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Courtney, Pennsylvania

Cincinnati Mine Explosion

April 24, 1913


Disaster Occurs in Cincinnati Mine at Courtney at One O'clock Today – Six Reported to Have Gotten Out Alive – One Dead Body Found.


At 1 o'clock today a terrific mine explosion occurred at the Cincinnati mine of the Monongahela River Coal company at Courtney. Details are exceedingly meagre, as the mine is not connected by telephone. It is known that 250 men were in the mine at the time and the latest reports are that six have gotten out alive and that one dead body has been found by rescuers.

The explosion occurred in the entry between the pit mouth at Courtney and the Mingo shaft. It is stated that the six men who came out alive made their escape from the Mingo entry.

As soon as possible rescue parties entered the mine from both entries at Courtney and at Mingo. The one dead body found, it is stated, was taken from the entry near the parting, where the trips are collected.

Appeals for aid are being sent to all the other mines in the section and rescue and first aid parties are rushing to the scene of the disaster. The explosion, so far as known, is believed to be confined to only one section of the mine. It is not learned what caused the explosion.

The Cincinnati mine is an old colliery and has not been worked for many years. The Courtney entry is on the river and the Mingo entry is at Mingo church on the line of the Pittsburg and Charleroi trolley line.

At the hour of going to press further details could not be learned.

The Charleroi Mail Pennsylvania 1913-04-23




First Lot is Brought to Surface Early This Morning to be Removed to Improvised Morgue at Monongahela – Member of Rescue Party Meets Death – Evidence Shows Victims to Have Perished From Afterdamp – Many Stories Told.


By Floyd Chalfant.
The dark, damp, deadly interior of the ill-fated, historic Cincinnati mine of the Pittsburg Coal company at Courtney, where Wednesday afternoon occurred one of the worst mining disasters in history, this morning gave up the first of its dead. Nineteen bodies were brought out in the first consignment at 4 o'clock.

While these were removed in a box car to an improvised morgue at Monongahela, rescuers who had spent the night in the mines continued with limbs awearied [sic] and minds benumbed from lack of sleep their work of getting more of the dead in shape to bring to the surface. Women made windows by the awful horror and mothers who had lost their only sons spent the night watching the yawning cavity awaiting news of their loved ones.

Rescue Man Dies.
GEORGE W. SCHLUEDELBERG, general manager of the Pittsburg Coal company and other officials of the company were early on the scene after the explosion and they directed generally the work of rescue. The first rescue party to enter the mine from the Courtney end was a Marianna crew in charge of W. J. HOLSING, which went in at 6 o'clock. One of the crew, a man named McCOLLIGAN never came out alive. He and his two companions KELLY and FERGUSON were overcome by the afterdamp while at their work. When found they were dragged to open air and KELLY and FERGUSON were resuscitated after a long struggle by the physicians.

Mine In Bad Condition.
Rescue parties report the mine to be in very bad condition. In many places near where the explosion occurred the roof has fallen in and in spots the main entry is almost entirely blocked by the heaped up debris. This gives to the work of rescue added difficulty.

Gas Possible Cause of Explosion.
Today the mystery surrounding the cause of the explosion is as unsolved as it was late last night. Mine officials refused to give out any opinion, but some of the miners who had narrow escapes did give opinions. It seems that there was an old abandoned mine known as the “Garfield workings” adjoining the Cincinnati. Concrete walls had been built it is understood between the two mines to keep the gas of the unused workings from permeating into the Cincinnati mine. By some it is believed that there was a leak of gas and the gas was ignited by an open lamp. Both open lamps and safety lights were used in the mine.

Another miner who seemed to be familiar with conditions said new entries had recently been cut about two miles from the Cincinnati opening. These new entrys[sic] opened up gas pockets he believes and he stated that danger boards had been put up. “It was carelessness, that was all,” he affirmed. “Somebody went beyond the line and the explosion occurred.”

Checkweighman Tabs Missing.
AUGUST BELGIE was the checkweighman. He told his story to a group of newspaper men and women. “There were about 215 in the mine,” he said. He accounted for 168 as follows:

Leaders 119; miners 27; motormen 3; snappers 2; day men or track layers, 18. However word came from Monongahela this morning that there were 179 men actually in the mine at the time of the explosion. This statement tallies well with that of A. B. BROWN the assistant mine foreman. Fifty-seven were accounted for at the Mingo entrance of the mine and 30 at the other side making a total of 87 that are said to have come out. Much is rumor so that until every man is checked up it will be impossible to determine the mortality list.

