Tank's Poetry
united states mine rescue association
Mine Disasters in the United States

Mining Music

The Knox Mine Disaster 1959
by Tom Flannery

See also: Knox Mine Disasters

My name is Orloski and Iím employed by the Knox company
and Iíll lay my hands on the table for all to see
I come from miners whose ghosts they follow me down
and watch my back when the roof turns into the ground

Big city has been calling says the coal is gonna end up dead
wife says if that don't happen then itís gonna be me instead
But they say itís in the blood more than the lungs as the years go by
and every breath I take I catch a glimpse of my fathers eye

Port Griffith will remember the day back in 1959
when the fearsome Susquehanna smashed through the Knox company mine
the Pittston vein just blinded the men above the ground
and they just washed their hands when twelve men were never found

Eighty seven men descended in the January chill
they were scattered through the workings the cars they'd fill and fill
Inspectors had drawn the red line 35 feet from the rivers rage
but now it was down to 19 inches to force a miner to make a decent wage

Frank Hanley and his 11 were working near the shaft
and when he heard that rumble old Haney acted fast
he called for the cage as the water lapped his arm
and the cage rose above the river and his men spread the alarm


Susquehanna has a will of her own
chills a coal man to the bone

Fear can spread the word through a quiet little town
and soon all eyes were frozen on the water bearing down
the iced river was pouring in she was gonna have her way
but they had to try and stop her before she washed the valley away

So they tried to plug the hole by dropping coal gondolas in
but they were sucked right through like a man led into sin
they knew the mines were all connected and lay helplessly alone
the anthracite in the valley would drown in its own home

The men inside were running the old men falling behind
Foreman Myron Thomas tried to keep on the upper side
water sounded like a train bearing down on him
so he told his men to pray barely heard above the din


Joe Stella had stayed behind with some of the older men
and as they stumbled through the water he felt the breath of air hit them
the abandoned Eagle shaft pointed up towards the sky
and Amedo Pancotti lifted himself on high

Now Amedo spoke little english but he rushed across the land
and made himself understood the way only an Italian can
soon a rope was dropped on down to the surface they made their way
said he didn't deserve the Carnegie medal they pinned it on him anyway

Now Thomas was still crawling with 25 men in tow
holding their breath beneath the timbers that were neglected years ago
he ordered every other man to extinguish his lamp
to preserve the fading light like the hope in the cold and damp


They came upon a rotted door and somehow knocked it down
and a wisp of air barely made its way but no one made a sound
some feared if they squeezed through they'd never make it home
But Thomas said it's now or never boys at least we won't die alone

That old eagle shaft stayed open so the Lord could peer on through
and soon the men heard voices and the fresh air grew
as the rope was tied around his waist Thomas took a last look around
and thanked the men who sunk the old eagle shaft and his feet they left the ground

Twelve men still lay in the Old Knox Mine with nothing to light their way
how many have walked over their graves no one can ever say
most have forgotten the way things were back in 1959
when the Susquehanna river smashed through the Knox Company Mine

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