Scofield, UT Mine Disaster, May 1900 - Terrible Calamity
There had been no disturbance of any kind but Mayor Earll thought it advisable to close all the saloons fur one week, and issued a proclamation to that effect. The force of undertakers having been increased and being augmented by a large force of volunteers, the work of dressing the dead and preparing for their burial was nearly completed by Friday morning. A force of one hundred and fifty men, seventy-rive of the number being volunteers, were at work in the cemetery by sunrise, and at six o'clock Thursday evening their work was completed, each man had one grave to dig, and enough had been opened to receive all the dead recovered to date who were not to be sent elsewhere. G. W. Snow, Company Surveyor, had direct charge of the grave digging. The northwestern quarter of the cemetery was torn up, the graves being scarcely three feet apart. There are about one hundred and twenty-five graves on a tract a little over an acre in size. The remainder have been made in various parts of the cemetery, being in the midst of those of the same families who have gone before. All the coffins in Salt Lake were not enough to bury the dead and a carload was ordered from Denver, Colorado. All day Wednesday and Thursday a committee had been visiting the homes of the bereaved, arranging for the transportation of the bodies and relatives of those who wished to bury their dead elsewhere. H. G. Williams, Assistant Superintendent, had charge of the passes. and no one was refused transportation either going with the funeral train, which had been arranged for, or returning upon any of the passenger trains of the Rio Grande Western Railway.
Dr. E. B. Isgreen, the resident physician of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, and E. V. Evans, the undertaker in charge, having written out the certificates of death, and the bodies of those to be shipped having been prepared for burial, the arrangements for the funeral train were, completed and the train was ordered to he ready to leave at twelve o'clock, noon, Friday In the meantime, County Attorney I. O. Hoffman, had arrived at Scofield, and an inquest was held over the body of John Hunter. William Hirst, Justice of the Peace, acted as Coroner. The jury was composed of W. H. Potter, F. Mereweather, and Greenhalgh, who found a verdict as follows:
State of Utah. County of Carbon. Precinct of Scofield. An inquest having been held in Scofield. in Scofield Precinct. Carbon County. State of Utah, on the 3rd day of May. 1900, before William Hirst. Justice of the Peace of Scofield Precinct, in said County. upon the body of John Hunter, there lying dead. We, the jurors, whose names are hereunto subscribed, declare that the said John Hunter came to his death through an explosion in Number Four mine while in the employ of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company.
The first witness was Andrew Smith, who said he thought the explosion was caused by a heavy shot igniting the dust.
Goner Thomas, the State Mine Inspector, said: "I am State Mine Inspector, and have held that position for two years. I inspected the mines here on March 3, 1900, and found them in fair condition. The ventilation was good and the mine was free from gas. In my estimation the disaster was caused by a heavy shot of giant powder or loose powder exploding. The giant powder went off, caught the dust, and exploded it, being in the end nothing but a dust explosion. I went to a place where it was claimed they had powder stowed away, and the place showed that the explosion had started there, and showed further by the action of the explosion and by the body that was found there, that it burned more than the other bodies which we found. In March, at the time of the examinations of the mine as regards ventilation, I found the Pleasant Valley Coal Company had complied with the law."
Dr. E. B. Isgreen lives in Scofield and has practiced for two years. He knew John Hunter in his lifetime, but was not present when the body was brought out, though he examined it soon after. He saw the body when taken from the car, but could not recognize it, not being positive as to which one of the Hunters it was. He said suffocation by gas may have caused the death of those examined. He noticed in treating some of the miners, who went into the mine later as rescuers, that there was a smell of a poisonous odor. Same seemed to have struggled before death came, as the bodies showed great bodily violence.
J. H. Eccles, Jr., lives in Scofield and is a carpenter by trade. On becoming aware of the explosion he hurried to the opening of Number Four mine and assisted in rescuing the victims of the explosion. He was one of the four who carried John Hunter from the mine lie recognized Hunter and upon examination he found that life was not extinct, although he had the appearance of being dead.
J. M. Jamison resides at Scofield, and was at Winter Quarters mine at the tine of the explosion. He helped to carry Join: Hunter from the tunnel to the, barn. Found him about thirty feet back from the opening. Being alive, he was carried down to the Company's boarding house, where a few moments later he was pronounced dead by Dr. Fisher. Later the body of John Hunter was taken down to his home in Scofield.