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Removing the Dead


School House, Teams ready to carry dead to homes.

To give praise to any one person would do an amount of in justice to the hundreds of others who bore their part either assisting in the rescue, washing the dead, looking after the clerical part of the work, or in comforting the families of the deceased. Mr. Myers, an employee in the general offices of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, came to the scene of horror and in a few minutes was dressed in overalls and jumper and working among the dead, assisting the undertakers in embalming, dressing those that were ready for their coffins, and in fact there was no place that he could not fill on his mission of mercy. In Salt Lake words cannot describe the scenes that took place. Everyone was anxious to do their part, and the school children, becoming imbued with that sympathy that welds the Anglo-Saxon races together as of one family, hastened from house to house gathering flowers from all of the gardens in the city until almost three carloads were furnished at different times. We quote from the Herald of Salt Lake, the following:

"One of the prettiest things that is being done to bring the sunshine back to the blighted homes in Scofield was the shipping of almost a carload of flowers yesterday to the mining camp. The consignment went down with the regular train at 2:30, and occupied the whole of the baggage compartment and were spread out on the seats two and three feet high throughout the rest of the car. There were all varieties of floral offerings. The predominating kind were lilacs and they made a beautiful sight, stacked up in the car and tied into large sized bouquets. Then there were small bunches of pansies and violets that looked all the more pretty on account of the contrast with the larger flowers. Mingled with these were cut flowers from the floral establishments laid in long boxes. Everything seemed to be there that might help to cheer those who have lived out in the hills, far away from the flowers and who are now experiencing the most dreadful calamity that has ever occurred in the western country. This gift was not the donation of any one individual or clique of men or women. It was the gift of the City of Salt Lake. It was gotten up in such short time that its magnitude was most surprising. It was not until after nine o'clock yesterday morning that the idea was conceived by Mrs. E. L. Carpenter, who immediately telephoned to Superintendent Welby. The Superintendent quickly acquiesced in the proposition and made its execution possible by offering a special car for the flowers. Mrs. Carpenter, in company with Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. Harkness, Mrs. Ferguson, and other women started to work to carry out the idea. A notice requesting all those wishing to contribute flowers was posted with the Herald bulletins, and communication was established with the public schools. The principals of most of the schools announced to their scholars what was asked of them, and long before the time for the train to leave the flowers began to come in. They were brought by all kinds of people. Little tots came with big bunches of lilacs that almost smothered them and asked in lisping voices where they were to be taken. Aged women came with loads of floral offerings that almost bore their feeble bodies down, and with tears in their eyes deposited them in the car and walked slowly away. Business men who could not get away from their daily round of duty did not forget the darkened homes in the mountains, and sent cut flowers from the floral establishments with messengers. Even up to the last moment for the train to wait they kept coming and placing their offerings with the others.


Flower Offerings

The train that went down was an especially large one, comprising nine coaches. Many of Salt Lake's prominent citizens were on it, willing to do all in their power to alleviate the sufferings of the afflicted. Among these were a number of women in Superintendent Welby's private car "B," who accompanied the flowers down and who were to see to their distribution and to attempt to cheer the poor widows and mothers who suffered by the disaster. In the car were Mrs. E. L. Carpenter, Mrs. George Y. Wallace, Mrs. Ferguson, Mrs. Egbert Roberts, Miss Louise Nelden, Mr. W. A. Nelden, John J. Judson, and Victor Morris, the florist. The train bearing the car of flowers from Colton to Scofield was run as a special but did not succeed in getting to Scofield until evening, when it was too late for the distribution of the flowers. The Herald's relief car, with the lilacs and cut flowers, was switched into a sidetrack near the cemetery early in the morning. The car was next to the roadway over which the long train of wagons passed as they bore the bodies to their last resting place. The doors of the car were thrown open, and as each wagon came by, it halted while Captain Barrett and his aids, Charles Shoope and Marc Trent, buried the coffins under lilacs and handed each driver a bunch of cut flowers for the widows and children who accompanied the coffins. At the forward end of the car, the boys in charge were almost overwhelmed by requests for flowers. Work as fast as they could, the mournful little groups of women and children, in significant black, were still there awaiting their turn for the blossoms.

If the donors of the flowers and the people who helped collect them could have seen the gratitude and appreciation of Scofield they would have been repaid an hundred fold for their work. The procession of the dead passing the car seemed almost endless. From the rear vestibule, one commanded a view of the canyon and valley down which the wagons came, and the heartbreaking tragedy of the place was borne in on the distributors with each succeeding wagon until the iteration of grief became almost unbearable. One could understand why these people who have heard the sobs of the bereft and the cries of distress for days, have reached the point where emotion makes no response in outward expression. It was as though the constant strain on the heartstrings had left them incapable of vibrating to touch either joy or sorrow. One of the first groups to pass was in a carriage. Three women in weeds, four little children in black, two men whose drawn faces and weary eyes told their own story. Next came the wagon with the inevitable coffin. On the seat with the driver was a mother and son, the man's arms around the mother, who sat limp with her eyes closed, preserving consciousness with evident effort. The little ones came in for special care and tenderness from Captain Barrett. They stood around in the car doors in groups, some of them too shy to ask for the flowers; but there was no need of words, their eyes made their own plea. As fast as he could find time during the long procession, the Captain would step down from the car, lift a tot up into the car to fill their arms with lilacs and her hands with pansies, lilies and violets. Just before noon came a plea from the Finns. Their spokesman came aboard the car and said they had sixty one dead, none of whom had a friend in the country, aside from the people of their nationality. He asked as a favor that flowers be reserved for them until their train came down the canyon. There was an abundance for all, and the man's face lighted with evident pleasure when he was assured that all the coffins would be decorated and the graves covered with flowers. The distribution alone took nearly all the time from nine o'clock in the morning until the heavy rain late in the afternoon stopped the melancholy procession. In addition to the flowers of the school children the car contained innumerable boxes from other sources. Several were from the ladies of Sugar and Forest Dale. The Bamberger Coal Company, with usual thoughtfulness all through the disaster, sent a contribution of cut flowers. One contribution bore this message: 'With deep sympathy from Mrs. Annie Trap, who had a dear brother killed in South Wales (Auburn colliery disaster in June, 1894,) to some distressed widow, mother or sister.' Mrs. Trap's flowers were given to the first widow that came to the car."

