Mather Colliers Company Mine Explosion
NEARLY 200 MEN BELIEVED DEAD IN MINE BLAST
MATHER MINE GIVES UP 63 BODIES WITH KNOWN DEATH
LIST NOW STANDING AT 50
Rescue Teams Encounter Much Gas as They Fight
Way Into Deep Recesses; Little Hope Held Out for
Life Among Others Still in Pit; One Man Dies in
By United Press.
MATHER, PA., May 21. -- With the faint
hope that some life might still exist within the
debris of the Mather mine of the Mather Colliers
Company, hundreds of rescue workers sought today
to learn the fate of at least 150 victims in one
of the most disastrous explosions in the history
of Pennsylvania soft coal mining.
Early today 63 of the more than 200 miners
trapped in the pit when the explosion occurred
Saturday were accounted for.
Fourteen men have been rescued alive and 49
disfigured bodies have been brought to the
surface and placed in temporary morgues.
WALTER H. GLASGOW, state secretary of mines,
who arrived Saturday night has settled on a
total of 210 as the number of men originally
GLASGOW held to the hope that some of the
main group of miners in butt 4, where it was
thought the gas exploded, might yet be found
alive in their working places, more than 300
feet underground and thousands of feet from the
“If the men have air they are still alive,”
JOHN IRA THOMAS, deputy mine secretary in charge
of the bituminous section said.
But rescue workers were more dubious about
the chances of life withing the subterranean
chambers than were the state mine officials.
Rescuers noting the manner in which the
recovered bodies have been disfigured, saw
little possibility that life should have
survived in the pit nearer the explosion.
Officials of the mine refused to give up hope
of finding any of those entombed alive, but the
grime covered rescue workers have just one word
for inquirers -- “gas.”
One theory of the explosion was that a pocket of
gas had been struck by one of the working faces
in the mine. Veterans of the pit, including ___
O'HARA, who has worked in the Mather mine four
years as a ______ agreed with this theory and
gave the opinion that is was a coal dust
explosion. They believed a wreck had piled up a
motor and a string of mine cars stiffing up a
lot of coal dust, which had been ignited by a
trolley wire. They cling to this theory even
though the Mather mine, which was considered a
model in modern methods of engineering
efficiency, had been completely rock dusted,
which is a method used in mines to avert
explosions of coal dust.
UNIONTOWN, May, 21. -- Twelve more bodies
were brought to the surface this morning, making
the number of dead recovered 49. FIELD WHITNEY,
one of the rescued men, died during the night at
the Brownsville General Hospital, making the
known death list 50, and reducing the list of
survivors to 13.
It was said at noon today that the total of
dead might reach 198 as little hope is now
entertained for the missing men.
On the person of one of the victims brought
from the mine this morning was a watch which had
stopped at 4:05 o'clock. It is believed that is
the exact time at which the blast occurred.
Nine of the ten bodies removed this morning
were identified. The names are given as JOHN
FLOWERS, GEORGE ERWIN, JOSEPH STILES, ALFRED
REYNOLDS, WILLIAM SMITISH, ROMAN STYEHEZYN,
WALTER SCHOENBERGER, ALBERT SILLES, and ALBERT
NEWLEN. There is a total of seven bodies still
FRANK ROBY, one of the dead, is a son of the
late ISAAC G. ROBY, formerly the dean of soft
coal inspectors for the State.
JOSEPH EASTON, formerly of Vanderbilt and
recently residing in Uniontown, is survived by a
wife and a week-old baby. MRS. EASTON was
formerly MISS NELLIE STRICKLER of Vanderbilt.
ALBERT COBB, a former catcher on the
Uniontown Elks baseball team and a workman at
Mather, has made 4 trips into the mine as a
rescue worker. In each instance he has brought
out a body, three of the men being alive.
Mather Death List
The list of known dead, as announced is:
PETE FIDL. (Unsure of last name – Transcriber)
G. G. PIERSON.
Severed Electric Wire Advanced as Cause of
By United Press.
MATHER, Pa., May 21. -- The first
coherent theory for the cause of the Mather mine
explosion which killed scores of miners was told
today by two survivors of the disaster.
Their names have not been diverged by mine
officials but their story appeared to mine
experts as the most logical yet advanced.
These miners told mine officials they had
witnessed the beginning of a series of
explosions when a cutting machine severed the
insulation of an electric cable, causing a flash
of sparks. The sparks ignited a pocket of gas
and coal dust, which wrecked the mine.
Fire in Mather Workings Choked Off by
By United Press
MATHER, Pa., May 21. -- Fire broke out in
the workings of the Mather mine this afternoon
temporarily halting rescue workers in their
efforts to locate nearly 150 entombed miners.
