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Magnitude of the Calamity, Appalling

Everyone was so appalled by the disaster that it seemed as if the magnitude of the calamity could not be taken in, and the work of attending to the dead was not commenced until a young man named Pat Wycherly, called for volunteers and the work of washing the dead began. As fast as they were washed they were taken to the meeting house and laid out upon the stand and ranged along the wall on the lower floor. After this room was filled the remaining dead were taken to the school house, where the seats had been taken up in two of the rooms and the bodies were arranged about the side.

During the night the undertaker arrived from Salt Lake, and the straightening and arranging of the dead began.

The chief storekeeper for the company hurried to the City of Salt Lake on the evening of the first day and procured coffins and clothing for the dead men. Each man was dressed in underclothes, white shirt and collar, necktie, and an elegant black suit. Those who were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were provided with the burial robes as designed by that faith. At Number Four John Lloyd was washing the bodies and as fast as laid out, they would be placed in the barn. On the morning of May 2nd, the bodies already prepared at the barn were carried down the steep incline and laid with the rest in the meeting house. Manager William G. Sharp of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, having heard of the disaster hurried from Salt Lake with a special train carrying doctors and help for the entombed men.

 The special arrived at Scofield at about three o'clock, but the men were past all aid. The special left for Salt Lake in the evening carrying Doctor Bascom together with the four men who were so badly injured: A. Wilson, with his leg and arm broken, three sons of whom were taken out dead during the evening; Harry Taylor, who was suffering with injuries to his face; William Boweter, who had been found in the entrance to Number Four, badly burned; and Among John Wilson, whose head was crushed and who was otherwise injured. It was stated by the doctors that Wilson would not be likely to live to reach the hospital, but, nevertheless, he is still living, with the chances of ultimate recovery. The wounded persons arrived at Salt Lake and were immediately taken to the St. Mark's Hospital, where they had every attention. As night drew on the work of rescue did not stop, but was continued far into the night until nature asserted herself and the rescuers retired for a few hour's rest. On account of the many caves and falls the work of the rescuing party was greatly retarded, as many of the bodies were buried and had to be dug from under tons of dirt. As the bodies were carried down from Number One, the women and children waiting at the boarding house, moaning and crying out the names of their loved ones, would rush frantically to the stretcher to see if they could recognize the face and form of him for whom they were waiting.

Whenever one would be recognized the lamentations of the stricken ones were heart rending, causing even strong men to turn away and weep and sob like a child.

The Finlanders, who have been quite numerous about the mines, have sixty-one of their number among the dead.

Notwithstanding, this not a single Finlander, except Nestor Uro, who has labored incessantly, volunteered to aid in the rescue, and the bodies of the Finns have been recovered by the miners of other nationalities.

Some of the miners say that it is on account of their superstition, and they are not surprised or angry at their refusing to join them.

There had been no disturbance of any kind but Mayor Earll thought it advisable to close all the saloons for one week, and issued a proclamation to that effect. The force of undertakers having been increased and being augmented by a large force of volunteers, the work of dressing the dead and preparing for their burial was nearly completed by Friday morning. A force of one hundred and fifty men, seventy-five of the number being volunteers, were at work in the cemetery by sunrise, and at six o'clock Thursday evening their work was completed, each man had one grave to dig and enough had been opened to receive all the dead recovered to date who were not to be sent elsewhere. G. W. Snow, Company Surveyor, had direct charge of the grave digging. The northwestern quarter of the cemetery was torn up, the graves being scarcely three feet apart. There are about one hundred and twenty-five graves on a tract a little over an acre in size. The remainder have been made in various parts of the cemetery, being in the midst of those of the same families who have gone before. All the coffins in Salt Lake were not enough to bury the dead and a carload was ordered from Denver, Colorado. All day Wednesday and Thursday a committee had been visiting the homes of the bereaved, arranging for the transportation of the bodies and relatives of those who wished to bury their dead elsewhere. H. G. Williams. Assistant Superintendent, had charge of the passes, and no one was refused transportation either going with the funeral train, which had been arranged for or returning upon any of the passenger trains of the Rio Grande Western Railway.

Dr. E. B. Isgreen, the resident physician of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, and E. V. Evans, the undertaker in charge, having written out the certificates of death, and the bodies of those to be shipped having been prepared for burial, the arrangements for the funeral train were completed and the train was ordered to be ready to leave at twelve o'clock, noon. Friday. In the meantime, County Attorney L. O. Hoffman, had arrived at Scofield, and an inquest was held over the body of John Hunter, William Hirst, Justice of the Peace, acted as Coroner. The jury was composed of W. H. Potter, F. H. Mereweather and A. Greenhalgh, who found a verdict as follows:

State of Utah, County of Carbon, Precinct of Scofield. An inquest having been held in Scofield, in Scofield Precinct, Carbon County, State of Utah, on the 3rd day of May, 1900, before William Hirst, Justice of the Peace of Scofield Precinct, in said County, upon the body of John Hunter, there lying dead. We, the jurors, whose names are hereunto subscribed, declare that the said John Hunter came to his death through an explosion in Number Four mine while in the employ of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company.

The first witness was Andrew Smith, who said he thought the explosion was caused by a heavy shot igniting the dust.

Gomer Thomas, the State Mine Inspector, said: "I am State Mine Inspector, and have held that position for two years. I inspected the mines here on March 8, 1900 and found them in fair condition. The ventilation was good and the mine was free from gas. In my estimation the disaster was caused by a heavy shot of giant powder or loose powder exploding. The giant powder went off, caught the dust, and exploded it, being in the end nothing but a dust explosion. I went to a place where it was claimed they had powder stowed away, and the place showed that the explosion had started there, and showed further by the action of the explosion and by the body that was found there, that it was burned more than the other bodies which we found. In March, at the time of the examinations of the mine as regards ventilation, I found the Pleasant Valley Coal Company had complied with the law.

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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