Scranton, PA Oxford Mine Explosion, May 1876

Firedamp Catastrophe.

Scranton, May 21.-A terrific explosion of firedamp occurred yesterday forenoon at the Oxford air shaft of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company in this city, by which one man was killed instantly and four seriously scorched and otherwise injured. The explosion was cause by an accumulation of gas in the lower vein coming in contact with a miner’s lamp at a depth of 400 feet from the surface, and immediately under the air-shaft. When the accident occurred four men were close to where the gas was confined, and they were burned seriously. The shock was felt for a distance of a mile around. The gas, on igniting, rushed up the shaft with a roar, tearing the steam pipes in its course, and completely scattering them in all directions. A man named PAFF, employed at the mouth of the shaft, had just stepped into the bucket, and was thrown high in the air, and descending, fell into the mine, a distance of 400 feet, where he was literally smashed to pieces.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 22 May 1876


Oxford Mine Accident, 1876

Thank you for printing this report about the Oxford Mine Shaft Explosion. My great-great-grandfather, John Edward Powell was one of the casualties. A newspaper account from the time reads:

"About half a mile northwest (directly back) of the Oxford shaft, an air shaft for that mine is being sunk - in fact, has been sunk - was finished yesterday the entire depth - 412 feet. Just before the finishing touches were applied a fire-damp explosion took place, by which one man was killed and four other wounded. A large iron tub used to raise stone, was in the process of letting down, when the fire damp at the bottom exploded, and raising the tub from the hook, brought it again going down, upset it and spilled Frank Paff, the only person in it, out, who flew a distance of 312 feet, striking upon the rocks below, killing him instantly. By the explosion, at the foot of the shaft, Daniel Howell, Michael Shefford, John Powell and Robert Anthony were severely - though not dangerously - burned. The shaft was finished yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock.

Through the kindness of Mine Inspector Blewitt we were furnished with the following official report of the deaths and accidents which occurred yesterday in the district.

Central shaft, Hyde Park, John Snyder, age fifty years, married, leaves wife and five children, killed by fall from top coal.

Oxford air shaft, Hyde Park, Frank Paff, American, headman at the shaft, age 21 years, single, fell down shaft 320 feet; killed.

John Powell, Englishman, 30 years, married, wife and two children; burned by fire damp.

Michael Stafford, Irish, 24 years of age, single; burned by fire damp.

The explosion was caused by a lamp falling from the rock vein to the bottom of shaft.

A miner named Snyder, at the Central shaft, residing at Patagonia, was killed yesterday by a falling roof." End quote.

The official Reports of the Inspectors of Mines of Anthracite Coal Regions of Pennsylvania for the Year 1876 states regarding John Powell, "Killed by same explosion that killed Paff; but Powell lived in the most excruciating pains for 10 days when he died."