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W. E. Smith and L. O. Smith, owners
Blanche Mine Explosives Detonation

Colliers, Brooke County, West Virginia
November 20, 1894
No. Killed - 8

Appalling Disaster in the Blanche Coal Mine
Newark Daily Advocate, Ohio
November 21, 1894

Wheeling, Nov. 21. -- The most appalling mine disaster that ever occurred in this section of West Virginia occurred yesterday shortly after noon at the Blanch coal mines, on the Panhandle railroad at Collier's station. A new miner, an Italian, put off an overcharged blast, which ignited the coal dust in the mine, and a fearful explosion followed, carrying death and destruction in its path. There were 18 men in the mine at the time.

After the explosion there was a terrific whirlwind in the mine, carrying everything before it.

The news of the disaster quickly spread and in a few moments hundreds of people were crowded about the mouth of the mine.

Many heartrending scenes were enacted. The wives and children of the miners were frantic and the strong men were overcome. In a short time a rescuing party was organized and went into the mines after the bodies. When the bodies were brought to the surface many women swooned at the sight.

Prosecuting Attorney Cotton and Coroner Walkinshaw of Wellsburg were soon on the ground and took charge of the bodies and will conduct a rigid investigation.

This is the second accident of the kind which has occurred at this mine, just two years ago (Nov. 21, 1892), a similar explosion occurred in which three were killed and seven injured. The state mine inspector will be here today to take part in the investigation.

The deceased:
  • John Donelly, 57
  • Mavine Giseindo, 27
  • Charles Jordan, 24
  • Jasper Lawrence, 30
  • Mike Rooney, 35
  • David Rowland, 40
  • Antoni Stattee, 30
  • Thomas Tucker, 22
  • William Davis
  • Thomas Morris
  • Raphael Necki
  • Jose Refel
Source: West Virginia Mine Accident Index  PDF Format

Donnelly and Roony were in the mine some distance from and going toward the mouth. The force of the explosion drove them nearly 100 yards out of the mouth of the mine and landed Roony on the railroad track, killing him instantly, while Donnelly landed in a gulley, striking his head against a post, dashing his brains out and scattering them for yards around. His wife was the first to find him, and she swooned away. There is little hope that she will recover.

There were miraculous escapes when the explosion occurred. William Davis was in the entry 150 feet from the entrance, and when he heard the explosion he lay down near the rib of the mine and the whirlwind, carrying rocks, fire and death passed over him. An empty coal car standing at the entrance of the mine was blown 25 yards.

The mine is owned by W. E. Smith of Wellsville and L. O. Smith of Cumberland. The miners charge that the accident was due to the inexperience of the Italian miners, and declare they will not work with them anymore.

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