Plymouth, PA Avondale Mine Disaster, Sept 1869 - Avondale Disaster

Avondale Disaster. - Monday morning, September 6, 1869, the civilized world was startled by the news of the disaster at the Avondale mine, situated one mile below Plymouth in this county, where 108 people perished. Fire broke out in the shaft at 10 a.m. and soon passed up to the headhouse, and this and the coal breaker and all the other buildings near the shaft were quickly wrapped in flames, that first seemed to come up the shaft roaring, like a storm. This explosion was the first notice the engineer, Alexander Weir, had of the fire, and so rapidly did it spread in the buildings, that he barely had time to arrange the machinery to prevent explosion of the boilers and escape without his hat. The buildings extended 300 feet to the track of the Bloomsburg railroad. At one time the rows of miners' houses were threatened, but the wind fortunately carried the flames toward the mountain. The families of the men down in the mine instantly realized the horror that came so suddenly, and the people for miles of the surrounding country hurried to the spot. The telegraph called the fire companies from every surrounding town to Scranton and these, too, hurried by special trains to stay, if possible, the holocaust.

By the middle of the afternoon the combined fire companies had control of the fire and a stream of water was poured into the shaft through a tunnel and the mouth of the shaft cleared and soon preparations made to descend. A small dog and a lighted lamp were first sent down at 6 o'clock and both came up all right.

Loud calls were made down in the hopes of a response from the men, and many in that throng of thousands, excited and strung to utmost tension, imagined they heard a feeble response and the heart-broken wails turned momentarily to expressions of joy and hope. A volunteer to descend was now called for, and Charles Vartue stepped forth, took his place in the bucket, and no man probably ever was followed with more prayers and hopes than was this brave follow as he descended. He had only gone half way down when he met obstructions in the shaft.