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Dayton Coal And Iron Company
Nelson Mine Explosion

Dayton, Rhea County, Tennessee
March 31, 1902
No. Killed - 16

See also: Nelson Mine Explosion, Dec. 20, 1895
New Richland Mine Explosion, May 27, 1901

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Many Lives Sacrificed by Imperfect Fuse in Tennessee Mine
The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Indiana
April 1, 1902

Chattanooga, Tenn., March 21. -- At 4:45 o'clock this afternoon an explosion of gas in the Nelson mine of the Dayton Coal & Iron company, at Dayton, Tenn., ignited the dry coal dust in the mine and caused a terrific explosion.  Twenty-two men are known to be dead.  Ten bodies have been recovered.  Twelve bodies are still in the mine.

The Dead:
  • Lark Hunter
  • Alex Taffer
  • James Franklin
  • John Harney
  • Tom Shaver
  • James Harris
  • P. G. Travis, all white
  • George Griffiths
  • Ben Griffiths
  • Reese Dean
  • Norris Piersoll
  • Morgan Smith
  • John Robinson
  • J. E. Hill
  • Bryant Smith
  • Mack Foust, all colored, and six others, names unknown
Fatally Injured:
  • W. T. Head, brother of James Head, superintendent of the mine, burned, injured internally; will die.
Seriously Injured:
  • James Riley, white, right leg broken, bruised about head and face
  • Will Presnell, white, badly burned
  • William Scarbrough, white, badly burned
  • Arthur Hughes, white
  • George Wafford, colored
  • Tom Cummings, white
  • Henry Gonyen, white
Gas exists in the Nelson mine and the men are required to use safety lamps.  It is the rule of the company for the miners to place their fuses ready to be lighted for blasts just before quitting work each day and there are workmen known as "firemen" who go through the mine after all the miners are out and set off these blasts.  The miners quit work at 4:30 o'clock this afternoon.

It takes them about forty-five minutes to get out of the work.  The two "firemen" today who are supposed to have caused the explosion were Lark Hunter and John Harney.  They shot the blasts about 4:45 o'clock -- before all the miners could get out of the mine.

It is supposed that one of the fuses was defective and resulted in what is known as a "blown blast." The flame shooting out from the blast, ignited the gas, which in turn ignited the accumulation of dry coal dust in the mine.  The explosion that followed was horrible in its intensity.  It shot out of the mouth of the mine and completely wrecked the shed at the mine entrance.  Three men were killed while standing outside the mine and two seriously and one fatally injured.

This mine has been the scene of two serious explosions in the past.  In 1889 four men were killed and eight seriously injured by an explosion of gas.

On December 28, 1895, an explosion of mine dust occurred in which twenty-eight lives were lost.  This was caused by a miner carrying an open lamp contrary to the regulations.

In May, 1901, an explosion of a similar nature occurred in the Richland mine, operated by the same company, in which twenty lives were lost.

The force of the explosion in the Nelson mine today was terrible.  Bodies were literally mangled and torn to pieces.  The company states that there were seventy-five men at work in the mine today.  Most of them were out of the mine when the explosion occurred.

Reports from Dayton at midnight, show that eleven dead bodies have been taken from the Nelson mine.  The company claims there are but eight more in the mine.  Miners claim there are twelve to fifteen more.  Rescuing parties are at work but at a late hour tonight struck a heavy fall of slate that will delay them for a day or two.

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