Lick Branch Mine: 2 Explosions in 2 Weeks

Group of Coal Miners

Group of Coal Miners

50 DEAD IN MINE HORROR

Believed That Fatalities Will Mount That High in West Virginia Explosion

EMPLOY 400 MEN; SAVE SOME ALIVE

Rescuers Work All Night and Continue Efforts Today to Get at Their Entombed Comrades.

MAYBURY, W. Va., Dec. 30. — The fatalities in the Lick Branch Mine as a result of yesterday’s explosion will probably reach fifty.

At 10 o’clock today mine officials admitted that there are thirty men now buried under the debris. The mine foreman, however, insists that 41 men are still entombed in an old working near the Tug River side of the mine where the explosion occurred. The early morning hours were spent by the rescuers in bracing the walls so as to get to the scene of the accident.

All night rescuing parties, including Mine Inspectors Phillips, Warner, Henry and Brady and scores of the most experienced fire bosses and miners worked tirelessly. At an early hour today 42 men had been removed from the mine, twelve of whom are dead. Only the main part of the mine has been explored as yet.

This mine is the largest in southern West Virginia, employing 400 men.

CINCINNATI. Dec. 30. — Orders were this morning received by a local firm for forty coffins to be sent to Maybury. It is presumed additional coffins have been ordered from other points.

Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) Dec 30, 1908

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Scores of Miners Buried in Shafts

EXPLOSION AT LICK BRANCH BROUGHT DEATH IN WEST VIRGINIA.

SEVENTEEN RESCUED FOUR OF WHOM WERE DEAD.

OTHERS ARE BADLY INJURED

INJURED AND MORE FATALITIES EXPECTED.

Special to the Daily News.

Ennis, W. Va., December 30. — Up to one o’clock today nineteen bodies had been taken from the Lick Branch mine of the Pocahontas Consolidated Coal Company. It is feared that all of the fifty-eight men in the mine when the explosion occurred late yesterday are now dead.

Bluefield, W. Va., December 30. — One of the worst mine disasters in this field since the explosion of the Pocahontas mines in 1889, occurred at the Lick Branch Collieries Company’s mine at Maybury yesterday afternoon. The explosion was heard for some distance and people from every point rushed to the drift mouth of the mine, hoping to aid in any way possible. During the day 17 men have been taken from the mines, four of whom were dead and some of the others badly injured.

The dead are James Smith, Charles Little, W. Little and a Russian. It is estimated that there are 25 to 30 yet in the mines, and it is believed that they will not be found alive.

Special trains were run from Pocahontas with officials and rescuing parties. One report states that there were 52 men in the mine at the time of the explosion.

The work of rescue is slow owing to the fact that supplies and bratticing had to be sent from this city to aid in the work.

At a late hour no further definite news as to the loss of life or damage to property could be obtained.

Lick Branch is the name of a coal operation on the Pocahontas division of the Norfolk and Western Railway, and is without commercial telegraph facilities.

Norfolk and Western Railway officers say that owing to the fact that miners are taking a holiday this week in large numbers, it is not likely that more than 50 or 60 men were at work in this particular mine at the time of the explosion. It is stated that the Lick Branch mine has a connection with another mine on the other side of the mountain, and that it is possible this mine has been affected.
The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined.

Lima Daily News (Lima, Ohio) Dec 30, 1908

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More Bodies Recovered from Lick Branch Mine.

THE DEAD MAY REACH CLOSE TO THREE SCORE

Thirty-Six Bodies Recovered Up to Noon Hour.

Mine Official Directing the Work at That Hour Express the Belief that There Are Yet at Least Twenty-One Victims More To Be Located in the Galleries of the Mine.

Switchback, W. Va., Dec. 31. — Another sleepless night was passed by this little town in expectancy of removal of more bodies from the mine at the Lick Branch colliery. Twelve more bodies were removed this morning, bringing the total dead list up to thirty-six.

The following is the complete list up to this morning:

Jim Smith, Charles Little, Wylie Little, unknown Russian, Jim Lockhart, Henry Lockhart, Richard Lockhart, Cleve Alexander, Pleas Kennedy, John Miller, Kemp Sanders, John Brown, Greek; Sam Beatty, Jim Roane, Tobe Webber, Matthew Webber, Reed Anderson, two unknown Italians, Peter Coles, Dominick Rose, Tony Alanava, George Meekert, Dave Bolton, Mike Buschuke, Young Johnson, George Barzollett, four Russians known only by numbers, A.J. Holland, Albert Holland, Zeff Estes.

