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Woodward Iron Company
Mulga Mine Explosion

Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama
October 15, 1937
No. Killed - 34

USBM Final Investigation Report  (775 Kb)  PDF Format
See also: Mulga Mine Explosion - Apr. 20, 1910
Mulga Mine Explosion - Oct. 5, 1914

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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33 Killed at Mulga as Blast Shatters Mine
Star Anniston, Alabama
October 16, 1937

Mulga, Ala., Oct. 16 (UP) -- Thirty-three bodies have been located in the Woodward Iron Company's coal mine which was partly wrecked by an underground explosion early today, Robert M. Marshall, vice president of the company, announced at 7 a.m.

Only one of the 34 workers on the level where the blast occurred was saved.  Ivan Fox, miner, was taken to the Bessemer Hospital where physicians said he was suffering from burns and gas.

Grimy rescue crews brought the last of the bodies of the victims to the surface shortly after 9 a.m., and Robert M. Marshall, vice president of the Woodward Company, announced officially that the disaster's toll was 33 dead and one injured.

Of the total dead, 12 were white men and 21 were Negroes.  Few of the bodies were mangled, the men apparently having died from burns and gas asphyxiation.

Apparent cause of the blast was the explosion of methane gas, according to Frank B. Hillhouse, state mine inspector.  Hillhouse said, however, that a "thorough investigation" would be necessary to officially establish the cause.

The explosion wrecked but one level of the shaft mine and about 560 other workers fled to safety when the concussion warned them of the danger.

The bodies recovered were burned but not mangled.  Officials said that the miner's dead had their hands over their faces in an effort to keep from breathing the deadly black damp -- fumes that followed the explosion.

After rescue crews reported to the surface officials announced that it appeared 12 white and 21 Negro miners had been killed.

They listed the white miners missing as:
  • Horace Hogan
  • Earl Williams
  • Hobarat Higgins
  • Howard Cooper
  • Luther Cooper
  • Charles Click
  • Clyde Masters
  • Dick Eastus
  • Joe Boyd
  • Leed Bradley
  • Joseph Skinner
  • John Bagwell
Robert Davis, 27, Negro trip rider in the mine, was one of the rescue heroes.
"I was about 500 feet from the explosion," Davis told the United Press.  "There was a noise like a shot gun going off in my ear."

"Man I was scared.  I couldn't move for a minute and the lights went out."

"I could smell that there was gas coming up.  I wanted to get out then."

"I jumped on the carrier and got to the surface land."
Sent To Warn Others

But Davis' stay on the surface was short.  Officials pressed him back to the pit and ordered him below.
"They told me to go down and warn the other men below of the explosion.  So I had to get back on the carrier and go on down."

"I was scared to death but I managed to stay down a while and got to about 100 miners."

"I told them to 'scat' that something had bust.  They did."

"When I couldn't find any more men to tell I come up again."
The approximate 600 men of the night shift were in the mine, but the others were working on separate levels and were not hurt or endangered, though some were near enough to be knocked down by the explosion.  They came steaming to the surface where their fears were calmed and they were organized into rescue parties and sent back below.

Explosion Rocks Community

The explosion occurred at 1 a.m. CST, and was heard for miles around, rocking this hamlet of 500 people, 12 miles from Birmingham.  While no cause could be assigned immediately, mining experts blamed coal dust.

Immediately after the explosion alarm spread over the countryside dotted with the mines and steel mills of the vast Birmingham Industrial district.  The road leading up through the hills to Mulga from Birmingham was jammed with ambulances and the cars of physicians, all racing to the scene.  Miners gathered and within a few hours several thousand were at the shaft head where the sobbing wives and mothers and sweethearts of the men who had not come up out of the depths tried not to believe the worse.

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