Carbondale, PA Breaker Blows Down And Burns, Apr 1872



From Our Own Correspondent.
Scranton, Tuesday, April 2, 1872.
To prevent an accident in or about a coal mine is almost an impossibility. Outside is the breaker, towering to an altitude of 100 to 150 feet above the mouth of the shaft or slope. The breaker, constructed entirely of timber, becomes in time as dry as tinder, and liable from the least cause to be consumed by fire or to be blown down by a heavy gust of wind. Inside of the mine the accumulation of gas, the fall of top coal and premature blasts make it a dangerous place for men to be employed in. Still hundreds and thousands of men and boys are found ready and willing to engage in the risky work of digging and bringing coal from the mine. Constantly the news is heralded of some unfortunate miner losing his life, or being terribly injured, the last of which occurred yesterday afternoon, during the prevalence of a tornado.
The scene of the present disaster was the Lackawanna breaker, half a mile from Carbondale, and sixteen miles from this City. It is the property and worked by the Delaware and Hudson Coal COmpany, which road passes in close proximity to the mine. It is a slope, the cars running into the mine by a gradual descent. The breaker is situated about two hundred feet from the mouth of the slope, the intervening space being spanned over by a huge trestle-work, planked over, and a narrow railway laid on top, over which the cars filled with coal were drawn and emptied into the breaker preparatory to being prepared for market. There are about twenty men and boys employoed on the trestle-work and the upper portion of the breaker. It was considered safe, and was to all appearances substantially built.
A gale has been blowing in Ohio Valley since Saturday evening. Its ferocity, however, was not felt until yesterday afternoon. At that time it was a dangerous experiment to walk the streets. While the gale was at its height those who were at work at the Lackawanna breaker toiled away, not apprehensive of any imminent danger.
At 2 o'clock, while the cars were rapidly going to and fro, some filled and others empty; while a few men were getting the cars into position on the scales, so that the miner might be paid his just dues, and while busy little boys, with lighted lamps on their caps, were preparing to descent into the mine, without a moment's warning a gust of wind lifted the structure completely from its foundation and hurled it into the deep chasm below, fully 100 feet, carrying with it the trestle-work and the upper portion of the breaker. There was a loud crash -- so loud that the people of Carbondale heard it distinctly. When the disaster was fully realized, hundreds and thousands flocked to the locality. In the meantime the debris began to blaze, having caught from the culm pipe on which it was now resting. A rickety hand engine was brought on the ground. Hundreds of willing men went to work to rescue the poor creatures who were buried underneath. Their cries were heartrending, and the scene at this moment among the friends and relatives of the unfortunate victims was indescribable. The air was filled with their groans and wailings. Only half an hour elapsed before the first victim was taken out, a little boy named HENRY PALMER, who was horribly mangled and dead. THOS. FAGAN, a boy, was next taken away, terribly burned, and his skull broken in by falling timbers. These two bodies presented a ghastly spectacle. DWIGHT MOORSE, JOHN T. CLARK, W. H. PALMER and HENRY JONES were taken out terribly burned and crushed by timbers, but life was not extinct. The three former expired at an early hour this morning, and JONES is not expected to survive until this evening. Sixteen others were taken out, but were more scared than hurt, and are today in full possession of health and strength.
E. R. W.

The New York Times New York 1872-04-03