The fire started about a half mile from the
foot of the shaft 300 feet below the surface of
The flames were believed to have been
smothered in a section of the pit since the
explosion Saturday and they were revived when
the air was pumped through the compartment by
The relief crews were forced to flee from
their positions to the surface. With the use of
fire extinguishers, the flames were brought
under control without injuries reported.
Trapped Miners Phone For Help; Call Is In
WAYNESBURG, Pa., May 21. -- “Hurry, hurry! We
have erected brattice. There are 14 of us! We
are alive and waiting! Hurry, we've only a
For five hours after the fatal blast had
rocked the Mather mine near here, THOMAS
CALLAHAN, assistant mine foreman, continued to
telephone this message and urge the rescue
workers on in their fight against the deadly
Two hours later a team of rescue workers
broke through the brattice work.
CALLAHAN and his companions were dead,
victims of the gas which had seeped through the
hurriedly erected barricade.
CALLAHAN had gone down into the mine with the
night shift before the blast and was about a
mile and three quarters from the shaft at the
time of the explosion.
During the work CALLAHAN telephoned at short
intervals to the men on the surface advising
them of the work they were doing and their
location in the mine. Hour after hour he
repeated the message always urging the rescuers
to hurry. The rescue teams did hurry. But the
gas beat them to their goal.
The Daily Courier Connellsville,
ALL HOPE FOR LIFE AMONG ENTOMBED AT MATHER
Glimmer of Hope Aroused by Finding One Survivor
Quickly Subsides; Large Body of Men Believed to
Be Together in One Section; Still 127 In
Workings Is Report.
ELEVEN BODIES ARE REMOVED DURING MORNING.
MATHER, Pa., May 22. -- Known dead
totalled [sic] 87 and 27 recovered today. The
last six victims were brought out of the mine at
1:30 P. M.
UNIONTOWN, May 22. -- It was learned this
morning that hope of any further life in the
underground compartments of the Mather mine at
Mather, Pa. Shattered by a terrific explosion
late Saturday afternoon, had been abandoned.
Despite the fact that one man was found alive
early this morning, it is believed that only a
freak of the air and gas currents kept the
deadly fumes from his position and permitted him
According to figures on which officials are
working it is believed there are still 127 men
entombed. The majority of these are together in
one section of the workings not yet reached by
rescuers, it is believed, but the hope that they
have successfully blocked off the fatal gases
which followed the blast, is slowly fading. In
fact, it was understood that some, familiar with
such disasters, had abandoned all belief that
life still existed beneath the surface.
Eleven bodies were brought to the surface
this morning three of which had not been
identified at noon.
Gloom of Death Settles on Mining Village;
Shrieks of Stricken Woman Pierce Air.
By United Press
MATHER, Pa., May 22. -- The gloom of
death had settled closer today about the little
The townsfolk mostly women and children, had
come to feel the extreme seriousness of the
explosion. At these dwellings hopes were renewed
by the rescue of FRANK KRUBICK, that others may
be taken out alive. The tension of sorrow, which
has held the village for two days, broke in
nerve racking outbursts of emotion.
Throughout the day shrieks and the mourning
of women could be heard for blocks. Now and then
a woman collapsed and high pitched screams wore
on the nerves of bystanders.
The situations around the mine of the Mathers
Colliery Company had settled into a dreary
routine. Then the rescue of KRUBICK lent
excitement to the scene and urged rescue workers
on to a swifter pace. Hearses and ambulances
rolled swiftly back and forth from one morgue to
another. Hammers drummed in a hollow chorus upon
the boards of rough boxes.
The cage in the tall tipple rose and fell,
bringing dead bodies to the surface.
The scenes of grief settled around the two
morgues, one in the recreation hall and the
other in the little schoolhouse. The first
stopping place on the death road was in the
machine shop of the mine where the bodies were
identified and prepared for burial.
Bodies were placed in caskets in the
recreation hall and later removed to the
schoolhouse to await the claims of relatives.
Individual funeral arrangements were going
forward rapidly today for that will be a task of
its own. Many of the caskets were removed
yesterday to the homes and others were shipped
out of town.
The first funeral services were held today,
taking on the character of both joint and
individual services. The service for Roman
Catholics was held during the morning and
Protestants held their service in the afternoon
at a central point in the town. After joint
service clergymen visited the homes and
conducted private services. More than a dozen
clergymen from Waynesburg, Mather and nearby
towns were enlisted.
MISS HELEN CALDWELL Red Cross base supervision
came here today from Washington D. C. to take
charge of medical aid and assistance to stricken
relatives of the dead miners.
Scores of Boy Scouts carried messages and
aided in distribution of supplies to families.
THE KNOWN DEAD
By United Press
MATHER, Pa., May 22. -- Following is the
list of dead taken from the mine:
G. F. PEARSON.
JOHN R. FISCHER.
