Darr Mine Explosion

The Washington Penna, Reporter
Thursday Evening, December 19, 1907

FOUR HUNDRED MEN ENTOMBED BY EXPLOSION AT DARR MINE Another Terrible Fatality Today in the Pittsburg District—The Mine is On Fire
United Press Dispatch. Pittsburg, Dec. 19.—In an explosion at the Darr mine at 11:30 this morning, 400 men were entombed. The mine is on fire, and it is believed all are dead. The Darr mine is operated by the Pittsburg Coal company and is located at Jacob’s Creek, on the Pittsburg and Lake Erie Railroad. Of the miners entombed 100 are Americans, and the rest principally Italians. Immediately after the explosion smoke poured from the mouth of the mine, which is of the slope variety. Most of the mine is wrecked, and up to 1 o’clock no one was able to enter to search for the entombed men. The cause of the explosion is unknown. The Washington Penna, Reporter Friday Evening, December 20, 1907
ONLY SIX BODIES ARE RECOVERED AT DARR Rescuers Have Not Yet Reached the Point Where the Diggers Were Employed.
United Press Dispatch. Jacob’s Creek, Dec. 20.—The recovery of bodies from the ill-fated Darr mine is now in progress. It is believed that the death list will reach 200. On account of the Greek holiday yesterday, and the fact that many of the Greek Catholics were at church, the usual number of men were not at work, or the death list would have more than equaled the Monongah disaster. At 9:30 this morning there six bodies had been recovered. Among them is Mine Foreman, W.S. Campbell. The fans have been started and the fire is now believed to be out. It will take hours to reach the bodies and to tell the extent of the disaster. Pitiful scenes are to be noticed today about the little town that lies nearby, as wives and children of the unfortunate men anxiously wait the recovery of their loved ones. Six members of the state constabulary arrived from Greensburg this morning and have taken charge. Ten mine inspectors arrived on the scenes this morning. Many have been attracted here by morbid curiosity. Rescuers have gone 5,000 feet into the mine, it will be necessary to go three-fourths of a mile farther before coming to where the diggers will be found. Superintendent Black, who was in charge of the mine, recently resigned, as did David Wingrove, former fire boss, on account of the gaseous nature of the mine. It is said they notified the officials the mine was unsafe for the men to work in. There are many such reports current here. Jacob’s Creek, Pa. Dec. 20.—Death to at least 200 miners and the accompanying suffering and bereavement to their families came yesterday between 11:15 and 11:30, with all that sadness and fatality characteristic of subterranean eruptions when a combination of gas and coal dust cause a terrible explosion in the Darr mines of the Pittsburg Coal company, located just across the Youghiogheny at Van Meter. There was but one explosion and it was accompanied by a flaming detonation. While the surface indications do not show that it came with great force, residents of both sides of the river say that their houses shook and the earth fairly rumbles as the gas and dust made a fruitless effort to belch itself forth through any entrance, all of which were too confined for its purpose. This was the warning to the neighborhood and it was not mistaken. Wrought up by the death bearing calamities in other parts, wives, sisters, and sweethearts had lived in dread of a like fate, and when the explosion came it was as both a warning and a death knell.
Survivors Are Brave.
Last night in two little hamlets, weeping women, many with babes in their arms, tell the tale of happy homes bereft and springing hope blighted. Survivors, be it said, are bearing up bravely and most of them seem resigned to the fate of those who knew too well the risk their loved ones took, but who had fondly hoped that they might be exempted from the ___? exacted. Arrangements were completed last night by which all the dead will be buried by the company. This was decided on after a consultation among the officials here and the Pittsburg office. The place of burial and the time of interment will, of course, be subject to the wishes of the bereaved. After bodies have been taken out and identified they will be encased in shrouds and caskets ordered by the company, tonight. Representatives of the National Casket company and the United States Casket company of Pittsburg were here and secured the order for the caskets and supplies. It was impressed on these men when the order was given that it was the intention to accord the victims of the disaster a respectable interment and the selections were made accordingly. Two hundred and fifty caskets were ordered to be shipped on request.
Rescuers Promptly at Work.
