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Franklin Coal and Coke Company
Royalton North No. 1 Mine Fire and Explosion

Royalton, Franklin County, Illinois
September 28, 1918
No. Killed - 21

See also: Royalton North No. 1 Mine Explosion, October 27, 1914
(From Bureau of Illinois report, by W. B. Plank)

A fire caused by black-powder shots was discovered about midnight, Sept. 27, and a crew with several mine officials had nearly completed a seal on the intake when a man was sent to a telephone to order more materials.

The telephone was through a door and in the return from the fire.  His open light ignited gas, and he was burned.  Although rescued he died the next day.  Twenty-one men were killed by suffocation, and 13 others were slightly gassed.

Apparatus men recovered six bodies, but the rest were sealed in until the fire was under control.  Flame safety lamps were being used by the sealing crew; but there were not enough for all, and some had open carbide lamps.

Air in part of the section had been short-circuited to increase the amount ventilating the fire area.  The explosion did not propagate any great distance from its point of origin.

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

(From the 1918 Annual Illinois Coal Report)

An explosion occurred at the north mine of Royalton on September 27th, 1918, causing the deaths of 21 men as follows: ten miners, two bratticemen, the superintendent, the mine manager, three assistant mine managers, two examiners, the mine electrician and the motor boss.

Late on the preceding night a fire was discovered at room 25 off the 2's panel off the 4 ES.  The room was driven in about 25 feet from the entry.  The fire was caused by the blasting which was a very frequent occurrence at this mine since black powder was used as the explosive.  The fire evidently had gained much headway for its smoke and gasses caused the death of two mules on the return air current at the main shaft bottom, about 3,000 feet from the fire and prior to the explosion.

The 28th room neck was the last one turned off both the first and second south panels.  The second south is the intake and the first south the return for the air current, this return traveling into the face of the main south thence direct along the haulage road to the shaft bottom.

The fire fighters had decided to build seals between rooms 21 and 22 on each panel entry.  They had nearly completed the seal on the intake (second south panel) when one of the men was sent out on an errand.  A telephone was located on the return air side of the 4 ES at the neck of the first south panel.  The door between the first and second south panel was nailed shut but this man pried it open and was walking into the return air when his naked light ignited gas.  The explosion blew this man back through the door, into the intake air and he was found crawling out towards the bottom on the intake air course by rescuers.  He was burned, but not badly.  He probably gasped at the time of the explosion which resulted in his death later.  He lived to give the information that he had ignited the gas with his naked light on the return airway.  He died the second day after the explosion.

Rescue men with and without oxygen apparatus gathered as soon as possible and men equipped with oxygen apparatus went into the panel as far as the temperature would permit.  Six bodies were found between rooms 9 and 15.  The first body found still had a lighted carbide lamp.  These six bodies showed indications that there had been efforts made to rush out.  There were but little signs of violence where these bodies were found.  The bodies showed no signs of being burned or singed.

The accumulation of gas, together with the existence of the fire, would not permit the ventilation of the panel and since the oxygen apparatus men could not advance farther than room No. 16 because of the intense heat, it was decided to seal the panels temporarily.

On the night of October 5th the panel was again entered.  This was by means of air locks and the remaining 14 bodies were brought out by the apparatus men.  This work was very efficiently done, not one man being overcome regardless of the great distance the bodies were carried.

The bodies were found covered with about six inches to eight inches of top coal.  These men evidently had not had time to even attempt to get out.  They, also, were killed by the afterdamp, the explosion violence nor flame having reached them.  These bodies were found at the places where they had been working.  The seal which they had nearly completed was blown down but did not show effects of other violence.

The panel was again sealed and the mine resumed operation on October 10th.

The force of this very weak explosion exerted itself in the NS entry and the SW section of the mine.  Coal dust entered but little if any to propagate the explosion.  Low oxygen content, dampness and large expansion area were factors in the prevention of extreme violence.

Official List of the Deceased:
  • W. H. Alvis, assistant mine manager, age 33, married, leaves two dependents.
  • J. E. Beck, miner, age 27, single, leaves three dependents.
  • W. J. Boatman, miner, age 25, single.
  • Grover Capps, assistant mine manager, age 33, married, leaves four dependents.
  • A. E. Capstick, superintendent, age 36, married, leaves eight dependents.
  • James Dickerson, motorman, age 35, married, leaves four dependents.
  • Wm. A. Ditterline, bratticeman, age 29, married, leaves three dependents.
  • John Elejanczyk, miner, single.
  • Tony Furlih, bratticeman, age 37, single.
  • Jettie Harris, miner, age 24, married, leaves one dependent.
  • Anton Heberet, assistant mine manager, age 32, married, leaves four dependents.
  • Theo. F. Helm, mine manager, age 36, married, leaves four dependents.
  • W. H. Holland, miner, age 46, married, leaves three dependents.
  • John Hynd, mine examiner, age 49, single, leaves one dependent.
  • John Karloveck, miner.
  • John Lee, miner, age 34, married, leaves four dependents.
  • E. McCleary, miner, age 24, married, leaves two dependents.
  • Harry McLaughlin, miner, age 33, married, leaves two dependents.
  • Archie Storrie, mine examiner, age 62, married, leaves two dependents.
  • Warren L. Stroud, miner, age 24, married, leaves one dependent.
  • Robert Watts, miner, age 35, married, leaves four dependents.

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