Eleven bodies were brought out this morning.
The Daily Courier Connellsville
ONE MAN, RESCUED ALIVE AFTER 55 HOURS,
REVIVES HOPE THAT OTHERS HAVE SURVIVED BLAST.
Frank Krubick Found Perched On Steel Rail by
GAS HAD NOT REACHED HIM
By United Press
MATHER, Pa., May 22. -- Life was found
today among the men trapped in the underground
workings of the Mather coal mine.
FRANK KRUBICK, one of the 210 miners entombed
when an explosion wrecked the workings Saturday
was rescued alive after 55 hours of
The news of KRUBICK'S rescue spread rapidly
throughout the little mining village and new
hope was born that more of the 130 miners still
missing will be found alive.
The death toll stood at 72 and the survivors
at 14 when KRUBICK was rescued by BRUCE BEAL.
Perched upon a rail awaiting for death or
rescue KRUBICK was found by BEAL one and one
half miles from the shaft entrance to the mine
and more than 300 feet underground. He was in
“BRUCE where you been?” KRUBICK inquired as
BEAL entered the compartment. “I been here three
days now. You not come soon something choke me.”
With the aid of other rescuers KRUBICK was
carried to the mine shaft and lifted to the
surface. He was able to step from the stretcher
to the cot and seemed free with his strength.
The discovery of KRUBICK was described in a
dramatic manner by BEAL who wanted to return to
the underground workings immediately for he was
sure more men are alive in the mine.
KRUBICK was in a small dark hole between two
trap doors. His contentment to remain in one
position had saved his life.
“I heard the explosion and started to turn
when some one pushed me back,” KRUBICK said. “I
could detect gas coming upon me and I rapidly
retreated to the little hole where I had been
working. There ______ for gas had failed to
enter and I knew I was safe if rescuers could
reach me in time.”
KRUBICK said another whose name he did not
know stayed a long time with him in the little
dark pit but became restless and started to
grope his way out. The rescuers said they passed
the body of KRUBICK'S friend only a short
distance from Butt 22 as they were carrying the
alive man to the surface. He evidently had
fallen victim of the deadly gas that followed
Three or four other bodies were seen by the
JOE BLANKET was another member of BEAL'S
“I had a rescue team of six men,” BEAL said.
“I was not using a gas mask but I had sent the
other men on ahead with the canary bird to test
“There was fresh air where we found KRUBICK
in a low spot in the mine. Although he had not
barricaded himself the gas had not reached him
by some freak maneuver of the gas and air
“KRUBICK was sitting in the dark on a steel
rail. He was hunched up like a bird when we came
upon him. I don't believe he had anything to eat
or drink during the 55 hours he was in the mine”
“KRUBICK had lost his mine lamp and was in
total darkness. He recognized me as an old buddy
in the glare of our lamps and spoke to me
accordingly. We started to carry him out of the
Butt and he began to tell us of his long vigil.”
“I heard the explosion,” he said in broken
English, “I started out and something pushed me
back. Another man came and we waited together
hours and hours. We didn't talk much. After two
days he started out alone. That's all.”
“We carried KRUBICK back to the shaft. Part
of the time his mind was clear and he spoke
rationally. At other times his mind wandered and
he talked of things that had occurred in his
loading house some time before. He had been
under a hard strain for 55 hours.”
“But when we got to the pit mouth he got up
off the stretcher and was able to walk to the
cot in the emergency room. He said he wanted
coffee and it was given to him. This seemed to
“On the way out we passed three or four
bodies of men. One of them was that of the buddy
KRUBICK spoke of, who started to make his escape
from the pit after two long days and nights of
waiting. It took us an hour to carry KRUBICK to
the shaft. We may find more life within those
blast torn chambers soon. I'm going back in as
soon as I can get my team together.”
Special calls were sent to Waynesburg, Pa.,
and other nearby towns for more doctors and
nurses to be on hand when rescuers reach the
main group of entombed men. It is thought that
somewhere within these depths a group of 100 men
or bodies will be found together. It is known
that 109 men, members of the night crew who had
just taken their positions a few minutes before
the blast came, were together. They may have
been able to barricade themselves against the
Some dispute arose over the name of the
rescued man. One report gave his name as KRUBICK
and another as FRANK BACSHA. Company records
gave it as the latter, it was said.
The Daily Courier Connellsville,
All Life in Mather Mine Extinct, Rescuers
Think; 41 Yet to Be Brought Out
Many Bodies Burned Beyond Recognition; Brass
Checks in Pockets Only Means of Identifying
Victims; Mine Rock-Dusted to Prevent Another
INVESTIGATIONS TO BE CONDUCTED.
By United Press.