The Salt Lake Tribune of the same date, stated as follows: "There is a deal more of sympathy and kindness in the souls of the everyday men and women of the world than they are ordinarily given credit for, and this crops out at times in a most convincing manner. And yesterday was one of the times. The Tribune made the suggestion that it would be a gentle courtesy to send a carload of flowers to deck the graves of the scores of men who met death in the awful explosion at Scofield. The suggestion met with a responsive throb from the hearts of hundreds of Salt Lake's citizens, and a few prominent women immediately set about to carry out the idea. Mrs. E. L. Carpenter was the first to move in the matter, and early communicated with Mr. Welby, General Superintendent of the Rio Grande Western, who graciously placed his private car 'B,' and a new combination coach and baggage car No. 98, at the disposal of the ladies. Then Mrs. Carpenter communicated with some of her friends, and in an hour a dozen or more were going from house to house, from neighbor to neighbor, asking for donations to this offering of love and sympathy to be sent to the grief-stricken families. Neldon & Judson's two delivery wagons were also placed at the disposal of the ladies, and these went from house to house and collected flowers. Considering the time and the number engaged in the work, the showing was a marvelous one. Only one school in the City, the Wasatch, contributed as a school, and the pupils of this school in an hour gathered a full wagon load of flowers and sent them to the depot. It was noised about among the children of some other schools, however, that a car was to be sent down, and here and there a little one was to be seen trudging his way to the depot, the little hands bearing a spray of lilacs, a few geraniums, a little cluster of pansies or some other blossoms showing that the heart of the child had been touched and he was doing what he could to alleviate the mighty grief which wrings the heart of the stricken ones at Scofield. Before the train pulled out a dozen or two crowded around the baggage car, unwilling to deposit the offering's on the trucks, which were already filled, but anxious to hand them into the car where they knew there would be no chance of their being left behind.

"The interior of the car carrying the flowers was beautiful to behold, tilled as it was with lilacs and other garden flowers. Nor were garden flowers the only ones to be seen, for many a woman robbed her plants of their rarest blossoms to send with the rest; there were roses, carnations, Easter lilies, pansies, geraniums, asparagus ferns, tulips, flowering almond, fruit blossoms, in short every kind of flower that was to be had from garden or greenhouse. All of the prominent florists in the city gave choice flowers, and Mr. Victor Morris, of the Morris Floral Company, not only gave generously but offered his services and went with the car of flowers to Scofield, where he will remain until all are distributed. The flowers, the silent messengers of love and sympathy, will surely be most welcome among the grief stricken families of the little mining town, and many a heartfelt blessing will be pronounced for the noble men and women who were the means of sending them there."

As the school children of Salt Lake had not been advised of this first contribution of flowers there was a general feeling of regret that they were not among the number to contribute to so noble a cause. So the school children were asked to bring their flowers to their respective schools promptly at twelve o'clock, as it would take some time to convey the flowers to the depot and arrange them in the car. The suggestion was also made that each school furnish a tub, properly tagged, that it may be returned to its owner, in which may be placed the flowers nicely moistened. The flowers sent today will be used in the decoration of the graves of the men who will be buried tomorrow. When the children's offerings were received at Scofield, the donors would have considered themselves well paid had they seen the pleasure with which the delicate attentions were received by the people of this coal camp. The occupants of the floral car worked every minute from the time they left Salt Lake until they arrived at Scofield, tying the flowers into bouquets. At Provo the committee was joined by Mrs. Jesse Knight and Mrs. McLain, who also added to the floral tributes. Outside of the great quantity of lilacs there there were hundreds of choicer flowers such as roses, carnations, lilies of the valley, besides many other varieties, which had been ordered from Salt Lake, Provo and Springville by friends or relatives of the deceased. One box was marked "Barney Dougal" from his mother. Another bore this pathetic sentiment, "From Barney Dougal's mother to some heartbroken widow and mother with the deepest sympathy."

It was a simple token, but it caused the tears to rise to the eyes of those who read the inscription on the white card and which had been written by a trembling hand. On the train were Chief of Police Hilton, Sergeant Burbidge, and Detective Sheets, and each were pressed into service in making bouquets. At Lehi there was a large consignment of flowers, but they were left behind as that station is not one of the regular stopping places for through trains. Had longer notice been given the floral contributions would have been much larger. At every station along the line great crowds were gathered to watch the train as it passed through.

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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