With all the sadness that the accident took no, in the same ratio of sobriety was the work of rescue begun. Men seemed to fairly spring from the ground, anxious to pull down the barriers between their unfortunate fellowmen and liberty, which in this case meant life. Workmen from the other mines of the company in this section, the Wickhaven and the Banning, rushed from their places without instructions from their superiors. Fifteen minutes after the explosion occurred the debris from the entrance had been cleared away, and the first rescue party entered. As nearly as can be ascertained, through the company officials refuse to go on record at the present time, either as the cause or effect, the point of the explosion was located about two miles from the entrance. By 7 o’clock last evening penetration had been made to the twenty-first entrance, fully 5,000 feet from the entrance to the mine.
First Bodies Found.
It was here that the first bodies were found. Right at this point is located the shanty in which the pit boss makes his headquarters while in the mine. As it hove (sic) in view it presented an uncanny appearance with a grave-like stillness about it. Here within the four walls of this little wooden structure were huddled five dead bodies. Four of them rested on an improvised bench and the fifth, headless, believed to be that of the mine foreman, W.S. Campbell, lay on the floor. Stout-hearted enough to dare death themselves in any form, the rescue party stood trembling at this ghastly find. This discovery was made about 7 o’clock and the rescue party returned to the entrance. When their find was reported to General Manager J.M. Armstrong he gave instructions that no bodies be brought out until the crowd, which besieged the entrance, had departed. The rescue work was greatly helped in two ways. The brattice work in the mine, with few exceptions, was in good condition, and in addition to this the fan used to force air into the mine was not injured. The Darr mine, which is one of the oldest in the field, the first coal having been taken out 65 years ago, is located on the riverbank, with slope entrance. On either side lie the Banning and Wickhaven mines, also operated by the Pittsburg Coal company. While officials of the company assert that there is absolutely no connection between these mines, several of the miners assert that this is not true, and that in several places at different points augur holes have been bored through the connection walls on both sides, and int this and through these entrances, it would be an easy matter for the gas in both the others to congregate in the Darr. In the Port Royal mine which lies only a short distance off, and which produced the only fatal explosion in this section in the past there is also supposed to be an entrance to the Darr. The Dar lies higher than the others and as gas naturally rises to the surface, it is asserted that it became the receiving chamber for the other three.
NEWS SUMMARY Town and County.
W.S. Campbell, foreman at the Darr mine, and among the dead, a former resident of McDonald and Finleyville. Walter Shepherd, also formerly located in this county, among the dead. The Washington Penna, Reporter Saturday Evening, December 21, 1907
12 BODIES HAVE BEEN RECOVERED All Were in Main Entrance of the Darr Mine at Jacobs Creek. OBSTACLES ENCOUNTERED
United Press Dispatch. Jacob’s Creek, Dec. 21.—At 11 o’clock this morning 12 bodies had been recovered. All found so far were in the main entrance. No attempts have been made to explore the side entries or rooms, some 2,000 feet beyond, on account of gas. It is believed most of the bodies will be found in the swamp entries, about three miles back from the entrance to the mine. Great difficulties face the rescue party on account of the black damp and debris strewn along the main entry. Several gangs of workmen are boarding up the abandoned rooms of the old entries so as to force ahead and try to recover, the bodies. The coal company has posted notices that pay day is postponed until next week, to save confusion. The coal company has purchased a plot of ground near Smithton for a cemetery for the dead miners. Another explosion of white damp or marsh gas is expected in the “Swamp,” and thus rescue work is progressing slowly. No more bodies are yet recovered. Portions if bodies are seen here and there by searching parties. The latest estimate of the number of dead places the minimum at 150, with the possibility that the aggregate will reach 200. A canvass of the neighborhood reveals the names of 129 missing. This canvass is not complete and this number will not be accepted as the total of workmen in the mine when the disaster occurred. Gas filtering through the walls from the abandoned working of the old Port Royal mine is believed by many to have been the cause of the explosion. Some hold that dust caused the trouble, but a majority cling to the gas theory. The old Port Royal mine is close to the “swamp” in the Darr mine, where the explosion is believed to have occurred. Until a thorough investigation is made, the mine officials will be unable to say just what caused the explosion. This cannot be done for several days.
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