Men Victims of Afterdamp.
Evidence found by the rescuers indicates that nearly all of the dead were victims of afterdamp. Those who escaped were far away so that they could reach safety before being overcome. At 4:30 JOE BILNES a Lithuanian groped gasping from the Mingo entrance and dropped prostrate. After being revived he told that he was at the 16th entry when the explosion occurred. He detected the afterdamp and was hardly able to reach the pit mouth. At Mingo there is a very steep slope to the main entry. The Mingo entry is used for convenience by men going to work and for taking in mules. No bodies were brought out there owing to the grade of the slope.

Coroner Heffran went to the Scene.
Sorner [sic] HEFFRAN went to the scene of the disaster with Mail representatives in the afternoon. He stopped at Mingo long enough to learn a little of the explosion and then hurried by automobile to the mine mouth below Courtney where he took a hand in rescue work. A rescue car from Pittsburg was brought out late in the evening from the United States Bureau of Mines in charge of T. S. RICE, chief engineer and J. W. PAUL, in charge of the rescue work. This crew which included “JOE” MASON, formerly of Charleroi, virtually assumed charge of the rescue work during the night.

Mine Inspectors Hard at Work.
Mine Inspector ALEXANDER McCANCH of the first district arrived with a company of experienced mining men at about 6 o'clock. Mine foremen from numerous mines along the river were early on the scene and were the first ones to enter after the explosion. Mine Inspector F. W. CUNNINGHAM of Charleroi was at the mine all night.

The Monessen detachment of State troopers, Sergeant STOUT, and Privates AMES and DENT were summoned. STOUT remained at the Mingo opening and AMES and DENT went to the Courtney opening where they were assisted by railroad detectives and by Pittsburg Coal company policemen in keeping people from crowding dangerously near the opening.

Dilly Rider Has Important Story.
Vague rumors flew last night that the reports of the fire boss had been locked up in the safe by the company officials as soon as they could be gotten hold of. An effort was made to keep the miners from talking of the explosion late in the evening. One man that will have an important story to tell to the coroner's jury is GORY STOKES, the dilly rider. STOKES had just entered the pit mouth when the force of the explosion hurled him and the cars back. His cap was knocked into the car back of where he stood. He judged it but a small explosion and continued in. At a point of 8,000 feet his nostrils began to sting. Glancing down he saw a man lying face downward, his clothes burning. He hurried out. On the way he saw the body of his companion, EMILE LEROY. STOKES assisted later in the first rescue work.

One man took sick in the mine at about 11 o'clock in the morning and started home. He was well on his way out when the explosion occurred but became confused and it was 5 o'clock before he staggered out the Mingo opening.

Cincinnati a Large Mine.
The Cincinnati mine is about four miles in length. Its main entrance is at Courtney, on the Pittsburg, Virginia and Charleston Railroad, a short distance from Houston Run and there is another entrance at Mingo Junction. The mine is on of the largest along the river. Ordinarily it employs about 300 men. Yesterday a little more than half the full force were at work. The explosion occurred deep in the mine. Its force was but slightly felt in Courtney.

Charleroi Man Reported Missing.
This morning it was rumored here that a Charleroi young man, THOMAS DONNELLY was caught in the mine. His name is given as among the missing and his home as Finleyville. LAWRENCE DONNELLY his brother worked at the mine, but had an outside position so that it is not believed that he was caught.


Cincinnati Miner Tells Story of His Escape From Dark Depths.


By E. C. Niver.

One of the men warned by Assistant Mine Foreman BROWN in the Cincinnati Mine explosion yesterday, and who with 25 other men made a most thrilling escape, was ROBERT CARTEN a track layer. To a Mail representative he detailed the particulars of his escape, through an abandoned heading, which had caved in and almost blocked the passage at times.

“I had eaten my lunch, starting at 12 o'clock,” said CARTEN, “which took me, I suppose 20 minutes. I started back to work and had driven but two spikes, when I heard the explosion. The sound was not so loud, but the concussion fairly stunned me, and it was a few minutes before I could hear anything. Then I asked one of the men near me what was the matter, and while we were talking Assistant Foreman BROWN, who had come forward, called out: “Is that you Bob?” I replied yes, and he said, “Get out of here as quick as you can.”

“I had a safety lamp, and by that time about 25 other men flocked around. I had worked in the mine for nine years, and was thoroughly familiar with the workings. As I knew the mine and had the safety, the other open lamps having been blown out by the explosion, I took the lead and the men followed me. I found out that we could not get through on the direct motor roads on account of the fumes and I knew of an abandoned entry – No. 15, which would let us out of [sic] we could get through. I found this entry blocked all but an opening not more than 18 inches high. I called to the others to follow, and crawled in the opening on my stomach, telling the others to follow as long as I proceeded and holding my lamp, as much as possible for the others to see.”