MATHER, Pa., May 23. -- Forty-one
bodies remained to be removed today from the
debris of the Mather Collieries Company mine
where an explosion occurred Saturday, trapping
During the night the bodies of 63 victims
were located and lifted to the surface, bringing
the number of recovered bodies to 155.
Fourteen survivors, some in Waynesburg
hospitals, were still living today.
Rescue workers reported they saw most of the
bodies still in the mine about mile and a half
from the entrance.
The bodies, burned beyond recognition were
grouped in a small compartment believed to have
been near the center of the explosion.
Because of the condition of these bodies the
only means of identification will be through
brass check numbers which each man was supposed
to have carried in his pocket.
Some of the bodies recovered early today were
still warm and limp when rescue workers came on
them, it was said, indicating they had lived for
hours after the blast and had died for lack of
air and food.
Rescuers had no hope today that any of the 41
miners still missing will be found alive, which
indicated that the final death list will be 196.
Fearing another blast within the workings as
the atmosphere became heavier during the night,
rescue squads paused in their digging to
rock-dust the interior as a safety measure. Then
the rescue work was resumed.
The preparation of bodies for burial became a
serious task. Volunteers came to the assistance
of undertakers and two tents were put up as
emergency rooms near the mouth of the mine.
Forty men and women students of Waynesburg
College have been excused from their classes for
as indefinite period to help in the work or
preparing the dead for burial.
After surveying the mine GEORGE W. GROVES, in
charge of the United States Bureau of Mine
rescue squad from Pittsburg said he found no
evidence on which to place the blame for the
disaster. Preparations were made to begin
several investigations as soon as all miners
have been accounted for.
The county coroner, the state department of
mines and the company officials will conduct a
thorough investigation to determine the cause of
the blast which proved to be one of the worst
explosions in the history of soft coal mining in
MATHER, Pa., May 23, -- Recovery of
bodies in the wrecked Mather mine was halted
temporarily today by state rescue crews in order
to afford officials of the Mather Collieries
Company an opportunity to send repair crews into
Satisfied that all miners remaining in the
pit are dead, JOHN IRA THOMAS deputy secretary
of mines in Pennsylvania, ordered all rescue
workers from the diggings today and turned the
property back to the Mather Company.
On the basis that there were 210 men in the
mine at the time of the explosion 41 miners were
When the repair work and ventilating of the
mine has been completed the rescue crews again
will enter the pit and removed the remaining
As soon as the bodies are removed the
investigation will start.
Miner Rescued Alive Wants Back Pay With Which
To Throw Party
By United Press.
MATHER, May 23. -- FRANK KRUBOCCA, the last man
rescued alive from the Mather mine 60 hours
after an explosion wrecked the workings and
killed 196 men, is anxious to know if he will
receive overtime for the extra hours he spent by
himself in the dark pit 350 feet below the
surface of the earth.
He wants to know because it will amount to a
nice sum on his next pay check.
“I gonna hold a bigga party if I get overtime,”
he said. Mine officials probably will pay the
overtime to the big Pole and he is bound to
stage the party.
In a little first aid shack on the mine
property where KRUBECCA is kept, he told the
first coherent story of his experience as an
He paced about the room with a white peaked
hat on his head. He has written his name on the
cap so those who talk with him will make no
mistake. His name has caused much worry
especially for newspaper men. He first was known
as BUSCHA, later as KRUBIC and KRUBICK but in
his own hand writing he is KRUBECCA.
Was No Telephone Appeal From Entombed Miners
Some of the newspaper correspondents, who have
been reporting the Mather explosion, who are
without very accurate knowledge of coal mining,
have given currency to some information that is
lacking in accuracy.
For instance, a “story” was sent to the
Pittsburg papers, relating with considerable
detail that a group of mine workers erected a
barricade of brattice cloth to shield themselves
from the deadly gas which filled the mine after
the explosion. Having done this one of the men
was alleged to have called the mine office
outside over the mine telephone, describing the
perilous situation of the group, due to gas
filtering through the barricade, and making
appeals for haste on part of the rescue crews.
Just how this story originated is not know,
but was probably due to a misinterpretation or
misunderstanding of something a member of a
rescue crew said to a newspaper reporter after
the return of the former from a trip into the
gas-filled mine. At any rate the story had no
real foundation in fact, as there were no
telephone calls from the mine and could not have
been sent because of the destruction of the
The Daily Courier Connellsville,
Submitted & transcribed by
Stu Beitler Thank you, Stu!
(Transcriber's note: Portions of the above
articles of the Mather Mine disaster were very
hard to read. As all transcribers do, I tried to
present the correct spellings and wording. My
apologies, especially, to the misspelling of
names of the lost miners. Thank you)
Mine Memorial Photograph from the
Greene County, PA Website
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