Brewster, NY Iron Ore Mine Cave In, Nov 1895


Brewster, N.Y., Nov. 29 -- This afternoon about thirty men were at work on the 400-foot level breaking ore and loading the cars sent down by the cable. About 3:30 o'clock the entire northwest wall, apparently containing over 100 tons of rock, fell into the pit, killing not less than eleven men, and inflicting serious injury upon nine others. William Aspell and four others ran and escaped. Five Italians also got out alive. The cable and its car were not injured. Aspell and his companions, as soon as the boulders stopped rolling down the slope, looked over the wreck. They saw PATRICK H. MURTHA, struggling to get up. He was pinned fast by a rock. They assisted him. The cable-car brought down three Italians, who rendered further assistance. MURTHA was placed on the car, hoisted to the surface and taken home, where he died thirty minutes later. Just as the rescuing car started on the return trip more rock fell, and it is reported that one of the three Italians who went down in the car was killed. The second downward trip brought PATRICK H. KELLEY and JAMES McGINN. They organized the miners left in the pit, secured tools and began to take out the bodies. Rocks were thrown off the bodies of MICHAEL GANNON, THOMAS DENNIS, JOHN FAGAN, an Austrian known as No. 234, and two Italians, Nos. 310 and 394. All were dead and horribly mangled. MARK CRITCHLEY, who seemed to be suffering from a fracture of the spine, probably fatal, was taken home, as also was PATRICK BURNS, who will recover.
Superintendent Tompkins and Foreman Lynch received the bodies upon the surface and submitted them to the view of Coroner Penny and a jury. Then two undertakers cared for them as the relatives and friends directed.
Darkness came on rapidly and the falling rocks continued to threaten the rescuing party, when Mr. Tompkins ordered all hands to the surface. The work of taking out the bodies will be resumed at daylight tomorrow morning. The bodies believed to be in the pit are those of JAMES FOX, bachelor, better known as JAMES SMITH; JAMES CLARK, a stranger, who began work on November 18, and four Italians, Nos. 13, 56, 331 and 234.
A great crowd flocked to the scene of the disaster. First came the relatives of those who lived in the hamlet, and then followed hundreds from Brewster and Carmel. As the car raised body after body to the surface, the wails and moans of the bereaved ones melted to tears the strong-hearted men of the rescuing party and touched with sorrow the hearts of hundreds of onlookers.
At the time of the accident Foreman Lynch was preparing to go down to the working level. He was ready to take the next descending car and stood facing the northwest wall when the rock began to slide. He saw it move, but there was no means of giving warning. The heavy rains had opened crevices in many places and during the last two days more than two hundred tons of rock had been dislodged and thrown into the pit. The northwest wall had been examined carefully as usual, but no trouble was expected from that quarter.
The mine is owned by the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company, of New York and Scranton, Penn. Clinton Stephens is the contractor in charge, and the men killed and injured were in his employ.

The Sun New York 1895-11-30