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May 1st 1900, Number Four Mine

May Day or Dewey Day, dawned bright and clear, when about two hundred miners left Scofield for the mines in the miner's coach that is run back and forth at the change of shifts, to the mines of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company at Winter Quarters. Every one of the men that were soon to meet death in its most horrible form were feeling in the best of spirits as evidenced by the pleasant joke that was bandied back and forth through the coach. What had they to fear, were they not working in one of the safest coal mines situated in the coal region? Each one was looking' forward to the evening when there was to be a dance in the new Odd Fellow's Hall, and their children were to have a celebration in honor of the Hero of the Battle of Manilla. All were merry and joyous. The springtime of the year was at hand, the trees were commencing to put on their garb of green and all nature was smiling with the first warm days of the most gladsome part of the whole year.

Nearly every man was at his post of duty in the mine, when from some cause or other, a most terrific explosion took place and all was changed in the twinkling of an eye. The lips that were breathing words of hope and encouragement of a few hours before were now hushed and cold in death. The lips that had kissed their wives and children the customary goodbye, and the ever returning response from the loved ones as they wished their husbands and fathers a quick return, would never more be heard to utter words of love. At about fifteen minutes past ten o'clock the surrounding country was startled by an explosion, but as it was Dewey day nearly every one supposed that the noise was from someone setting off a blast in honor of the day. But bye and bye there were seen women hurrying towards the mine and by their blanched faces one could read that there was something amiss at the mines. Reports came down that Number Four had exploded, but this was not believed as this mine in particular was supposed to be the safest mine of all of the Company's mines. But disaster dire and dreadful had overtaken Number Four, and all that were not working hurried to the opening as fast as possible there to be greeted by a sight of death and destruction such as one rarely if ever sees in a lifetime. But if the explosion has produced such havoc on the outside, what can be the condition upon the inside where the miners are confined with no chance of escape, caught like rats in a trap? No hope to recover anyone alive, no hope to ever look upon the face of those entombed, no hope of ever hearing loving words from lips now charred and blackened in the embrace of death.


Wreck at Number Four
Barn across the Gulch

On the top of the incline at the mouth of the mine, where the drums that let the cars down the incline were housed, nothing remained of the house but the boards broken and twisted. By some lucky chance or other the engineer was out assisting in replacing a car upon the track that had been derailed, and although scratched and bruised was still alive and able to take care of himself. One of the men that assists in pushing the loaded trip over the knuckle was found with his foot crushed, his shoulder out of place and severe injuries were sustained in other parts of his body. The assistant helper was found with his jaw broken and the side of his face crushed. The next man to be met had one leg broken, one arm broken and severely injured about his body. These men were immediately taken home by a few of the men that had arrived by this time and we hastened to the mouth of the mine, where one horse was found dead but his driver could not be seen until someone looking' down the gulch saw the form of someone, supposed to be the driver, John Wilson. A few of the men hurried to his side and found that life was not yet extinct, although he had been blown eight hundred and twenty feet, by actual measurement. He was tenderly picked up and conveyed to his home where it was found that the back part of his skull had been crushed, besides a stick or splinter had been driven downward through his abdomen. He was in a critical condition and no one supposed he would live to be carried home, but, strange to relate, he has recovered rapidly and although he will never be able to do a day's work again he is up and feeling quite well at present. A relief committee was headed by T. J. Parmley, Superintendent of the mine, and they started for the levels of Number Four through Number One, there being inside connections, but were driven back by the terrible afterdamp that had by this time reached the lower levels in Number One. Bernard Newren, a young man working on the outside at the mine, went with the relief committee on its errand of mercy but was carried out, he having been overcome by the deadly damp.


Wreck at Powerhouse

Andrew Hood, Foreman in Number One mine, was a few minutes later assisted out, he having been overcome in the same way. He went to his home, but realizing the horrible disaster he tried again to enter the mine but had not recovered sufficiently. (The route by the way of Number One having been found impracticable on account of the afterdamp, the relief committee hurried to the mouth of Number Four where the attempt was again made to enter the inferno that had been raging within.

Attempt after attempt was made, and after about twenty minutes delay, during which the horse and timbers that obstructed the mouth of the mine was cleared away, the relief committee was able to follow the air and the actual work of rescue began. The first one to be met was Harry Betterson, supposed at the time to be John Kirton and being still alive was brought to the surface where he was found to be burned beyond recognition. J He was taken to the boarding house but died during the first part of the night. The next one to be found was William Boweter and although sitting among the dead was found to be alive, although hardly conscious. After being assisted to his feet he walked out, with slight help. Hope had been entertained up to this time that some of the men would be found still living, but those mentioned above were the only ones that were brought out alive. Roll after roll of canvas was brought, and brattices were fixed up on the inside to force the air into one level at a time in order that the rescuing party could force their way through the mine in the hope of finding someone still alive. But the farther the rescuers went the more apparent become the magnitude of the disaster. Men were piled in heaps as there were not enough men to carry out the dead as fast as found. The miners at Clear Creek mine by this time began to arrive, and their assistance came none too soon, for there was plenty of work for all. The new arrivals began to carry out the bodies which were placed in the Company's barn across the ravine, where they were tagged as fast as recognized. The heartrending shrieks of the wives and relatives of the dead miners were not heard at this mine, but when anyone would go down the incline they would be met with lamentations that would cause even the hardest hearted men to shed tears. Women asking if their husbands or fathers had been brought out or no, children crying for the parent that was still within the mine. Many who had relatives working in Number One, were not so much concerned at first, as it was supposed by those upon the outside that the men in that mine had not been affected, as the explosion had occurred in Number Four, but their hopes were dispelled when the rescuers had passed from Number Four into Number One. The first dead body carried out of Number One was Roger Davis, a driver, who had been caught by some of the flying debris. After this the bodies of Thomas Livsey and his son William were found badly burned, almost beyond recognition, but still alive. The dead then began to arrive at the month of Number One by the car load, sometimes as many as twelve bodies having been loaded upon one mine car. Then it was when the horror of the situation began to dawn upon the minds of the people on the outside of the ill-fated mine. Then it was that the people realized that it was impossible to expect anything but the burned or mangled body of the loved ones that had entered the mine so light hearted that morning.

At the foot of the short incline at Number One, where the props for the mine are hauled up to the opening, is situated an old building, now occupied by Mr. Edwards and used as a miner's boarding house. This was utilized at once as a dead-house, and all of the dead that came from Number One were carried down this short incline and laid in the old boarding house. One of the employees of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, who had the duty of issuing coupon books to the miners, Mr. C. Nix, was detailed by the Company to take charge of the boarding house and try to identify the dead as fast as they were carried out. As soon as one of the dead was recognized Mr. Nix would place a tag upon the dead man's breast. At one time, before the washing of the dead was commenced, there were sixty-six lying in the receiving room.

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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