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Christopher Coal Company
Christopher No. 3 Mine Explosion

Osage, Monongalia County, West Virginia
May 12, 1942
No. Killed - 56

USBM Final Investigation Report  (3.4 Mb)  PDF Format
Christopher No. 3 Mine Tragedy
Location: 39° 39.531′ N, 80° 0.488′ W.
Marker is in Osage, West Virginia, in Monongalia County.  Marker is on Scotts Run Road (County Road 19/25) north of Number Three Hill Road (County Road 19/26), on the right when traveling south.  The marker is a short walk south from the Scotts Run Museum.  Marker is at or near this postal address: 450 Scotts Run Road, Morgantown WV 26501
Photographed by Bradley Owen
Source: Historic Marker Database
See more mine disaster markers, memorials, and monuments.
News Headlines from the Period
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 13, 1942
Bradford Evening Star, May 13, 1942
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 14, 1942

Listen:  This Week in West Virginia History

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Fear 53 Men Killed in Coal Mine Blast
The Billings Gazette, Montana
May 13, 1942

Osage, W. Va., May 12. -- (AP) -- A disastrous explosion tore through the heart of a northern West Virginia coal mine Tuesday with an apparent loss of at least 53 lives.

Rescue crews at midnight had recovered three bodies, discovered 11 more and announced there was scant hope that 39 trapped men could still be living.

Seventy others in the big operation, working outside the explosion area, escaped from the No. 3 mine of the Christopher Coal Company located four miles from the University city of Morgantown.

An official announcement at midnight said the estimate of 53 lost "much of necessity be an approximation."  There was no indication other than that, however, that a greater number was trapped.

The time of the explosion, three miles underground, was fixed at 2:30 p. m. but company officials said the cause had not been determined.  The announcement said the operation had been rockdusted as a precaution against explosion two days ago, and was inspected Monday.

Frank A. Christopher, company president, issued a statement that he still hoped some might be found alive but members of five crews boring into the wrecked area said it did not seem as if any of those remaining escaped.

Three bodies, near the perimeter of the blast area, were recovered soon after the explosion.  Late Tuesday night crews announced they had located 11 other bodies, which would be removed soon.

At least one man was given oxygen treatment to offset, the effects of gas he inhaled.

45 Removed, Identified; Company Thinks Others Buried Under Falls in Blast Center
Charleston Gazette, West Virginia
May 14, 1942

Osage, May 13 -- (AP) -- Four more bodies were carried out of the Christopher Coal Company's No. 3 mine late tonight by rescue workers, bringing to 45 the total removed from the operation rocked by an explosion yesterday afternoon.

Eleven other victims were still buried under the heavy falls in the center of the blast area, and company officials expressed the belief it would take hours to extricate them from the debris.

Mine Head Joins Squads

Frank Christopher, president of the company, joined the rescue crews in their toil earlier in the day and was still in the pit when the four bodies were brought to the surface.

Three of the bodies recovered tonight were identified as those of J. W. Mitchell, 52, cutter, of Morgantown; Allen Baughman, 32, machine operator, Fairview, and James Gatian, 33, trackman, of Riverside.  The identity of the fourth man was not immediately determined.

The rescue crews hauled three bodies to the surface yesterday and removed 42 others today to the accompaniment of sobs from grief-stricken widows and children who stood among the hundreds of spectators around the mine mouth.

Autos Choke Road

The road leading from Morgantown, four miles south, was choked with automobiles again today as throngs of relatives and the merely curious visited the operation.

Officials expressed themselves as certain there were 11 more bodies in the mine after making an exhaustive check, but all apparently were in the hard-hit third section affected by the blast.

Chief N. P. Rhinehart of the state mines department, confessing himself still at a loss about the cause of the explosion, explained that an investigation would not be started until after all bodies are found.

Hasn't "Least Idea"

Speaking of the workings as a whole, Rhinehart said:
The mine is not so badly torn, with not a whole lot of falls.  I haven't yet drawn any conclusions as to the cause of the explosion ..... I haven't the least idea.
The five rescue crews, working in four-hour shifts, still were forced to wear oxygen helmets because of fumes remaining in the affected area of the mine, three miles underground.  Four were overcome as a result of overexertion but their condition was not considered serious.

Ambulances carried the victims to Morgantown to await funeral arrangements.