“At times the opening narrowed down so that I could just hold my safety lamp perpendicular. I kept on, as I could feel all coming in. As long as that condition existed, I knew it was safe to proceed. When I finally emerged to No. 4 motor road I knew we were all right and could get out. A colored man was the only one who had kept close to me, and the others were not in sight. I called to them and waited for about 15 minutes, but not hearing of them, or knowing whether or not they might have become panic stricken and turned back, the coolred [sic] man – JAMES LANRUN – and I made our way out of the Mingo entrance.”

“After awhile the others of our party came straggling out, all of them having gotten through in safety.”

Second Trip Carrying Bodies From Cincinnati Mine Mouth to Monongahela to be Made This Afternoon Some Time – Coroner Heffran Empanels Jury From Monongahela Men to Hold Inquest.


By Floyd Chalfant.
Some victims of the Cincinnati mine horror were identified at the BEBOUT and YOHE morgue at Monongahela shortly afternoon today. Thirteen bodies were removed to the mouth of the mine at Courtney this morning and will be brought to Monongahela some time this afternoon to be prepared by undertakers for identification.

ROBERT ANDERSON, aged 38 of Courtney, fire boss, leaves widow and four children.
WILLIAM R. McCOLLIGAN, aged 33 of Jacobs Creek, member of rescue corps, leaves widow and two children.
STEPHEN LONG, aged 31, of Courtney, cutter, single.
HENRY WOOD, aged 19, of Bentleyville, nephew of BURGESS JOHNSON, single.
WALTER CONNELLY, aged 24, of Findleyville, leaves widow.
EMILE LEROY, aged 24 of Courtney, leaves widow and four children.
CHARLES BOWEN, aged 36, of East Millsboro, leavs widow.
WILLIAM WARNER, aged 45 of Courtney.
WALKER WILKINS, of Gastonville, colored.
LEWIS CLATER, of Courtney, colored.

Charleroi Man Missing.
Among those reported missing is LEMUEL BRIGGS, formerly of Charleroi, the son-in-law of MR. And MRS. HARVEY OSBORNE, of Fifth street. BRIGGS, who is 32 years old was employed as a track-man in the mine. Little is to be learned of him, but it is not expected that he can be alive. MR. OSBORNE went to the mine opening this morning. BRIGGS leaves a widow and two children. The family moved to Venetia about a year ago and intended to move back to Charleroi after the mine here was started. BRIGGS was formerly employed at the Charleroi mine.

Another Charleroi man that was lost is THOMAS DONNELLY, it was learned this afternoon. His body has not been found unless it is in the latest number brought to the surface. DONNELLY, according to certain of those who escaped was on his way out with about 18 others, when he fell. The men had to crawl and could not have nay lights burning, so they did not know until they reached the opening of the mine that CONNELLY was missing.

McCOLLIGAN'S Body Claimed.
The body of WILLIAM R. McCOLLIGAN was claimed at about noon by his brother from Jacobs Creek. McCOLLIGAN was killed while working with a rescue crew.

It was reported about the mouth of the mine today that 85 or 90 more were thought to be inside the mine yet to be recovered. It is not thought that they can be reached until 3 o'clock tomorrow morning.

Coroner Empanels Jury.
Coroner JAMES T. HEFFRAN was interviewed at the Bebout morgue at Monongahela this afternoon. He said that a jury had been empanelled but he could give no definite idea of the probably time of the inquest that will follow. The jury which consists of well known Monongahela men has been engaged this morning in viewing the bodies of the dead and watching the process of identification. It has not made a visit to the mine.

Coroner HEFFRAN'S jury drawn consists of C. H. LANDEFELD, ISSAC YOHE, B. F. ALLEN, W. F. ALTEN, T. J. ECKBRETH and J. D. HOON.

Mine Roof Falling.
Word from J. B. LAIDLEY of the saw and planing mill of the Pittsburg Coal company at Monongahela this morning and gave out the information that the work of rescue was being seriously interferred with by falling roof. This added difficulty also presents considerable danger to the rescue crews. There is a possibility that some of the bodies may never be found.

Watch Dog Waits For Master To Come From Mine
A story as told of the faithfulness of a dog of EMILE LEROY, one killed at the Cincinnati mine. He was the first man reported dead. LEROY had a little dog that was accustomed to come to the mine every night to meet his master. Late in the afternoon the dog trotted, wagging his tail, to meet his master at the Courtney entrance. Through the late afternoon and into the night he sat and waited. From time to time he arose, whining and ventured as far into the mouth of the mine as he dared. Late at night the dog was seen sitting dolefully on the railroad track, still waiting.