Explorers are still at work in the ill-fated mine, men vieing with each others in staying on rescuing squads as long as bearable. One hundred experienced men are there waiting and willing to be called upon for service.

Mine officials believe there are still twenty-one victims yet to be located.

The Marion Weekly Star (Marion, Ohio) Jan 2, 1909

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HUNDRED MEN ARE ENTOMBED

Second Explosion in Lick Branch Colliery.

MAY PROVE MORE DEADLY THAN FIRST

Explosion Occurs Just After Men Go to Work.

The Full Quota of the Day Shift Is On When the Gasses Let Go — A Special Train with Physicians and Mine Officials Is Sent to the Scene of the Explosion from Bluefield.

Facts Come Slowly.

Welch, W. Va., Jan. 12. — Death again wrought horrible vengeance to 250 men imprisoned in the earth here today. One hundred torn and bleeding miners are believed to be beyond rescue, and the safety of the others is in doubt, as the result of an explosion at the Lick Branch mine at Switchback, West Virginia, at 8 o’clock this morning.

It is the second explosion at the mine within the past three weeks. In the first explosion, fifty lives were snuffed out. The Lick Branch is West Virginia’s model mine, according to the inspectors, who visited it shortly before the tragedy of three weeks ago.

The couldn’t understand it, but believed it safe again. Two hundred and fifty men went to work there this morning. How many will return to their homes this evening must be determined by the rescuers.

Orphans and widows have been stunned since the last explosions, and in some places crepe had not been removed from the doors. The pall of death hung heavily over the little hamlet, which nestles in the center of the giant Flat Top coal fields. When they saw the smoke issuing from the mine today following the noise like the booming of a cannon, they knew that it was the warning of death.

Hearts Wrung Dry.

Yet grief had wrung their hearts dry. The fountain of tears had wasted away. Dry-eyed and pale lipped, they made their way to the mines, where they knew that relatives, husbands or sons, were either crushed or fighting for their lives in a veritable sepulcher of death.

Tears were driving back by the paralysis of fear. They merely shook their heads. Even their tongues failed them. Disaster has come too swiftly for them to comprehend.

No explanation is given for the disaster this morning. The only solution that has been offered is that another pocket of gas, sealed by the last explosion and falling debris, let go.

A coroner’s jury which investigated the previous great loss of life failed to find any cause for the first explosion, but added a clause to its report, exonerating the mine owners and officials of all blame in the matter.

Hundreds Are Caught.

Welch. W. Va., Jan. 12. — One hundred miners have been caught in a second explosion at the Lick Branch colliery. Hardly had the crepe been taken from the doors of many an humble little home on the banks of the Elkhorn, near the Lick Branch colliery, than an explosion which now promises to be more direful than the one of two weeks ago in which half a hundred lives were lost, occurred, and has brought additional sorrow.

Fathers and brothers of some of those killed in the last explosion are known to have been in the ill-fated mine at 8:30 this morning when the second explosion occurred, and soon their bodies will be laid to rest in the hills nearby which goes to swell the list of miners killed in this state in the past year to something near the 1,000 mark.

State Mine Inspector John Laing, of New River, and four of his leading assistants had just made an inspection of the Lick Branch colliery prior to the first explosion, and it was pronounced one of the safest and best ventilated mines in the Flat Top field.

No Known Cause.

Another inspection was made just after the explosion, and no cause could be assigned for the catastrophe. A coroner’s jury which also investigated the great loss of life failed to find any cause, bu added a clause to the report exonerating the mine owners and officials of all blame in the matter.

Swithchback, the scene of the explosion, is a small village in McDowell county, in the center of the great Flat Top Coal field.

The explosion occurred at half past 8 o’clock this morning just an hour after the full quota of men for the day shift had gone to work.

The mine usually works from one to two hundred men. A special train with physicians and mine officials has been sent to the scene from Bluefield. Definite information as to the exact number of killed is hard to secure as those in authority about the mine are reticent when it comes to giving out the facts in the case.

May Reach Hundred.

The list of those killed in the Lick Branch mine explosion this morning, it is now believed, may reach 100, although this number may be greatly lessened or increased. It is known that 250 miners were on duty at the time.

