Friday, June 25, 2010

Mine Disaster 1939

Mining has always been a dangerous profession and claims lives every year. The now-defunct Evansville Press, on Sunday, 16 July 1939 reported on the explosion of the Duvin mine in Webster County, Kentucky.

Providence, Ky., July 15 - Thirty-eight miners went deep into the Duvin mine last night and only 10 came back. Of the others, 19 are known dead tonight and the remaining nine are feared to have perished.

Bodies of the dead will be brought to the surface as soon as ventilating fans can blow away the breath of death that caught those not killed instantly by an explosion Friday night.

All hope for the nine missing is not yet gone. T.C. Powell with the U.S. Bureau of Mines safety station at Norton, Va., led 20 rescuers into the mine tonight in a last desperate attempt to reach them.

They may have erected barricades in the entry in which they were working. Some say such barricades would provide breathable air for 24 hours; others say they may survive three days.

Throughout a long night, and a longer dreary day, hope for some of the 28 remained high until rescue squads, wearied by 15 hours of ceaseless toil, stumbled from the mine cage.

But hope is at a very low ebb tonight. They had found 19 bodies, some horribly mangled by the blast, some slumped over their machines.

They had come within 600 feet of the section where nine other men had been at work, only to be forced back by deadly carbon monoxide gas that overcame four of their number.

They were spared the task of facing the mine folk whose husbands, fathers, brothers and sons had died, for the mine property had been cleared of all spectators. But along the property edge remained hundreds, hopeful to the last, and to them several of the rescue workers told a story of the horror they had found 200-250 feet below the surface.

It was a gruesome story of mangled bodies of men killed instantly by the explosion, of bodies sprawled in ghastly postures over machines, life snuffed out by gas, of machinery torn to pieces, rails ripped off ties and then jerked from the ground.

An announcement by the coal company named the following men who died: Bernard Barnes, foreman and his son, D.B. Barnes; Richard Byron, foreman; Bob May; Ira Campbell; Randall Green; Earl Woodring; George Clark; Lee Mitchell; Dan Byron; Ferrell Dunbar; Ellie Chandler; Robert Williams; Ned Fugate; James Gaither; George Springfield; Arthur Little; Carl Holloman Jr and David Ivy. Nine others are unaccounted for and nine were rescued.


Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

My great-great grandfather, Sarillas Lofink Neibel, and his relatives (probably his uncles), Simon & Frances Lofink, all worked at the Bells Mines in Crittenden Co, KY in the 1850's and 1860's. Sarillas and his family later moved to Gallatin Co, IL and my great-grandfather, Fred Ulysses Neibel worked in the mines all his life in Kentucky and Southern Illinois. What a tough life they had!

Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

Yes, they did have a rough life. If I am not mistaken, Frank Lofink also had a tavern in Bells Mines.

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

Really? That's an interesting fact. Several of my cousins and I have been trying to figure out when Sarillas came to America, who is parents are and why he changed his name to Neibel. It is believed he came with Simon, Francis (Frank), as well as two other Lofink brothers, Joseph and Louis who stayed in Pittsburg. If thetavern thing is true that is pretty funny as I come from a fairly "teetotaling" family. LOL!

Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

On 12 Aug 1861, Frank Lofink was given a license to run a tavern in his home in Bells Mines. This is from Crittenden County Court Order Book 3, p. 16.

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

Thanks for the info!

Janet said...

My ancestor, Reva Crowell Barnes, was the wife and stepmother of two of the victims, Daniel Bernard Barnes Sr. and Jr. This family experienced many tragedies. In 1919, Daniel Sr.'s first wife died of a postpartum hemorrhage. Less than a year before the disaster, on 10 Oct 1936, Reva's father, Malen Crowell, committed suicide.

Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

My goodness! What a lot of tragedies for one family to endure. Thanks for this information.