Scofield, UT Mine Disaster, May 1900 - The Rescue

Every one of the hundred and more men who have gone into those chambers of death and horror, mines Number One and Four, has proven himself a hero. The awful calamity that has well-nigh destroyed this community has of course overshadowed everything else and deeds have been done here since the morning of May first that called for as high a degree of heroism as the world has ever seen. In ordinary times and under ordinary circumstances these acts would be blazoned around the world; now they seem natural and ordinary. When right after the explosion volunteers Were called for it meant any man who dared step into those tunnels took his life in his hands, it meant that he would certainly meet the fire-damp, to what extent no one knew, and it meant that every step would be fought with danger. And yet, no one hesitated. When the miners from Clear Creek, Castle Gate and Sunnyside arrived they were divided into parties then into shifts, and quickly reinforced the handful of home miners who are left. As to what they have done all the world knows and perhaps the world would be interested also in learning what the experiences of those rescuers were. Here is the story of it from the lips of one of the bravest of the brave, a man who was in the mine when the explosion occurred, and joined the first relief party and has taken his regular shift ever since. He was in Number One in the first raise, when the explosion occurred, but so far away from it that the sound did not reach him. He noticed a movement in the air but thought it the result of a cave and worked on a quarter of an hour when his miners' instinct told him that something was wrong and he came on down to the main entry. A door had been fitted in here to keep the current of good air from going above and to direct it into the main workings where it would meet the damp and either weaken it very much or drive it back. This door was guarded on the other side. Passing on to the mouth of the tunnel this miner, with others, joined Superinten­dent T. J. Parmley and went to Number Four, where the greatest danger existed. Those working outside of the mine had all been injured so the party was small. "Going in," said the miner, "we saw a number of dead, but of course our object was to find if any were alive first. I simply stopped to see if these men were alive and passed in. We only found three alive and one of them has since died. Number Four was so blocked that progress was slow and very dangerous and we had to carry the men out on stretch­ers, as the cars could not be used. A good many in Number Four were badly bruised and mutilated. When a man was caught by the full force of the explosion he was hurled against the wall or floor with the same effect that would follow the throwing of a piece of dough against the wall. Atter working a while in Number Four we went to Number One where nearly all the men who died from the after-damp were asphyxiated. A great many people have asked if the men who were killed from the damp suffered much. I can say that they did not, and know that to be the case, because I have gone through the experience to the stage of unconsciousness during- the past two days. Many of us in the rescue parties were overcome by the damp and were carried back into the purer air by our companions. This damp contains carbon-dioxide and is very poisonous. A whiff of it al­most paralyzes a man, and a good breath of it renders him uncon­scious. Then he falls as if in a sleep and dies unless instantly carried into the purer air. What struggles take place after that first breath are the struggles that nature puts forth automatically. I have seen our men fall and struggle but they knew nothing of it. Going along in the workings we would hear one of our party commence to cry out and waver. We knew at once he had the damp and were generally to him before he fell. So far we have not lost a man of the rescuers, but when we first commenced work before the ventilation was restored it was a desperate game. We found the dead in every conceivable attitude. One man had filled his pipe and sat down to light it. The damp struck him, and he died then and there, with the filled pipe in his outstretched hand. On a box where a dead Finlander was picked up was his watch. It had stopped when the explosion occurred and the hands marked 10:28 o'clock. We found men in groups who had evident­ly sat down to consult. Other groups had been overtaken as they rushed ahead of the damp. In these groups the men were lying mostly on their backs; but where the single men were found scattered throughout the workings they were face downward. "The men who led our parties were Superintendent T. J. Parmley; H. B. Williams, of Clear Creek; Mr. Frank Cameron of Castle Gate, Andrew Hood, Gamer Thomas, Andrew Gilbert, W. G. Sharp, and perhaps some others with whom I was not associated. The men who formed the parties aside from our own miners came from Clear Creek, Sunnyside and Castle Gate.

Continued