Brass checks, lamp and family records were searched during the day as officials sought to determine for certain those who lost their lives.

Assistant Foreman Killed

During the check, it was discovered that Tom Friesen, a loader who had been reported dead, was alive.  Eddie Jefferson, a loader whose name was not on the original list of those trapped, was found dead.

Among those killed in the blast were Assistant Day Foreman Tony Belec and the three shift leaders in the mechanized operation, each working in a different section.

One of the victims, Thomas Cordwell, 50, of Osage, a machinist, left a widow and 13 children.

Unofficial List of Dead
The unofficial list of the men dead and missing and their survivors:
Darrell Adams, 34, machine operator, Mt. Morris, Pa., widow and two children
Roy Batton, 33, motorman, Osage, widow
Tony Belec, 28, assistant day mine foreman, Riverside, widow and one child
Thomas O. Bringegar, Sr., 55, trackman, Osage, widow and seven children
John B. Cook, 40, trapper, Osage, widow and three children
Berman Cooker, 42, motorman, Watson, widow and two children
Thomas Cordwell, 50, machinist, Osage, wife and 13 children
Robert Joseph Covert, 33, wireman, Morgantown, widow
Alfonzo Crook, 25, Negro, brakeman, Cassville, widow
Arthur Cunningham, 34, machine operator, Cassville, widow and two children
Homer Dee Cunningham, 30, mechanic, Morgantown, brother of Arthur, widow and one child
Edward Delaney, 33, motorman, Core, widow and four children
Douglas Donaldson, 26, timberman, Maidsville, divorced, one child
George Fagulla, 29, machine operator, Riverside, widow
John Paul Gaspar, 32, timberman, Morgantown, wife and two children
Earl Henderson, 29, machine operator, Laurel Point, widow and three children
Edward Jefferson, 38, Negro, brakeman, Osage, widow and six children
Allen (Jack) Jones, Jr., Negro, brakeman, Granville, widow
Basil Reed Lafferty, 40, shift leader, Morgantown, widow and one child
Harold Little, 32, shift leader, Morgantown R. D. 3, widow and two children
Everett Marshall, 26, trackman, Osage, widow and two children
Sam May, 46, trackman, Star City, widow and five children
Homer Mayfield, 58, timberman, Cassville, widow and four children
Edward Leo McCardle, 27, brakeman, Morgantown, widow and one child
John McGee, Sr., 41, shift leader, Osage, widow and six children
Junior McGee, 23, timberman, Maidsville, son of Shift Leader McGee, widow and one child
Floyd Metheny, 30, machine operator, Morgantown R. D. 3, widow and four children
Frederick Lee Mongold, 36, motorman, Osage, widow and two children
Harry Moody, 26, trackman, Smithfield, Pa., widow and two children
Dan Morris, 31, machine operator, Riverside, widow, one child
Harlan C. Murphy, 35, machine operator, Jere, widow and two children
Harold Murphy, 18, trackman, Cassville, single
Nick Nimcheck, 22, pumper, Morgantown, widow
Frank Powley, 48, shot fireman, Osage, widow, seven children
John Powley, 29, timberman, Osage, widow
William Shinko, 50, timberman, Chaplin, single
Bruce Stone, 55, brakeman, Pentress, widow and three children
Hoye Thompson, 46, trackman, Morgantown R. D. 1, widow
Russell Wade Turner, 26, wireman, Morgantown, widow and one child
Delford Whetzell, 38, brakeman, Cassville, widow

The 12 believed still in the mine were identified as:
William J. Cannon, Jr., 21, trackman, Albright, widow
Attilio Dorinzi, 53, trackman, Jerome Park, widow and seven children
James Foley, 58, trackman, Deer Park, Md., widow and seven children
Albert Frazier, 24, machine operator, Morgantown, widow
John Frield, 33, snapper, Pursglove, widow and two children
Austin James, 43, Fairmont R. D. 7, widow and three children
Kermit Mayfield, 18, timberman, Cassville, single
Edson McClain, 31, Arthurdale, widow and two children
Stewart Mills, 41, trackman, Morgantown, widow, three children
A. P. Morris, 35, trackman, Osage, widow and 11 children
William Newhouse, 48, trackman, Osage, two children
Dennis Wolfe, 41, trackman, Osage, widow

Additional sources for the fatalities in this disaster can be found here:

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