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St. Lawrence and Anaconda Mines
Anacondas Copper Mine Explosives Detonation

Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana
April 11, 1896
No. Killed - 6

See also St. Lawrence Copper Mine Fire, November 23, 1889

Explosion in the St. Lawrence at Butte City

Anaconda, Mont., (Tribune Special) April 11. -- Six miners lost their lives this morning about 4 o'clock in the St. Lawrence mine, one of the Anaconda properties in Butte City, by an explosion of giant powder.

The deceased are:
  • John Quinlan
  • Con J. Lowney
  • Ed Shields
  • Pat O'Rourke
  • James Dwyer
  • John McVeigh
The explosion occurred on the 1100-foot level, about 120 feet from the shaft, but what caused it will probably never be known.  All of the men who could tell the story were killed by the explosion or buried in the cave-in which immediately followed it.

The bodies are buried to a depth of fifteen feet under debris, consisting of stone and timbers, and the work of recovering them is exceedingly perilous, owing to the overhanging rock.

Manager Marcus Daly of the Anaconda Company immediately went to Butte, and is giving his personal attention to the rescue, which is conducted by Superintendent O'Neil.

Of the men killed it is said all were skillful miners.

Con Lowney and John Quinlan were the shaft men, and the other four miners were working in the drift southeast of the shaft.  The shaft men were working eight-hour shifts, having gone to work at 11 o'clock in the evening, while the men employed in the drift were working the usual ten-hour shift, and as the miners quit work at 4:30 o'clock in the morning, they had been making preparations at the time of the explosion to go out to the station to take the cage for the surface.

Quinlan and Lowney had finished putting down a set of holes, and both men went into the last drift, where the powder was stored to secure a sufficient quantity of the explosive to use in blasting the holes.  Five minutes elapsed from the time they left the shaft until the explosion occurred.  The miners on the levels immediately above the 1100 heard the report and felt the earth tremble, and a rush was made for the station, many of the men believing that a tremendous cave-in had occurred.

The station tender, who was on the cage in the shaft at the time, was one of the first to surmise the cause.  With a number of men who had rushed to the stations to ascertain the cause of the explosion, he went down to the 1100-level.  The air of the station was heavily charged with powder smoke, and in the drifts landing east piles of dirt had fallen through the broken laggings and blocked their progress.

With the hope that possibly some of the men were still alive beyond the cave, pipes were driven through and compressed air is being pumped into the level.  Every man who can find space in which to work is employed in clearing away the dirt, but they progress slowly, as they must retimber for their own protection as they go along.

About 2 o'clock two bodies were uncovered, but before they could be taken out or identified, another cave-in covered them up.

The victims:
  • Ed Shields, was unmarried, and formerly worked in the Comstock mines.
  • Con Lowney, was 34 years of age, and leaves a wife and baby.
  • John Quinlan, came West from Ishpeming, Mich.
  • John H. McVeigh, has a wife and four children in Cumberland, England.
O'Rourke and Dwyer are believed to be single men.  Dwyer formerly lived in Leadville.

Following so closely upon the catastrophe at Basin, when seven men were killed, this disaster has a depressing effect upon the entire State.  The death roll for the week is thirteen men killed in the mines.

Butte, Mont., April 11. -- Later -- One of the bodies is recovered.  It is that of Con Lowney.  The left arm was gone and the body terribly mangled and the legs and neck broken.  The others cannot be reached tonight, as the ground must be secured.  Still Later -- The body of Quinlan has been recovered.

The four men in the level beyond the magazine or some of them, must have been coming out and got in the vicinity of the explosion.  Their position also indicates the men were carrying out the powder to use it when the explosion occurred and that the shock exploded the powder in the magazine.

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