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Ashley, Pennsylvania

Baltimore No. 4 Mine Explosion

May 15, 1890


Twenty-eight Men Buried Alive at Ashley


Loyal Comrades Working Like Beavers to Save Their Lives.
Three of the Entombed Men Rescued
The Thrilling Story of a Miner Who Narrowly Escaped

—Twenty-eight men are entombed in Baltimore shaft, No. 4, at Ashley, and there is little hope of their rescue. The mine is an old one, and the workings are in a more or less a dilapidated condition. This fact makes the work of rescue very difficult. The imprisonment of the unfortunate men is due to a big cave-in of the surface over the mine which occurred yesterday. The cave-in covers an area of one square mile, and is one of the most disastrous that ever occurred in the coal regions.

It Came Without Warning
The crash came without any warning whatever. This is something unusual too, as generally there is a quaking and quivering of the earth before it settles. The first intimation of danger is when two houses were seen to sink out of sight. They went down about ten feet and were totally wrecked. The dwellings were occupied by Polanders. Two women and a little girl were quite seriously injured. The noise made by the house toppling over attracted a large crowd.

Thirty not Eight in the Mine
A number of men ran to the slope and attempted to enter the mine, but they could not. The main passage was blocked and there was no way of reaching the men. The mine foreman said only eight men were working in that portion which had caved in, and that they had in all probability made their escape by way of the gangway. The fire boss reported that there were thirty men in the mine, and not eight. The superintendent of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company was telegraphed and he arrived promptly. A conference of expert miners was then held and it was first determined to make an attempt to enter the slope. Twelve men were secured for the hazardous task but they were unable to proceed any distance through the mine. The cave-in had wrecked all the inside workings, and in some places the roof was down for hundreds of feet. To clear this debris away would take weeks, which would preclude all hope of getting the men out alive.

Three Men Rescued
It was then resolved to sink or bore holes in the surface directly over some abandoned workings, enter these workings, and then trace to the place where the men were at work. This whole distance is about 300 yards. At 8 o’clock last evening the rescuers broke their way through the surface and reached the abandoned workings. Five men entered and traveled along some distance. They heard groans. Stooping down they found three men lying prostrate on the ground. They picked them up and carried them to the surface. When the rescuing party with the three men came in sight a mighty cheer went up.

The men rescued were JOHN ALLEN, ROBERT ROBERTS and ANTHONY FRAIL. They were badly burned. ROBERTS is the least injured.

He says when the cave-in came the men all threw down their tools and made for the main gangways. They found that it was blocked with debris. Some of the men then fainted and sunk to the ground. Others got down on their knees and prayed for deliverance. ROBERTS, FRAIL and ALLEN clung together. They rummaged around the abandoned workings all afternoon. When the cave-in occurred there was a slight explosion in one of the breasts which burned the three men. ROBERTS says there are at least nineteen other men in the mine and that they are scattered everywhere. The air is bad, and unless other men are reached within the next ten hours they must perish. The rescuers are now scouring the workings.

The Names of the Imprisoned Men

The scenes about the mine had a peculiarly horrible interest. Round the gang of toiling men who were sinking the shaft from the surface there soon gathered a crowd of many hundred men, women and children. In their eagerness they would have passed right on among the workers, and to keep them back, a rope was stretched around the spot and a corps of men placed to hold back the crowd.

Among that gathering were women whose husbands and sons were entombed in the dark mine, children whose parents had probably met their deaths and young women whose sweethearts were entombed. Hope was strong in the hearts of all, for the men who had come out of the mine said that there was little chance of the men in the upper split having been caught under the fall. They were there well and alive behind those heaps of rocks and debris, if they could only be reached in time. One great threat bothered them—bad air—but the mine was not a gassy one, and in the Baltimore vein especially there was little gas.

Standing round the place where the men were at work digging in the hillside were dozens of men ready to respond to any call for volunteers to relieve the men at work. Among them were FRANK HENRY, a young man of about 19 years, son of MICHAEL HENRY, who is among the entombed. From several scratches and cuts on his face and head blood had trickled, and some had fallen on his clothes. He was in the mine when the cave-in occurred, and he tells a thrilling story of his escape.

