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Union Pacific Coal Company
Hanna No. 1 Mine Explosion and Fire

Hanna, Carbon County, Wyoming
June 30, 1903
No. Killed - 169

State Inspector's Final Investigation Report  PDF Format
See also: Hanna No. 1 Mine Explosion, Mar. 28, 1908

Successful Rescue

About 3 hours after the explosion, four men were taken out alive and a half hour later they were followed by forty-two others.  Many were unconscious and had to be carried from the workings.  Several were in a serious condition, but it was believed all would recover.

From the Cheyenne Daily Leader
June 30 - July 6, 1903

At 10:30 a.m. the mine was wrecked by an explosion of gas when 215 men were in the pit.  Flames burst forth with great fury, and the mouth of the mine was filled with debris.

The explosion was thought to have originated at the end of the slope, 1½ miles underground.  The blast tore timbers from the slope and hurled them far outside.

Entrance was made through the manway, and bodies of men and mules were found throughout the mine.  A fire was burning and gas accumulated in the workings.

Forty-six men were rescued alive.  A survivor related that 2 explosions occurred about 2 seconds apart, one from blasting, the other from the ignition of gas and dust.

Attempts to control the fire and open the lower levels failed, and the mine was sealed at the 14th level.

The mine was reopened in November, but some parts were left sealed and 1 body was not recovered.

Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I

Appalling Loss of Life in the Hanna Colliery in Wyoming
The Fort Wayne Sentinel, Indiana
July 1, 1903

Hanna, Wyo., July 1. -- According to the best information obtainable this morning, 235 men out of 282 who were in the mine were killed in the explosion here yesterday.  The majority of the victims are Finlanders and negroes.

A small army of rescuers, spurred on by the frantic appeals of wives, mothers and children who gathered at the mine, worked with desperate energy all night.  They tell of pitiful scenes at the seventeenth level, the lowest point reached during the night.

Fought The Rescuers

Some of the survivors were driven insane and fought furiously against the rescuers.  Dazed, listless survivors were found sitting on cars or lying on the floor, careless of whether they lived or died.  Near the seventeenth level twenty bodies were found strewn over a pile of debris which the men had striven to surmount before they were overcome by the deadly fumes.  Some were seared and blackened by flames, but all had died crawling toward fresh air.  The eleven rescuers who penetrated thus far were too weak to bring out a body.

For hours the scene at the mouth of the level was heart moving.  With clothes and hair awry, mothers, wives, sweethearts and children huddled together, weeping and wringing their hands.  Many sat on shattered timbers blown from the mine's mouth insensible to their surroundings.

Tried To Enter Mine

The most frantic pushed to the edge of the gap and tried to force a way into the slope.

An expert who went almost to the seventeenth level says the mine cannot possibly be cleared for a month.  It is feared that men in the lower levels were torn to pieces by the explosion, which hurled great timbers high over the town and 1,700 feet beyond the mouth of the slope.

Among the dead is Alfred Hapgood, who turned the first shovel of dirt in starting the slope.  The fire bosses who had reported all safe before working time yesterday met death while making a second inspection.

Only Forty-six Recued at Hanna, Wyoming
The New York Times, New York
July 1, 1903

Hanna, Wyoming, June 30. -- Hanna was the scene of a terrible disaster at 10:30 today when an explosion of fire damp in Mine No. 1 of the Union Pacific Coal Company snuffed out the lives of 234 men, injured scores of others and caused the destruction of a vast amount of property.

The mine was not fired, as was stated in the earlier reports, but the explosino was terrific and completely shattered the timbers of the main shaft and numerous entrances, filling the working with debris, and those of the miners that were not killed outright by the explosion were buried alive.

The explosion was heard for many miles around and attracted people from the adjoining settlements.  Huge timbers and railroad iron were hurled 300 feet from the mouth of the shaft.

Forty-Six Men Rescued

Superintendent E. S. Brooks and a large force of men began the work of removing the debris from the shaft that they might reach the entombed miners.  Their progress into the mine was blocked by the foul gases and several times they were forced to return to the surface.

All day the rescuing party worked, the force being increased from time to time by the arrival of ranchmen and others from near-by settlements and by that of a relief train sent out from Rawlings, which arrived at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.  About 1 o'clock this afternoon four men were taken out alive and a half hour later they were followed by forty-two others.  Many were unconscious and had to be carried from the workings.  Several are in a serious condition, but it is believed all will recover.

Rescuers Unable To Go Further

Two hundred and eighty-two men went down in the mine at 7 o'clock this morning, and up to a late hour tonight only forty-eight have been accounted for.  Of this number two are dead.

It was some time after the explosion occurred that the first man was brought to the surface.  He was followed by others until 1 o'clock, when the last of the forty-eight was brought out.

The rescuers were unable to penetrate further into the mine, as it was necessary to make another opening to permit fresh air to reach the lower levels.

Horses and scrapers were put at work hauling debris from the shaft.  The work is progressing slowly, owing to the narrow space in which the rescuers are compelled to operate, but by day-light the mine should be opened sufficiently to permit of deep explorations and the rescue of the dead bodies.

Late tonight a party of rescuers reached four mules that were alive, and this caused renewed hope.  It is a faint hope, however, for experienced mine bosses and miners say that when the imprisoned men are reached all will be found dead.

Too Frightened To Escape

Some of the miners who escaped say they saw twenty dead bodies in entry No. 17.  They reported that many of the men were crazed by the explosion and ran hither and thither in the mine.

Many of these could have escaped, but they lay down, buried their faces in their hands and gave up the fight.  Of the 234 dead about 175 were married and leave large families.  About 100 were Finlanders, 50 were colored, and the rest were Americans.

The Hanna mines are the best on the Union Pacific system, having been established in 1878.  The town was named for Senator Mark Hanna, when he was a member of the Union Pacific Company.  Mine No. 1 is practically a new property.  It has twenty-six entries, fifteen miles of workings, and a main incline shaft of one and one-half miles in length.

The mine has been recognized as a dangerous property for some time on account of the large amount of gas, but the system of ventilation has been so good that an accident was not anticipated.

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