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Clover Hill Coal Pits
Bright Hope Mine Explosion

Clover Hill, Chesterfield County, Virginia
April 3, 1867
No. Killed - 69

The Petersburg Index, April 5, 1867  (16.7 Mb)  PDF Format
Various news articles from the period  (518 Kb)  PDF Format
See also: Bright Hope Mine Explosion, Apr. 13, 1859
From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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The Clover Hill Calamity
The Petersburg Index, Virginia
April 8, 1867

Further Particulars

The Richmond Examiner of Saturday gives a full account of the terrible disaster which occurred at the Clover Hill Coal Pits on Wednesday.

There were 69 persons in the pit at the time of the explosion -- 30 whites and 39 colored -- all of whom are supposed to have been instantly killed.  We subjoin the Examiner's account of the disaster:

After the Explosion

The report of the explosion called together every person about the mine, and many from the neighborhood.  It is estimated that in less than two hours, eight hundred persons had congregated there.  The anguish of the wives and children of the men who were in the pits, is said to have been extreme.  Their cries, and sobs, and frantic appeals to all about them to try to rescue their husbands and fathers, was heart-rending.

The Descent into the Mine

Immediately after the occurrence of the explosion, Captain James H. Cox, Mr. Samuel Owen, superintendent, Mr. Thomas Marshall, chief gas man, and the hands outside of the pit, made preparations to send someone down to endeavor to see whether any of the laborers had escaped death, and to render them such assistance as they could, to ascertain the cause of the explosion, and the amount of damage done.  The apparatus for descending had been so completely torn to pieces, that it required some two hours and a half to get ready for the descent.  Having completed their preparations, Mr. Thomas Marshall, Sr., John Strong and James Duggan descended slowly, feeling their way as they went.

When they had gotten within about one hundred feet of the bottom, they called loudly, thinking some of the miners might be alive, and within hearing, but they received no answer.  They returned without going to the bottom of the shaft filled with the debris of the cages, broken timbers, etc.  They went about twenty feet, to the point at which the northern level runs off.  They here found a dead mule.

Nothing was seen of any of the miners.  Mr. Marshall attempted to pass into the south shaft, but found the doors blown open and everything torn to pieces.  Mr. Strong went out to the north level, and found the mine on fire near the powder magazine.  Fearing that there might be an explosion there, he returned to the shaft and came up.

Captain Cox, wishing to do everything in his power to relieve the living in the mine, if any were living, sent three men down again next morning.  Thomas Marshall, Jr., white, and Lewis Cox and Richard Berry, negroes, descended into the fine.  They made as full exploration as they were able to do and returned, reporting the same condition of things that the persons who went down on Wednesday evening did.  They saw nothing of any of the miners.

The Shaft's Stopped Up

After the descent of the last party it was determined to stop the shafts.  Captain Cox and the superintendent, concluding that it was impossible to render assistance to any of the miners, if living, but being perfectly convinced that they were all dead.  The north shaft was stopped, but it was found impossible to stop the south shaft, on account of the smoke and impure air that was belching from it; and fearing, also, that if too much air were sealed up hermetically in the mine it would, by expanding, cause another explosion.

The issue of atmospheric air ceased on yesterday, however, and this shaft was also stopped.  It was absolutely necessary to pursue this course in order to extinguish the fire.

Condition of the Mine before the Explosion

From the account of parties who left the pit just before the explosion, the ventilation was perfect.  One of them said that he met gas man Weale as he came out.  He asked him, "how was times."  Weale replied "all right."  He was on duty at the time, and it is thought it was from his carelessness that the explosion occurred.  He had failed to examine chamber No. 8, in which the gas had accumulated, and where, it is thought, the explosion took place.  He and the other assistant gas man, Thomas Marshall, Jr., had been ordered by the chief gas man, Thomas Marshall, Sr., to have the door to this chamber, which had been broken down, replaced.  He paid dearly for his want of care.  He was one of the men killed.

Names of the Killed

We give below the names of the persons who were in the mine at the time of the explosion.  Not one of them has been heard from.  It is probable that all who were in the northern part of the mine were killed instantly.  Two men were at work on the south level, and it is thought they may have survived a short time.

The following are the names of the white men killed, with number of persons left by them unprovided for:
  • Thomas Layton, wife and six children
  • Patrick Donnahoe, two children
  • James Locket, wife and four children
  • William Thomas, wife and five children
  • Beverly Amonet, wife and three children
  • Joe Condry, wife and one child
  • John Ainsko, wife and three children
  • James Ainsko, wife and one child
  • John Weale, wife and five children
  • Peter Logan, wife
  • George Moore, wife and six children
  • Jim Harper, wife
  • Nat Roberts, wife
  • Albert Issacs, wife and three children
  • H. McGruder, wife and three children
  • William B. Robertson, wife and five children
  • George Puckett, Tom Puckett, Jim Puckett, none married, but have one sister
  • George Taylor, mother and two sisters
  • Samuel Fowler, six children
  • Nick Hackett, father and mother, aged and infirmed
  • Robert Bowman, wife and three children
  • William Goode, wife and three children
  • William Cosley, wife and three children
  • William A. Cole
  • Thomas Cosley
  • John T. Kerner
Total -- 30 men killed, and 81 women and children utterly destitute.

The names of the negroes are as follows.  We could not learn whether they left families, but suppose many of them did.  They are of course destitute:
  • Carter Cox
  • Beverly Anderson
  • Giles Paterson
  • Gus Cox
  • Dick Hobson
  • Andrew Branch
  • Henry Finny
  • John Artis
  • Washington Hunt
  • William Simms
  • Asa Coleman
  • Edmund Jones
  • Simon Stokes
  • John Owens
  • Randall Jackson
  • William Thweatt
  • Price Jackson
  • Charles Jefferson
  • Doctor Faulkes
  • Redd Jefferson
  • Wyley Gibbs
  • Elliott Trent
  • Edmund Johnson
  • Joseph Turpin
  • Phil Bossieau
  • Henry Bossieau
  • Aaron Wood
  • Elijah McTyre
  • Jim Selden
  • Danish Langford
  • Robert Helman
  • Frank Wiles
  • Albert Jones
  • Dick Mann
  • Daniel Osborn
  • Henry Owens
  • Henry Howard
  • Jordan Gates
  • William Kirby
These men were all laborers in the mine, trailers, bankslope, mule drivers, etc.

Extent of the Pit

The pit is about three thousand five hundred feet in length from north to south.  The chambers from which the coal is mined are about three hundred feet apart.  The "drifts" or passages through the pits are twelve feet wide.  The mine was opened in 1857.  An explosion occurred in this pit in 1859, by which nine persons were killed.

The Disaster

This is the most serious mining disaster that has ever occurred in the United States, and but few anywhere has had more victims.  Let us hope that this may be the last it shall be our painful duty to record.

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