated that he did not believe that there was a hard coal mine in Pennsylvania where such a disaster could have happened. "I want to say," he went on, "that it should not have happened. The engine house should have been of non-combustible material. I do not know of any law except common sense, that demands this. However, the law ought to demand it."

27 years before the Knights of Labor had protested against the building of the very same engine house. The point that the United Mine Workers are interested in is that the mine was continued working for two hours after the fire was discovered.

The fire started shortly after 8 o'clock in the North slope engine house, a wooden structure, with a heavy yellow pine plank flooring under the engines. Joseph Moran, the engineer, was at another engine house 200 feet distant, looking after that plant, his duties being to run both pair of engines. Moran says he was away from the North slope engine house about twenty minutes, and when he returned the place was on fire. Moran called assistance and eight men, including Mine Foreman, Paul Bright, Burgess Oliver Simpson, a miner, and Barn Boss James McNulty ran to the burning engine house. Coils of hose, chemical fire extinguishers and other fire fighting paraphernalia were inside the engine house, but the men could not get to them on account of the fire.

The North slope engine house is about 200 feet from the foot of the shaft that opens on the surface. The men had to go to the foot of the shaft for hose, and tap the water pipe leading to the engine house before a supply of water was available. By this time the flames had increased in volume, but were not considered to be serious or to mean any danger to the men in the North slope or the East tunnel which diverges from the slope at an angle of close to ninety degrees. However, the company officials say, a warning was sent in to the men in both workings to make their way out, as the smoke was getting denser and the air current driving it into the workings.

A narrow cross-cut, twenty-feet long, separated the burning engine house on one side from the East tunnel. At the point where this cross-cut opened on the tunnel, a trip of twenty mine cars, all coupled and ready to be pulled into the tunnel was standing. The fire fighters apparently were not aware that the wooden mine cars were so close to the fire, and kept turning water on the engine house from another side. The heavy air daft carried the flames from the oil soaked yellow pine engine house to the timbering in the cross-cut leading [to] the mine cars until the cars were ablaze. As soon as the cars started to burn the smoke and flame was carried in its heaviest volume into the East tunnel, bringing with it death to the seventy-two men in that tunnel.

In conflict with the official statement that all the men had been warned, the rescuers tell of finding the body of Lawrence Raitz, a 61-year-old door-tender, sitting as if he had been eating his lunch. His dinner pail was open between his knees, they say, and his coffee bottle raised halfway to his lips.

The tunnel in which the seventy-two men worked is approximately 2,000 feet long. The smoke from the burning engine house and mine cars was picked up in a current of air that was fed into the tunnel at the rate of 30,000 cubic feet a minute, Mine Foreman William Reed said yesterday. This smoke was swirled along the tunnel and into the chambers where the men were at work. The only escape possible for the men was to run ahead of the smoke until they came to the ladders reaching through to the upper veins. Some of the men would have to run almost a mile to reach those ladders and their course would go through devious chambers and cross-cuts. The smoke traveled too fast to permit their escape, once the mine cars caught fire. The men working close to the tunnel road could follow the air course to the upper end of the tunnel and come back on the return air course on the other side of the tunnel to the shaft closest to the fire. Other men could work their way to other shafts, if they had a hour to do so, but the smoke came on them much quicker than that.

Credit: The Tribune-Republican, Scranton, PA, Monday, April 10, 1911.
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