Bicknell, IN Coal Mine Explosion, May 1941



Bicknell, Ind., May 23. -- (AP) -- The bodies of 14 miners killed in the Panhandle mine near here last night by an explosion described as a big
"woof," were brought to the surface this morning one by one.
Seventeen other men working on the same level walked from the underground workings safely by a circuitous, 2 1/2 mile route.
The bodies of most of the dead were burned badly. Mothers, wives and children who had waited stoically since the explosion at 9:10 o'clock last night broke into sobs as rescuers brought the bodies of their loved ones to the surface.
The dead:
CHARLES W. HARRINGTON, 47, of near Bicknell.
E. R. COLE, 48, of Vincennes.
JAMES M. SMITH, 65, of near Bicknell.
VIRGIL SAGER, 30, of Freelandville.
WILBERT REDMOND, 24; CHARLES B. MAY, 50; F. M. VINCENT, 47, and ARTHUR GOURDOUZE, 44, all of Bicknell.
JACK OGILVIE of Bicknell, in charge of the rescue squad, expressed belief gas or a mixture of gas and dust had become ignited in some manner. He said part of the level was damaged badly, with timbers and other debris hampering rescue work.
The rescuers, aided by oxygen masks, brought out the bodies of WRIGHT and JAMES SMITH to the surface soon after the explosion. THey were not burned. They had to wait some time for the gas to clear before they were able to reach the others.
Ambulances waiting under a sign with this motto:
"Work carefully today that you may enjoy life tomorrow," took the bodies to the morgues.
FRANK PIERCE, mine superintendent, led the first group of rescuers into the mine. Most of them were employed at the workings, owned by the Bicknell Coal company. The blast occurred about 2,500 feet back in the level.
CHARLES MOSSEL, a miner working on the same vein but 1,000 feet away, said the explosion sounded like a big "woof." He said he and the men around him didn't realize what had happened as no blasting was scheduled for last night.
Motorman BENNY HUGHES then saw smoke rolling down the level and the group started for the shaft. Fumes and coal dust became so thick they turned off to one side and followed a long, 2 1/2 mile route to the opening.
"Dust flew up in front of us and our eardrums thumped," said Loader QUINCE HARDESTY. "It was like walking through hell's half acre to get out."

The Kokomo Tribune Indiana 1941-05-23


Elizabeth Wirt: From Dwight

Elizabeth Wirt: From Dwight Brawdy : I know only a small amount of info. about Floyd Harper of Bicknell, Indiana my email is

Floyd Harper

Elizabeth Wirt: I just happened to revisit this site and noticed your last post. I am sorry that I cannot relate much information about your grandfather, only that I once heard my parents talk of the mine disaster in 1941 and my mother waiting with the other wives, including your grandmother( Grace). My father considered Floyd as a very close friend and they had worked together at the mine often. My mother knew your grandmother and talked to her on occasion but I don't know how often. The explosion is something my father rarely talked about but my mother did tell me once that my father was not hurt and he volunteered to go back into the mine to help bring out those men. I am sorry that you never got to know your grandfather, it must have been terrible for your father growing up. What was your grandmothers life after she moved back to her hometown. My email is

Floyd Harper

My grandfather was Floyd Harper. My father was only 5 years old when his father, Floyd Harper, died in the mine. I would enjoy knowing more about my grandfather if you have any stories to share.

My grandfather was Floyd

My grandfather was Floyd Harper. My father was only 5 years old when his father, Floyd Harper, died in the mine. I would enjoy knowing more about my grandfather if you have any stories to share.


My father, Carl E. Brawdy was one of the survivors of the 1941 explosion at the Panhandle mine. His best friend, Floyd Harper was killed. My dad was 31 at the time. Many men were killed in those days because all the companys were interested in was more coal, NOT safety. John L. Lewis and the union forced companys to look more to safety and the government to pass laws insuring a safe workplace. Now the shameful working man is slowly turning his back on the very unions which may have saved their lives. They just might pay a heavy price for not learning the lessons of their fathers and grandfathers.