Cincinnati Mine One Of The Oldest
The Cincinnati mine where the horrible disaster occurred Wednesday was the oldest mine on the Monongahela river. It has been in operation for 80 years.

The mine has been known as a gaseous mine. This is not its first explosion. Thirty-one years ago a terrific explosion occurred and the story is related that mine cars were blown half way across the river. There are three recognized openings to the mine at Courtney, Mingo and at Finleyville. The mine is known to all miners of the section and is famous for the many twists and turns in its workings.

JOHN N. JENKINS of Charleroi knows the mine thoroughly. He was employed there as a miner 50 years ago.

The Charleroi Mail Pennsylvania 1913-04-24



Second Box Car Load Taken From Courtney to Monongahela This Morning Shortly After 7 O'clock – Many in Bad Shape From Bruises – WILLIAM McNEIL, Assistant Mine Superintendent Among Those Identified.


By Floyd Chalfant.
Forty-eight victims by actual count of the coroner's jury have been taken out of the ill-fated Cincinnati mine of the Pittsburg Coal company at Courtney, and according to the latest estimate made at noon today there are still inside 77 men. This brings the estimated total dead up to 125. Thirty of those who died in the explosion of Wednesday were taken to the Bebout and Yohe morgue at Monongahela this morning shortly after 7 o'clock.

Coroner JAMES T. HEFFRAN accompanied by District Attorney RICHARD G. MILLER and Assistant District Attorney T. H. W. FERGUS left Monongahela this morning at 10:30 o'clock in an automobile for the mine. The Washington county officials state they are going to inquire carefully into the disaster. Coroner HEFFRAN said at 2:30 today the probabilities are all bodies will be taken tonight from the mine.

Seventeen Identifications
There have been 17 identifications made up until about 2 o'clock. A corps of embalmers was set to work early this morning after the arrival of the 30 bodies from the mine to get them in shape for identification. Nearly all of the latest bodies recovered bear marks of injury. Many of them had to be removed from among debris which accumulated in the main entry after the explosion.

Among the worst mutilated of the bodies removed to the Monongahela morgue this morning is WILLIAM McNEIL of Granville, who was an assistant mine superintendent. His body is in bad shape. McNEIL was warned by certain of his friends to say [sic] away from the Cincinnati mine, it is stated, when he accepted the position the first of April. He laughed at their fears. McNEIL was 35 years old and leaves a widow and two children at Granville.

Scenes at Morgue.
Scenes at the Morgue at Monongahela beggar description. There remains just one body to be identified. This is an American. Running halfway the length of the large Bebout and Yohe store of Main street there have been erected long sloping platforms. Black caskets furnished by the company containing the corps [sic] are placed thereon as they are prepared. Though identification has been made of all but the one man, there still remains three bodies to be taken away.

This afternoon at about 3 o'clock the 30 bodies over which embalmers were tirelessly working in the carriage barn of Bebout and Yohe this morning will be removed to the identification room. Then the process of identification will start. Some of the names of victims are known before hand. Thursday probably five thousand people, friends of the dead and curiosity seekers, visited the morgue. When the morgue is opened this afternoon the scene will be repeated. The arrangement is that when identification is completed bodies may be claimed at once.

In the carriage barn where the embalmers were at work stalls were arranged. There was a string of bodies the length of the barn. Decomposition had started on some of the bodies and the odor was not the sweetest. That gives some idea of the increasing difficulty of rescue work inside the mine, where it is declared the odor of decomposition is particularly noticeable.

Coroner's Jury to Visit Mine.
HARRY LANDEFELD, foreman of the coroner's jury was interviewed, “What can you say about the probabilities of an inquest soon?” he was asked.

“I can't say. It is the intention of the jury to visit the mine this afternoon. Just as soon as the rescue crews are satisfied that all bodies are taken out that it is possible to secure, then arrangements will be made for an inquest. I should imagine that next week the coroner's jury will do something. As individuals I believe about all of the members of the jury have visited the mine. We are going to inquire very carefully into the situation.” Such was the reply of MR. LANDEFELD. The members of the coroner's jury were at the morgue this morning as they had been Thursday.

The Charleroi Mail Pennsylvania 1913-04-25



Total Number Dead From Awful Disaster Stated to be 92 – Rumored That There are From Three to Five Yet to Come to Morgue – Three Companies of Experts Will Make Inspection Before Coroner's Inquest is Held.


