Ashley, PA Mine Cave In, May 1890 - 28 Men Buried Alive


Twenty-eight Men Buried Alive at Ashley


Loyal Comrades Working Like Beavers to Save Their Lives.
Three of the Entombed Men Rescued
The Thrilling Story of a Miner Who Narrowly Escaped

WILKES-BARRE, PA. MAY 16—Twenty-eight men are entombed in Baltimore shaft, No. 4, at Ashley, and there is little hope of their rescue. The mine is an old one, and the workings are in a more or less a dilapidated condition. This fact makes the work of rescue very difficult. The imprisonment of the unfortunate men is due to a big cave-in of the surface over the mine which occurred yesterday. The cave-in covers an area of one square mile, and is one of the most disastrous that ever occurred in the coal regions.

It Came Without Warning
The crash came without any warning whatever. This is something unusual too, as generally there is a quaking and quivering of the earth before it settles. The first intimation of danger is when two houses were seen to sink out of sight. They went down about ten feet and were totally wrecked. The dwellings were occupied by Polanders. Two women and a little girl were quite seriously injured. The noise made by the house toppling over attracted a large crowd.

Thirty not Eight in the Mine
A number of men ran to the slope and attempted to enter the mine, but they could not. The main passage was blocked and there was no way of reaching the men. The mine foreman said only eight men were working in that portion which had caved in, and that they had in all probability made their escape by way of the gangway. The fire boss reported that there were thirty men in the mine, and not eight. The superintendent of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company was telegraphed and he arrived promptly. A conference of expert miners was then held and it was first determined to make an attempt to enter the slope. Twelve men were secured for the hazardous task but they were unable to proceed any distance through the mine. The cave-in had wrecked all the inside workings, and in some places the roof was down for hundreds of feet. To clear this debris away would take weeks, which would preclude all hope of getting the men out alive.

Three Men Rescued
It was then resolved to sink or bore holes in the surface directly over some abandoned workings, enter these workings, and then trace to the place where the men were at work. This whole distance is about 300 yards. At 8 o’clock last evening the rescuers broke their way through the surface and reached the abandoned workings. Five men entered and traveled along some distance. They heard groans. Stooping down they found three men lying prostrate on the ground. They picked them up and carried them to the surface. When the rescuing party with the three men came in sight a mighty cheer went up.

The men rescued were JOHN ALLEN, ROBERT ROBERTS and ANTHONY FRAIL. They were badly burned. ROBERTS is the least injured.

He says when the cave-in came the men all threw down their tools and made for the main gangways. They found that it was blocked with debris. Some of the men then fainted and sunk to the ground. Others got down on their knees and prayed for deliverance. ROBERTS, FRAIL and ALLEN clung together. They rummaged around the abandoned workings all afternoon. When the cave-in occurred there was a slight explosion in one of the breasts which burned the three men. ROBERTS says there are at least nineteen other men in the mine and that they are scattered everywhere. The air is bad, and unless other men are reached within the next ten hours they must perish. The rescuers are now scouring the workings.