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Incidents of Bravery

Every one of the hundred and more men who have gone into those chambers of death and horror, mines Number One and Four, has proven himself a hero. The awful calamity that has well-nigh destroyed this community has of course overshadowed everything else and deeds have been done here since the morning of May first that called for as high a degree of heroism as the world has ever seen. In ordinary times and under ordinary circumstances these acts would be blazoned around the world; now they seem natural and ordinary. When right after the explosion volunteers were called for it meant any man who dared step into those tunnels took his life in his hands, it meant that he would certainly meet the fire-damp, to what extent no one knew, and it meant that every step would be fought with danger. And yet, no one hesitated. When the miners from Clear Creek, Castle Gate and Sunnyside arrived they were divided into parties, then into shifts, and quickly reinforced the handful of home miners who are left. As to what they have done all the world knows and perhaps the world would be interested also in learning what the experiences of those rescuers were. Here is the story of it from the lips of one of the bravest of the brave, a man who was in the mine when the explosion occurred, and joined the first relief party and has taken his regular shift ever since. He was in Number One in the first raise, when the explosion occurred, but so far away from it that the sound did not reach him. He noticed a movement in the air but thought it the result of a cave and worked on a quarter of an hour when his miners' instinct told him that something was wrong and he came on down to the main entry. A door had been fitted in here to keep the current of good air from going above and to direct it into the main workings where it would meet the damp and either weaken it very much or drive it back. This door was guarded on the other side. Passing on to the mouth of the tunnel this miner, with others, joined Superintendent T. J. Parmley and went to Number Four, where the greatest danger existed. Those working outside of the mine had all been injured so the party was small. "Going in," said the miner, "we saw a number of dead, but of course our object was to find if any were alive first. I simply stopped to see if these men were alive and passed in. We only found three alive and one of them has since died. Number Four was so blocked that progress was slow and very dangerous and we had to carry the men out on stretchers, as the cars could not be used. A good many in Number Four were badly bruised and mutilated. When a man was caught by the full force of the explosion he was hurled against the wall or floor with the same effect that would follow the throwing of a piece of dough against the wall. After working a while in Number Four we went to Number One, where nearly all the men who died from the afterdamp were asphyxiated. A great many people have asked if the men who were killed from the damp suffered much. I can say that they did not, and know that to be the case, because I have gone through the experience to the stage of unconsciousness during the past two days. Many of us in the rescue parties were overcome by the damp and were carried back into the purer air by our companions. This damp contains carbon dioxide and is very poisonous. A whiff of it almost paralyzes a man, and a good breath of it renders him unconscious. Then he falls as if in a sleep and dies unless instantly carried into the purer air. What struggles take place after that first breaths are the struggles that nature puts forth automatically, I have seen our men fall and struggle but they knew nothing of it. Going along in the workings we would hear one of our party commence to cry out and waver. We knew at once he had the damp and were generally to him before he fell. So far we have not lost a man of the rescuers, but when we first commenced work before the ventilation was restored it was a desperate game.

We found the dead in every conceivable attitude. One man had filled his pipe and sat down to light it. The damp struck him and he died then and there, with the filled pipe in his outstretched hand. On a box where a dead Finlander was picked up was his watch. It had stopped when the explosion occurred and the hands marked 10:28 o'clock. We found men in groups who had evidently sat down to consult. Other groups had been overtaken as they rushed ahead of the damp. In these groups the men were lying mostly on their backs; but where the single men were found scattered throughout the workings they were face downward. The men who led our parties were Superintendent T. J. Parmley; H. B. Williams, of Clear Creek; Mr. Frank Cameron of Castle Gate, Andrew Hood, Gomer Thomas, Andrew Gilbert, W. G, Sharp, and perhaps some others with whom I was not associated. The men who formed the parties aside from our own miners came from Clear Creek, Sunnyside and Castle Gate.

"How can we go through the ordeal of picking up the dead shift after shift? Well I've thought of that, too, made up our minds not to give way to our feelings, to stifle them and ignore our thought of everything except the work in hand, otherwise we could not do a thing. Why, when I have gone through there and turned over a man who was a friend and intimate associate, perhaps of year's standing, the sentiments of grief stirred in all my being, but I repressed them. It was either that or else drop down by the side of my chum, take hold of his cold hand, and just cry my heart out, for we have hearts just the same as the rest. But it would not do, we have to stifle and go forward with the work. Some of our men were nervous at first, for the scenes, in spite of all resolution, did excite and move us; but when the death list grew to fifty, then to a hundred, then to a hundred and fifty, and now to away over two hundred, all got over it. But when the last body is out of the mine you will see more of us break down. You have seen us here for two days working as though we were machines, but there is going to be an end to that. Nature is going to assert itself and that very soon."

Castile Gate

The terrible disaster that happened at Scofield yesterday morning has brought a heavy gloom to the inhabitants of this town. There are a great many here who are called to mourn the loss of a brother, son or relative of some kind. News was eagerly sought for regarding their safety, but the anxiety became greater than their patience, and a number went up on last evening's train. No one was allowed to go before, only those officials who were sent for, and this morning no one would go into the mines, as the majority of the miners had relatives killed, and had gone to Scofield. When No. 1 passenger train rolled in about 7:30 a. m., the platform of the depot was crowded with people, who, apparently, had not slept through the terrible night, hoping in vain for some ray of hope. At 10 o'clock a. m., a special was chartered, and about fifty more went up, and a number will follow on this evening's train. All the fraternal lodges will be numerously represented, and it seems that only enough will be left in town to look after things in general. One young man, after the explosion here, said he would never work in this mine again, as it was too dangerous; so he left, and had only worked a few days in Number Four mine when he, along with a brother, was killed.

Here are a few incidents that have transpired and are daily transpiring in this town of desolation and misery. A volume larger than the Bible would be required to chronicle them all.

On the day of the explosion, while the turmoil and excitement was at its height, a couple of young men appeared at the mouth of tunnel Number Four, and asked permission to go in and search for their brother, Ben Lloyd. At that time it was considered madness to venture on the inside, and the management refused to let the boys go to what seemed certain death. They persevered, however, finally going in under protest. After a search of two hours they came upon the place where Ben was last seen alive, and together they dug out his remains.

Einer B. Bearnson, related to a family that was wiped out, received a dispatch while working on the railroad in Wyoming, to come home at once. He arrived here Friday evening, to learn that the dead ones he sought, accompanied by relatives, were on the funeral train, which he had passed on the way. The young man was determined to get down to Sevier in time to see them buried, and first procuring an order for transportation from the company officials, that would carry him from Colton to Richfield, he started at midnight to walk to the junction, a distance of fifteen miles, in order to make an early connection.

Index

Source: History of the Scofield Mine Disaster, by J. W. Dilley, The Skelton Pub. Co., Provo, Utah, 1900.

Editors Note: The I.. O. O. F. were very active in raising money for the benefit of the widows and children along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This information is included for historical value, it does not mean the people of this project support these institutions.

 

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