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Mine Disasters in the United States


Zeigler Coal Company
Zeigler Mine Explosion and Fire

Zeigler, Franklin County, Illinois
January 10, 1909
No. Killed - 26

Consolidated Zeigler Mine Recoveries Report  (4.6 Mb)  PDF Format
Includes recovery efforts following these disaster events at the Zeigler Mine:
See also:   Zeigler Mine Explosion, Apr. 3, 1905
Zeigler Mine Fire, Nov. 3, 1908
Zeigler Mine Explosion, Feb. 10, 1909

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
(news links open in a separate window)


Rescuer Deaths

During recovery efforts following a fire at this mine, marsh gas from the west "C" south entries was carried over an area where the fire had raged and an explosion occurred which killed 26 men and again wrecked the mine.  Earlier, in 2 separate disaster events in this mine, 80 rescuers were killed; mine explosion on April 3, 1905 - 49 dead; and a mine fire on November 3, 1908 - 31 dead.


(From report by R. Y. Williams, Federal Geological Survey)

A fire on November 8, 1908, was caused by crossed electric wires and when attempts to fight it were unsuccessful the mine shafts were sealed.  Thirty-one men were killed during the time the fire was fought.  Sulfur gas and finally steam was forced into the workings through a borehole.

On January 9, 1909, the seals were removed, and the fan started.  A crew of men entered the mine to restore ventilation and clean up the mine.  At 12:15 a.m. on January 10, gas that filled the upper end of the West C south entries was carried over the region where the fire had previously raged, and an explosion occurred which killed 26 men and again wrecked the mine.  Forty hours later black smoke issued from the airshaft and immediately both shafts were sealed.

On February 9, 1909, the fan was started, and the seals opened.  A crew entered to restore ventilation.  At 11:15, February 10, three men near 1st West C south saw fire ignite a body of gas ahead of them, causing an explosion that killed three men at the shaft bottom.  Eleven men, including the three that saw the ignition start, escaped.  The shafts were again sealed and left closed for 15 months.


19 Dead in Leiter Mine Explosion
The New York Times, New York
January 11, 1909

Zeigler, Ill., Jan. 10. -- Nineteen men are known to have been killed in an explosion in Joseph Leiter's coal mine here early this morning.  Several others, who were in the mine at the time of the explosion, are missing.

The mine has been called the model mine in the world.  It is equipped with the most modern machinery of all kinds and with every known device to secure protection to the men working there.

The cause of the explosion is not known.  One theory is that the explosion followed the ignition of black damp which escaped from portions of the mine which had been sealed because of a fire that had been blazing in the shaft for several weeks.

Mr. Leiter, who has spent the day in rescue work, offers no theory.

The night shift had been in the mine but a few hours when the blast came.  Twenty-six are known to have gone into the shaft.  Of this number two men have been taken out seriously injured and nineteen bodies have been recovered.

The names of the known dead follow:
  • Andrejoff, A.
  • Evans, J. O.
  • Gangoff, Arome
  • Hubbard, Thomas
  • Ivanoff, Stephen
  • Jones, Gale
  • Kassay, John
  • Kerr, Obert
  • Morgan, Fred
  • Puckett, Seeber
  • Phillips, John
  • Phillips, James
  • Richardson, Joseph
  • Smothers, Charles
  • Tate, Joseph
  • Wallace, Omas
Three Men, names not yet ascertained.

Despite the efforts to rescue the men not yet accounted for, it is not known whether they are alive or dead in the mine.

The mine had been closed for several weeks on account of a serious fire in the working places, until early in this month, when Mr. Leiter came down from Chicago and took charge of the work of extinguishing the flames.

So effective was this work that the blaze was confined and sealed in a small portion of the workings.  Then the debris was cleared away and everything made ready to resume operations.  Active mining was resumed on a small scale yesterday, and it was the intention of the management to put on the full force of miners during the coming week.

The explosion this morning was remarkable in that no noise or rumbling was heard or felt by the residents of Zeigler, and the only warning that anything wrong had happened was a small gust of black smoke emerging from the main shaft.

When this was seen the engineer summoned assistance, and men were sent down.  They found that the interior of the mine was not damaged, nor was any of the top works.  There is scarcely any trace of the explosion.

Mrs. Leiter Nursed Wounded

Mr. Leiter was told of the disaster and he immediately took charge of the rescue work.  Mrs. Leiter spent the entire day in assisting the rescue work and nursing the injured.

Mr. Leiter declared tonight that he had no explanation to make of the disaster.  He also denied the report circulated here that he contemplated closing the mine or retiring from the management.  He says the property has just been placed in condition to operate, and that he hopes to be able to hoist the usual capacity within a few days.

Coroner Dye of Christopher held an inquest over the bodies of the nineteen men killed.  After hearing the evidence adjournment was taken until 9 o'clock tomorrow morning, when the Coroner's jury is expected to return its verdict.

The disaster today was the latest incident in the spectacular career of the Zeigler mine, which has been the scene of the battle between Mr. Leiter and organized labor.  This fight has been of wide interest, because of the use of firearms.  Mr. Leiter, in 1903, opened the mine, and built a model town, with schools, paved streets, electric lights, and water works for the exclusive use of his men.

The mine itself is said to be one of the best equipped in the world.  It is lighted with electricity and equipped with the most improved machinery.  It was the latter that brought about the trouble.  The miners insisted that the combined weighing and loading machine was not accurate.  Mr. Leiter insisted that it was.  The trouble grew, and the United Mine Workers officials ordered a strike.



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