At noon today the heat was so intense in the Lick Branch mine that no attempt has been made by the rescuing party to enter. It is now believed that the death list may reach 150, possibly 200. Mine officials from all parts of Pocahontas and Elkhorn fields are pouring in here on special trains.

The Marion Daily Star (Marion, Ohio) Jan 12, 1909

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FIFTY-ONE BODIES TAKEN FROM MINE

Rescuers Report Most Horribble Sights in Fireswept Colliery.

TERRIBLE SCENES

Hard to Distinguish Between the Black and White.

Bluefield, W. Va., Jan. 14. — Fifty one bodies have been taken from Lick Branch mine at Switchback, W. Va., where a fatal explosion occurred Tuesday. An official statement issued by the colliery company estimates the total number of dead at 57 and says the number will not exceed 59.

Three rescue crews of 40 men each led by State Mine Inspectors Grady Nicholson and Warner, are at work. The men in these crews report the most ghastly sights within the torn and fire-swept corridors and working of the mine where bodies are found mangled and mutilated beyond identification.

It is difficult to distinguish, they declare, between black and white, because they are so frightfully burned. Some bodies taken from the mines resemble charred masses of flesh more than human beings. From some bodies the legs are gone, from others the arms. One was completely headless.

Nine unidentified dead and two others were brought out, but have not yet been placed in the morgue. Experienced mine men are authority for the statement that this is the first case on the record where two explosions took place in the same mine in such a short space of time, and are unable to explain its cause. Some of them point to the fact that the thermometer fell 19 degrees within several hours on the morning of the catastrophe and hold that such rapid changes in the weather have considerable influence on the conditions that produce mine disasters.

Evening Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) Jan 14, 1909

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MINE OPERATED IN VIOLATION OF LAW

So President of Mine Workers Refers to Lick Branch Mine.

Charleston, W. Va., Jan. 16. — Ben Davis, president of the United Mine Workers of West Virginia, has given out a statement in which he openly charges that the ill-fated Lick Branch mine, in which two explosions have occurred recently, was operated in violation of the mining laws. He demands that the legislature now in session begin an immediate investigation of the disasters.

Davis charges that the mine was reopened after the first explosion, which occurred in December, before state inspectors had finished their examination. He also declares there are places in the mine from 150 to 272 feet “ahead of the air.”

The Marion Daily Star (Marion, Ohio) Jan 16, 1909

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Overcharge Caused Mine Disaster.

Bluefield, W. Va., Jan. 18. — The coroner’s jury investigating the Lick Branch mine explosion last Tuesday decided that the explosion was caused by an overcharged shot of gunpowder and that sixty-five men came to their death through no fault of the mining companies.

The Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jan 18, 1909

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6 Responses to “Lick Branch Mine: 2 Explosions in 2 Weeks”

  1. Mary Neal Says:

    Where can I find a list of names of the people killed in the LICK BRANCH mining accidents . Trying to confirm a death there . George Peters .

    • mrstkdsd Says:

      You might try the West Virginia Culture and History people. I found the following on their website:

      The following is a list of articles on West Virginia coal mine disasters which can be found in the vertical newspaper clipping files at the West Virginia State Archives Library:

      LICK BRANCH
      December 29, 1908

      “Lick Branch Mine Gives Up 27 Bodies; Dead May Reach 50,” Charleston Gazette, 12-31-1908
      “Death-List May Reach Forty-Six,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 12-31-1908
      “Death-List Totals Even Half-Hundred,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-1-1909
      “Lick Branch Explosion Not Caused By Gas,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-3-1909
      “Inquest Over Bodies of Lick Branch Dead,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-3-1909
      “Lick Branch Horror,” Fayette Journal, 1-7-1909
      “Lick Branch Mine Horror Now History,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-9-1909

      SWITCHBACK/LICK BRANCH
      January 12, 1909

      “Almost An Hundred Miners Perish,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-13-1909
      “Fifty Bodies Recovered From Mine,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-14-1909
      “Dust Will Most Likely Be Blamed” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-15-1909
      “Last Body Recovered From Mine,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-16-1909
      “Corrected List of Lick Branch Dead,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-17-1909
      “For Lick Branch Widows and Orphans,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 1-20-1909
      “Mid Frightful Shock and Sickening Holocaust Almost An Hundred Perish in Ill-Fated Mine” (reference and date not given)

      They might have an idea of where you might find an official death list.