By Floyd Chalfant.
By the removal of 44 bodies from the interior of the Cincinnati mine this morning the rescue corps practically ended their labors. All these bodies were transferred to the Bebout and Yohe morgue at about 7 o'clock and as rapidly as possible prepared for identification.

Nearly 70 identifications had been made, all told, up until about 2 o'clock this afternoon. The total number dead was authentically given at the morgue as 92. Later a report was circulated that three and then that five bodies had been found in the workings and would be brought to the morgue.

Two Men Found Alive.
CHARLES CRALL, an American of Monongahela and PHILLIP LEGLER of Elkhorn were found alive by the rescue crew of state mine inspectors at about 11 o'clock in the mine Friday night. Both were weak. CRALL however, was jovial. He remarked that he was saving a crust of bread for his Sunday dinner. LEGLER was so far gone that he hardly cared to try to talk.

CRALL, who had lost an eye in the the [sic] Marianna disaster of some years ago, insisted that he could walk to the mine opening, and to prove it did walk part way. LEGLER was taken out on a dilly. The men discovered were lying on the floor, one with a block of wood under his head and the other with a piece of cloth. CRALL told a vivid narrative about the 52 hours of waiting they had spent in the mine. They had kept together, and had tried to keep THOMAS DONNELLY formerly of Charleroi with them. DONNELLY was overcome. CRALL and LEGLER removed his clothing and tried to resusciate [sic] him, without avail. They had to leave him. CRALL said that they heard the explosion and realized what had happened, but could not escape. He says he almost went insane. Sulphur water was all they had to drink and their first question was for water. LEGLER and CRALL had divided what food they had between them.

Identification Scenes Horrible.
Some of the bodies at the morgue show badly cut features. Faces are blackened. The majority brought to the morgue today were foreigners. A constant stream of humanity passed by the caskets. Women made widows by the catastrophe, anxious to recover the bodies of their husbands, hastened down the line, viewing critically the faces of the corpses. Agonized moarns [sic] were to be heard continually as features were recognized. One woman of foreign nativity, young and beautiful, gazed for a moment at the darkened face of one of the victims, Suddenly she half swooned into the arms of an attendant, moaning. It was her husband.

Through a card index system the bodies were tabbed as they were identified. Caskets were being carried out almost continually. Those in charge of tabbing the bodies have been nearly distracted by the work for the simple reason that identification is made usually be either a widow, a sister of a brother, who, grief-stricken, is unable to tell a connected story or even answer questions.

Quiet About the Mine.
Everything is quiet about the mine, the center of interest having been transferred to Monongahela. Even the railroad officers and the State police left the mine this morning. They had been on duty continually since last Wednesday afternoon. At 9:30 o'clock this morning everybody was out of the mine. At that time a dilly was started in drawing a load of lumber. This lumber will be used in brattice work.

Experts to Inspect Mine.
Coroner JAMES T. HEFFRAN is the man generally in charge of the morgue at the present time, and will be the man who will conduct the all important investigation. Three companies of experts will enter the mine before the coroner's inquest is held. One of these will be a company of State mine inspectors, another will be Coroner HEFFRAN, District Attorney RICHARD G. MILLER and President VAN BITTNER, president of the Pittsburg District U. M. W. A. and one or two others to be selected later, and the third crew a company of experienced mining men. In addition most likely the coal company will have a crew of experts enter the mine, in order that they may be prepared for whatever appears at the coroner's jury.

Foreign Consuls Busy.
Cher. GUIDO DI VINCENZO, the Italian consul, who is located at Philadelphia and a MR. OBECK the Austrian consul, who has his office at Pittsburg were both at the morgue this morning, looking after the interests of their people. They will remain as long as they are needed.

Mules Found Alive
Five mules, including one of the famous old workers in the mine “Colonel” were brought this morning from the mine, alive. How they had lived can only be surmised. Two of them were found in a room by themselves, and towards the entry were found bodies of some men the evidence showing that the mules had kicked them out of the room. The other three mules were found together. A story is told that one of the mules was crazy.

Father Identified Donnelly
THOMAS DONNELLY, formerly of Charleroi was identified by his father, JAMES DONNELLY of Charleroi, and his body claimed. DONNELLY is a well known young man.

Monongahela Raises Fund.
A number of fraternal orders of Monongahela have made contributions to the relief fund being raised there for the benefit of the widows and orphans of the Cincinnati victims. Tomorrow it is expected that the churches will make additional contributions.

The Charleroi Mail Pennsylvania 1913-04-26

Articles submitted & transcribed by Stu Beitler  Thank you, Stu!


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