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Southern Coal and Transportation Company
Berryburg Mine Explosion

Berryburg, Barbour County, West Virginia
November 2, 1900
No. Killed - 32

West Virginia Annual Report (pp. 88-95)  (347 Kb)  PDF Format

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Many Killed in Mine Explosion
The New York Times, New York
November 4, 1900

Philippi, West Va., Nov. 3 -- At 1:30 o'clock this morning a terrific explosion occurred at one of the Southern Coal and Transportation Company's mines at Berryburg.  Twelve bodies have already been taken from the mine.  The explosion was plainly heard in Philippi.

It is impossible as yet to tell accurately how many lives are lost.  This cannot be done until roll call can be taken.  Men are busy now removing the dead from the mine, and as at this time it is extremely dangerous, work is slow.

As the work of removing the dead goes on, things look worse that at first supposed.  Four men were brought out during the last hour, and the searchers report that a dozen are yet in the mine.  Twenty men are unaccounted for.  Few of those brought out are not terribly mutilated beyond description.

Most of the miners have been here but a few weeks, and as they were almost unknown to each other it is hard to recognize a man when he is found.  Most of the men came from North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

The report of the explosion was so great that two men were found sixty feet from the mouth of the mine.  An hour after the explosion hundreds had visited the scene of the disaster.  The call for relief brought every physician in Philippi to the scene.

The sight was a most horrible one.  Strewed along the main channel and about the opening were portions of the bodies of the dead miners.  Fathers and mothers were frantically hunting for sons, and as fast as a body was recovered those recognizing it would give hysterical screams.

The hotel has been turned into a hospital, and those still alive when brought out were taken there.  Four men are not expected to live till morning.

There is a great deal of contradictory talk about the cause of the explosion.  The authorities refuse to discuss the matter further than to say it was caused by an excessive charge of powder being used.  The miners insist that it was caused by fire damp.  The mine was recently inspected and pronounced to be in good condition.

The engineer in charge of the mine is very reticent.  He says that at 9 o'clock a man came out of the mine and told him the electrician had drilled all the holes needed for the night and to shut off the fans.

Miners say that was the very time the fans were needed, as when the charges were fired it would cause all the smoke and dust to rise.  If this was not swept out by the fans it would cause an explosion.

Prosecuting Attorney, C. M. Murphy and Justice W. G. Keys left here tonight for Berryburg to hold an inquest.  A sensational verdict is expected.

John W. Green, who was in the mine at the time of the explosion and escaped injury, gives the following account:
"I went into the mine at 7:30 o'clock, and went to Room No. 1.  I had been at work an hour or so when I smelled black damp.  I noticed that my lamp would flicker.  I went to the mine boss and told him about it.  He laughed and said it was all right.  I went back to work, and sometime after midnight heard a terrific noise.  I was knocked down and my lamp went out.  I was stunned for a moment and then realized what had happened.  I was close to the entrance and crawled over the bodies of two men.  I think the explosion was caused by black damp."
The mine is situated about six miles south of here, and about 200 men are employed in it.  A majority of these are negroes, who are married and live in a settlement near the mine.  When the accident happened most of the men were fortunately out of the mine.

It is believed that the mine is not greatly damaged.

Explosion Strews Ground with Human Arms and Legs
Salt Lake Herald, Utah
November 4, 1900

Philippi, W. Va., Nov. 3 -- At least thirteen miners were killed by an explosion that occurred this morning at 10 o'clock at the mines of the Southern Coal & Transportation Company at Berry's Burg, six miles from this place.

The Dead:
  • Ollie Marks, pit boss
  • Andrew Blackwell
  • Albert Brown
  • Lawrence Duncan
  • Pack Adams
  • Seven others whose names are not obtainable
William Marks and James Jackson were fatally injured.

A messenger just returned from the mines states twenty men are unaccounted for.  The men are mostly negroes and Slavs.

The force of the explosion was so great that two men were found sixty feet from the mouth of the mine.  An hour after the explosion hundreds had visited the mine.  The sight was a most horrible one.  Strewn along the main channel and about the opening were the arms, legs, hands and other portions of the bodies of the dead miners.  The miners insist that the explosion was caused by fire damp.

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