  2. mrstkdsd Says:

    Sorry, forgot to link the website:

    http://www.wvculture.org/history/notewv/coalminedisasters.html

  3. mrstkdsd Says:

    This is from this website: http://community-2.webtv.net/DizHarris/SHINBRIERALMOST/page12.html (They also have transcribed articles, not sure if they are different from mine or not, but worth checking) :

    SWITCHBACK, WV MINE DISASTERS

    ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29TH,1908, AT SWITCHBACK, WEST VIRGINIA, SEVENTEEN MILES WEST OF BLUEFIELD, AN EXPLOSION OCCURRED IN THE LICK BRANCH MINE OF THE POCAHONTAS CONSOLIDATED COLLIERIES, INC., RESULTING IN THE DEATH OF FIFTY-ONE EMPLOYEES. OPERATIONS WERE RESUMED IN THE MINE ON JAN. 7, 1909, BY PERMISSION OF THE STATE MINE DEPARTMENT, AND ON TUESDAY, JAN. 12TH, ANOTHER EXPLOSION OCCURRED, CAUSING THE DESTRUCTION OF SIXTY-SIX MORE LIVES, MAKING A TOTAL OF ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN LOST IN THE TWO ACCIDENTS, ONLY TWO WEEKS APART.

    FORTY- EIGHT OF THOSE WHO PERISHED – 1908

    Cleve Alexander ~ Reed Anderson
    Samuel Beatty ~ Elzy Blevins
    Thomas Blevins ~ David Colin
    Gregory Boresky ~ John Brown
    Nicholay Buschuke ~ Pinus Buschuke
    James Calloway ~ Pleas Canaday
    Green Davis ~ J. W. Edmondson
    Joe Edmunds ~ Zeff Estes
    Trofin Harasmuk ~ John Hicks
    Ab Holland ~ John A. Holland
    Thomas Howell ~ J. E. Johnson
    Charles Little ~ Wiley Little
    Jim Lockhart ~ Joe Lockhart
    Richard Lockhart ~ George Meaker
    John W. Miller ~ Luna Naumuk
    Joe Nizuk ~ Scott Page
    Toney Palmara ~ John W. Partin
    Aseny Parvolic ~ George Parvolic
    Peter Poles ~ Walter Reyonolds
    Jim Roan ~ Dominick Rose
    Kemp Sanders ~ Jim Smith
    Thomas Swain ~ Karp Tarrachuk
    Tobe Webber ~ Buck Williams
    Robert Williams ~ Mathew Webber

    FIFTY-SIX OF THOSE WHO PERISHED – 1909

    Dan Arrington ~ Albert Abell
    James Ayers ~ Luther Boldin
    Henry Bowles ~ Floyd Bufflo
    Robert Bufflo ~ Elk Clark
    S. C. Clark ~ J. H. Cobbs
    Ed Collins ~ Lemuel Dean
    Will Durphey ~ George Enssey
    Walter Eversale ~ Walker Giles
    Jno. Hauge ~ Frank Hairston
    J. J. Hairston ~ Peter Heppenstall
    Con Holladay ~ Charles Howard
    John Hunter ~ Mel Hunter
    Tobe Hutcheson ~ Anthony Johnson
    A. R. Jones ~ Joe Jones
    Brown Lee ~ Henry Lee
    H. A. Leonard ~ John Mahony
    Bruce Man ~ Jim Martin
    Charles Weilsord ~ Henry Bolen
    Walter Martin ~ A. P. McDade
    Clarence Mitchell ~ John Mitchell
    A. R. Miller ~ Dowdy Miller
    Thomas Myers ~ George Peters
    Charles Phillips ~ Everett Phillips
    Mike Robinsky ~ Ed Rose
    Jno. Smith ~ Taylor Staples
    David Surratt ~ Riley Surratt
    Ernest Terry ~ Henry Waller
    Dan Watson ~ Robert Wyatt

    NAME LISTS BY DOLORES RIGGS DAVIS

  4. Cindy Taylor Says:

    My husband is the great grandson of George W. Taylor. He was suppose of died in this mining disaster. Do you have any info on him? His son Emizer Crockett Taylor would work at the mine also. Found what I have heard he would bring water to the men, but still looking into that. Any info on either of these men would be appreciated. Emizer never wasn’t harmed in this accident. At the time he would of been about 10 years old

  5. Jennifer Says:

    Im looking for the name Mathew Kanavy, we believe he work in the coal mine and died in a coal mine in W.Virginia between 1908-1910.

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