“I knew nothing about any trouble”, he said, “till all of a sudden there was a great rush of air and my light was blown out. Right after that I heard some one calling out further on the gangway that the lower split was caving. I then hitched the mules and tried to get them along, but they would not move in the dark. Then I started off myself up the gangway. Pretty soon there was another crash somewhere back in the working and another big rush of air came along. In a minute or two I reached the main gangway. Then I heard the roof chipping and cracking. There were some other men running along the gangway, but all the lights were out and I could see nothing. The gangway was full of dust and in a minute chips of coal and rock began falling from the roof.

“Another crash came, and the rush of air nearly threw me off my feet. Heavy chunks were falling all around and I expected every minute the whole roof would come down. I heard several men calling out as if in pain, and all at once I stumbled over one man and fell. I asked who it was, but he was groaning.

“I didn’t wait, but ran on. I got to the foot of the slope with a big crowd of men. There were some lights there and we scrambled up the slope as fast as we could. Just as we reached the mouth a big blast of air came up, throwing most of us down and binding us with dust and dirt. I got out to the surface half dead. My father was working with a group of men as a track layer on the top lift.”


The supposition is that the men are still alive. They were working in the upper lift of the Baltime [sic - Baltimore] vein. This vein was not disturbed. When the crash came, the men no doubt, made an attempt to get out of the main gangway, only to find the passage blocked. They then retraced their steps for the purpose of taking the manway. This too was cut off. They had nothing to do then but to sit down and await a rescuing party. It is believed that there is sufficient air to keep the men alive, and if they get a hold of a mule they can exist for a week or more. Fifteen years ago a similar accident happened in the Sugar Notch mine and six men lived on mule meat for ten days.

The Trenton Times, Trenton, NJ 16 May 1890

Transcribed by Trish.  Thank you, Trish!


The official list of those imprisoned is as follows:
ELLIS D. WILLIAMS, aged sixty, married, six children: resides at Hanover
HARRY P. ARRY, aged fifty, married, five children, resides at Newport township.
OWEN PARRY, his son, aged seventeen
MICHAEL HENRY, aged forty-two, two sons; residence, Ashley.
THOMAS C. DAVIS, aged sixty, married, eight children; residence, Ashley.
JOHN SCALLY, aged twenty, the support of a widowed mother; residence Ashley.
MICHAEL SCALLY, brother of JOHN, age twenty-seven, residence, Ashley.
DANIEL SULLIVAN, aged forty-five, married, seven children, one an invalid:
resides in Wilkes-Barre.
JOHN HANSON, aged twenty-five, single; residence, Moffets Patch.
JOHN ALLEN, assistant mine boss, aged thirty-five, married, three children, residence Ashley; taken out seriously burned.
ROBERT W. ROBERTS, aged thirty-seven, married, no children; resides in Ashley,
brought to the surface at 9 P.M. fatally burned.
HARRY JONES, laborer of former, aged thirty-five, married, three children; residence at Newton.
ROBERT PRICHARD, aged thirty, married, one child; residence at Hanover.
ANTHONY FROYNE, married, one child; residence at Ashley Plane (rescued at
seven o’clock badly burned.
JOHN JAMES, aged thirty-two, married, two children; family in Wales, resides in
JOHN WILLIAMS, aged thirty-five, married, six children; resides in Newton.
JONATHAN WILLIAMS, aged thirty, married, two children; resides in Newton.
RICHARD JONES, aged thirty, married, two children; resides in Newton.
W. EDWARDS, aged twenty-eight, married, two children; resides in Wilkes-Barre
THOMAS J. WILLIAMS, aged thirty, married, one child; resides in Ashley.
THOMAS CLAUSS, aged thirty-five, married, no children; resides in Newton.
OWEN WILLIAMS, aged forty-nine, married, one adopted child; residence in
JOHN HEMPSEY, aged forty-two, single; resides at Moffett’s Patch.
FRANK GALLAGHER, aged twenty-nine, single.
Two Hungarians named BUTS.

Decatur Daily Republican, Decatur, IL 16 May 1890

Transcribed by Trish.  Thank you, Trish!

continued >> Go to page 2


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