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Century Coal Company
Century No. 1 Mine Explosion

Century, Barbour County, West Virginia
March 22, 1906
No. Killed - 23

Final Investigation Report  PDF Format

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Successful Rescue

Within one hour after the accident Superintendent James Ward had a relief gang in the mine.  The first trip out brought ten men, five dead and five badly burned.  During the second expedition, twenty injured men were making their way towards the bottom of the shaft and were brought to the surface by the rescuers.

Ten Miners Dead; Many Badly Hurt
The Titusville Herald, Pennsylvania
March 23, 1906

Fairmont, W. Va., March 22. -- Ten men are known to be dead, twenty-five injured and from twenty-five to seventy-five missing and believed to be dead, are the results of an explosion of gas in the shaft of the Century Coal Company at Century, a small mining town situated fifty miles south of Fairmont on the Bellington and Buckhannon branch of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.

The explosion took place at 4:30 this afternoon, but owing to the telephone wires being put out of commission by the high winds of today details are lacking and the names of the victims, six of whom are known to be foreigners were not secured at a late hour tonight.

The Century mine, which is owned by Shaw Brothers, well known coal men of Baltimore, Md., is one of the largest in northern West Virginia.  Over 250 men are employed daily in the shaft and had the explosion been an hour earlier the loss of life would have been appalling.  As it was, there were but a few stragglers remaining in the shaft, the main body of miners having quit work for the day.

The giant fan, which furnishes air for the shaft, was partially wrecked by the force of the explosion but was repaired immediately and within one hour after the accident Superintendent James Ward had a relief gang in the mine.  The first trip out brought ten men, five dead and five badly burned.  They were found in the main heading near the bottom of the shaft.  The living could give no details of the explosion, saying that they were on their way to the surface when the explosion took place behind them.

A second expedition immediately went down and explored the mine heading, which was found to be uninjured by the explosion except that the brattices were blown out.

Four more bodies were found in this heading and twenty injured men were making their way towards the bottom of the shaft and were brought to the surface by the rescuers.  Fourteen subheadings at midnight were yet unexplored and Superintendent Ward, who was still in the mine, sent word out that owing to the prevalence of gas he was yet undecided at that time whether or not to push work into the subheadings for an hour or so.  The mine, however, was being readily freed from the fumes of the explosion by the fan and the work of rescue will be pushed on through the night.

Immediately following the explosion the officials began a house to house canvass to ascertain the number of men to be found on the surface.  This resulted in sixty miners being counted who had come out previous to the explosion.  It is believed that there are many more outside that have not yet been accounted for.  If this is not true, there are still seventy-five men in the mine with one chance in a hundred of their being alive.

Relief trains bearing physicians were hurried from Phillippi and Buckhannon and the doctors immediately took care of the wounded in the office building, which was transformed into a temporary hospital.

The families of the dead, wounded and missing men gathered quickly at the opening and the pathetic scenes always witnessed at such accidents was seen.  Several foreign women insisted upon entering the mine and were only prevented from entering the cage by force.  Many of the women were still hovering about the opening at midnight, refusing to go into the company store or other places to escape the biting cold of the night.

Upon learning of the accident offerings of help were sent in from the Fairmont Coal company mines at Berryburg, the George’s Creek mine at Farmington, the David Bryden Company at Grafton and others but Superintendent Ward replied that he had force enough to handle the situation and that the only help he needed was a force of physicians to look after the wounded.

An official of the company who looked after the work on the surface, said at midnight that the company was doing all in its power to ascertain the names of the dead and wounded and that a list would be given during the night.  He stated that owing to the horribly mutilated condition of the dead, it was impossible to recognize them at that hour.

The Century mine employees were about equally divided between Americans and foreigners and a report was current here that it was the belief of those at the scene of the explosion that most of the dead are foreigners, because they were in the habit of remaining longer in the mines than the American miners.

Twenty-Three are Dead
The Titusville Herald, Pennsylvania
March 24, 1906

Philippi, W. Va., March 23. -- The death list of the Century mine disaster has now reached twenty-three, while twenty or more are injured.  Officials of the company reported tonight that twenty-two bodies have been recovered and but one remains in the mines.  A thorough canvass of the district was made by representatives of the coal company today and all the employees have been accounted for but one, who is thought to be buried beneath a pile of debris in the mine.

The list of dead so far identified is as follows:
  • Joseph Martilovich, 25, single
  • Semon Semalovick, 27, married, 1 Child
  • Joseph Waljack, 28, married, 2 children
  • John Roholia, 16, single
  • Enoch Conchas, 32, married, 2 children
  • John Conchas, 24, single
  • Charles Doberloski, 28, single
  • James Majieka, 33, married, 6 children
  • Joseph Majieka, 30, single
  • John Zalinski, 25, married
  • Frank Andruse, 23, single
  • Anthony Draughalis, 40, married, 6 children
  • Frank Rublenski, 45, married, 3 children
  • Stanley Rublenski, 22, single
  • Nickolas Pennetta, 50, married
  • Joseph Mankose, 27, married
  • Amello Marro, 27, married
  • Adam Zucavich, 32, married, 2 children
  • August Zedaravich, 50, married
  • Joseph Kungus, 30, single
  • Daniel Jones, 50, married, 6 children
  • Thomas D. Jones, 53, married, 6 children
  • Charles Jones, 18, single
All day long the rescuing parties continued their work and the last of the victims but one was taken out at 4 o'clock this afternoon.

The search will be continued until all the bodies have been recovered.  Among the injured there are few who have suffered severe injury and it is expected that none of these will die.

The injured are being cared for in a temporary hospital established in the offices of the Century Coal Company where a dozen or more physicians from Buckhannon and Philippi are administering to the wounded.

An inspection of the mine by State Mine Inspector J. A. Paul of Charleston and District Mine Inspector Frank Parsons of Clarksburg was begun today and will likely continue for several days.  It is the general belief that the explosion was caused by a spark from the blast igniting the mine dust, and while the force of the explosion was terrific the effects were felt for only a comparatively short distance.  Officials of the company and the mine inspectors believe that no blame can be fixed for the unfortunate occurrence.  Apparently it was accidental rather than due to any carelessness on the part of the miners or any defect in the mine.

John K. Shaw, one of the owners of the company, and Benjamin Blessil general manager for the Century Coal Company arrived tonight from Baltimore and will spend several days at Century looking after the company's affairs.  A thorough investigation into the cause of the explosion will be made at once but there is a great deal of uncertainty as to whether the blame can be placed.

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