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Mine Disasters in the United States


Big Muddy Coal and Mining Company
Johnston City Mine Explosives Detonation

Johnston City, Williamson County, Illinois
January 29, 1907
No. Killed 7

Description:  An explosion of thirty kegs of powder in this mine resulted in the death of seven men.  The cause of the explosion, in the opinion of the State Inspector, was due to rough handling of the powder by the men while unloading it from the car and placing it at convenient points where the drivers would pick it up and distribute it to different places in the mine.  The majority of those killed were leaving the bottom, on foot, to go to their working places.


(From the 1907 Illinois Annual Coal Report)

The seven following fatalities were caused by the explosion of thirty kegs of powder in the mine of the Johnson City & Big Muddy Coal & Mining Company, located at Johnston City, Williamson county, at about 11:30 a.m., January 29, 1907.

The practice of handling powder and delivering it at the mine was as follows: The miners order the powder at the office, these orders are given to the teamster, who hauls the powder from the powder house and delivers it at the top of the shaft; the powder is then loaded into a mine car and sent down the shaft; from the bottom of the shaft the powder is taken north 120 feet where the main east and west entries are turned off of the north entry.

Three men were employed at the time of the explosion, unloading the powder from the mine car and placing it north of the tracks for distribution; one of these men was in the car handing the powder to another man outside of the car; this man then passed the kegs to the third man to be placed where the different drivers would get the powder, at this point, and take it into the miners who had ordered powder for that day.

I am of the opinion that the explosion was due to the rough handling of the kegs of powder when taken from the mine car and to where the powder is placed, which is 12 feet from the car and 6 feet 6 inches from the north rail.  There was no coal dust nor fire damp near the point of the explosion; Frank Meagher was handing the kegs of powder out of the car to Jess Davis, Davis in turns handing the kegs to Martin Lawry, who was placing them in the place as described.

Following are the names, ages, occupation, etc., of the seven men:
  • George Patterson, bottom laborer, aged 26 years, single, living at Johnston City, died at 11:00 p.m., January 30, 1907.
  • Martin Lawry, driver, aged 25 years, married, living at Johnston City, died at 10:00 p.m., January 29, 1907 and leaves a widow and one child.
  • Jess Davis, driver, aged 25 years, married, living at Johnston City, died at 3:30 p.m., January 29, 1907 and leaves a widow and one child.
  • Romulus Fenrenboker, driver, aged 20 years, single, living at Johnston City, was instantly killed.
  • Claus Morse, cager, aged 46 years, widower, living at Galatia, died January 31, 1907, leaving one child.
  • Phelix Toner, bottom laborer, aged 27 years, married, living at Murphysboro, died at 9:00 p.m., January 29, 1907 and leaves a widow and one child.
  • Frank Meager, flagman, aged 17 years, single, living at Johnston City, died at 4:00 p.m., January 29, 1907.


    Five Dead at Johnston City
    Daily Free Press, Carbondale, Illinois
    January 30, 1907

    Johnston City, Illinois -- The accident at the Johnston City and Big Muddy mine at Johnston City proves to have been even more serious than the brief account in last night's Free Press indicated.  Five men are already dead and there are others whom it is thought cannot live.

    Nearly a score were injured in the explosion, an explosion of thirty-five kegs of giant powder which were being removed from a car in which they had been lowered to the bottom of the mine.

    The dead are as follows:
    • Romulus Fehrenbaker, aged 19; killed instantly
    • Ted Davis, aged 25; lived three hours
    • Frank Meagher; lived two hours
    • Felix Toner, aged 21; died at 7 p.m.
    • Martin Lawnrey, aged 27; lived twelve hours
    Of the men injured, George Patterson was reported to be in a dying condition today, and four others so seriously injured that their recovery is considered doubtful.



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