Harwick Mine Disaster Report, 1904

(Photos Courtesy of Karen, rkgrumski AT comcast DOT net)

From: KSB1974@aol.com
Subject: Harwick Mine 4th
Report of the Department of Mines Of Pennsylvania
Part II "Bituminous" 1904
Harrisburg, PA
Harrisburg Publishing Co., State Printers 1905

[NOTE: Transcribers notes are enclosed in brackets]
[This is the information written by Cunningham as an introduction to his
district. Official Document No. 23, Page 617, Fourteenth District
Allegheny, Westmoreland and Beaver Counties]

Wilkinsburg, Pa., February 6, 1905

Hon. James E. Roderick, chief of Department of Mines:

Sir: I have the honor of transmitting herewith my annual report as
Inspector of mines for the Fourteenth Bituminous District, for the year
ending December 31, 1904.

I regret to report an increase in the number of fatal accidents during the
year, caused by the great disaster in the Harwick mine on January 25,
detailed account of which is given elsewhere in this report. The several
tables and detailed statistic are also given.[below]

Respectfully submitted, F. W. Cunningham, Inspector

From Karen, KSB1974@aol.com
Subject: Harwick Mine 5

[This information was written by Cunningham, I will try and finish typing and
scanning the rest of the information that he submitted this evening, along
with the information that was submitted to Samuel W. Pennypacker, Governor
of PA, by James E. Roderick, Chief of Department of Mines.--Karen]
page: 663 Off. Doc. No. 23

Harwick Mine Disaster

On January 25, at 8:15 A. M., an explosion occurred in the Harwick mine,
operated by the Allegheny Coal Company.

I was at Penn Station, on duty at the time of the accident, and, as I had
left no word at the office where I was going that day, I did not know about
the accident until I arrived home late in the afternoon. It seemed incredible
to me, on account of the conditions prevalent in regard to ventilation, which
were among the best in the district. The report of 1903 shows that 96,000
cubic feet of air were circulating per minute and 65 percent of this amount
was carried up to the face of the workings in five different splits. On
learning from the company's office by telephone that the report was true, I
proceeded to the mine at once, arriving there at 7:30 P. M. After notifying
the department of Mines of the accident by telegraph I went down into the
mine where 177 lives were lost in less time than it takes to tell about it.
Two rescuers also lost there lives in the deadly after-damp. Mr. Selwyn M.
Taylor, a mining engineer, was at the scene of the accident soon after it
occurred, and had made preliminary arrangements to get a current of air down
in the mine by temporary repairs to the fan, which was not damaged beyond the
fan shed over the shaft. He arranged a bucket in the hoisting shaft in which
he and a party went down into the mine about 6 P. M.. They found one man
alive at the bottom of the shaft. This led Mr. Taylor to believe that more
men were still living in the mine, and he advanced to explore the south side
of the mine, where I later found him lifeless, in No. 3 south main.

Another rescuer, Daniel Lysle, went into the workings of the mine, which had
not yet been explored, without the knowledge of any of the persons in charge,
and was afterwards found dead in No. 4 left butt south. None of the dead
bodies showed any sign of suffering before the victims met death, which was
caused by the ignition of fire-damp and dust in No. 1 monkey butt, on the
south side of the mine by a blown-out shot. The shot was placed 18 inches
over on the solid coal and lighted by gas, which, by the fine particles of
coal dust suspended in the air, traveled into every place in the mine like a
streak of lightning, carrying destruction in its path, until it finally
expended its fore up the air and hoisting shafts. From what I have seen
and can learn since the explosion, the ventilation on this particular morning
had been very nearly if not altogether cut off from the workings of the mine by
ice forming at the bottom of the down-cast air shaft, which was very wet at
the entrances to both sides of the mine. This being the case, it would allow
the gas to transpire more freely, and the very fine particles of coal dust
(which is the most dangerous) to be suspended in the air, thus rendering the
atmosphere of the mine highly explosive. The question is asked: "Did the
fire boss examine the mine this morning?" If he did, we have no official
record of this visit. Under the law the fire boss is required to make out
his report and sign it before re-entering the mine, stating conditions as he
finds them. The mine forman is also required to make a daily report of the
condition of the mine, and on Saturday previous to the accident he reported
that the mine was safe. The mine foreman's report is not made until the end
of the day. These requirements are for the daily safety of the employes and
the mine and are called for by the Mine Law.

A more detailed account of this accident will be found in another part of
this report.

[The following 5 statistical pages are .JPG image files]

Back to Home Page