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Phelps Dodge and Company
Stag Canon No. 1 Mine Explosion

Dawson, Colfax County, New Mexico
February 8, 1923
No. Killed - 120

USBM Final Investigation Report  (4.1 Mb)  PDF Format
HSA Bulletin Article on Stag Canon No. 1  (3.6 Mb)  PDF Format

See also: Stag Canon No. 2 Explosion, Oct. 28, 1913

(From Bureau of Mines report by D. Harrington)

About 2:20 p.m. an explosion on the main entry spread out the entry to the drift mouth and over most of the workings, killing 120 of the 122 men underground.

After repairing the fan housing, rescue workers proceeded inside restoring ventilation as they went.  About 8 o'clock the next morning two men from an isolated section walked out unaided.

The explosion demolished rockdust barriers on the main entry and aircourse without stopping.  A locomotive had put two loaded cars on the track after dragging them 100 feet, knocking out several timbers in doing so.  The trolley and feed wires came down on the steel cars, and arcs set off the dense cloud of dust dislodged from the timbers.

The explosion was propagated through the mine by the coal dust.  Sprinkling had been confined to wetting cars and the floor of entries and was ineffective.  Rockdusting and rockdust barriers were recommended.

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

Miners Buried Alive
Akron Weekly Pioneer Press, Akron, Colorado
February 16, 1923

Dawson, N. M. -- A terrific explosion that rocked the workings of coal mine No. 1 of the Phelps-Dodge Corporation here entombed 122 miners working inside.

The explosion occurred at 2:30 o'clock in the afternoon and tore away all of the heavy concrete work at the mouth of the mine entry.  Within a short time after the blast rescue workers had cleared the debris from the mouth of the mine and a rescue crew, led by W. D. Brennan, general manager of the mine, entered.  The imprisoned miners were about 5,000 feet from the portal of the mine.

The cause of the explosion is a mystery.  A statement by the company declared the mine was well sprinkled and was not gaseous.

The explosion did not wreck the mine fan and ventilation soon was established.

The explosion was the second in Phelps-Dodge property here, a similar accident in mine No. 2 wiping out 263 lives in 1913.

While company workers who volunteered for rescue duty were continuing their efforts the United States bureau of miners started a rescue car here from Hanna, Wyo., and a second car sent by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company was sent from Trinidad.

Almost before the reverberation from the explosion ended, scored of women and children, members of the families of the miners, run to the mouth of the property.  Weeping for their loved ones inside they pressed forward about the cordon of guards formed in front of the mouth of the mine.  The guards kept them back so that the work of rescue parties would not be hampered.

The loss of life may be large, although the usual precautionary measures taking in the mining operations will undoubtedly result in saving those in the inner workings of the soft coal mine beyond the immediate field of the explosion.

The mine is one of the largest operated by the company at Dawson and was previously the scene of a subterranean tomb as the aftermath of the blast.

For more than a week, rescue crews braved the dangers of falling debris, fire, and gas, before the last bodies of the miners killed in the blast and fire were recovered.

Officials at the time were unable to account for the disastrous explosion in the Stag canon mine No. 2, but following the accident, officials declared it was their beliefs that a miner with an open lamp had encountered an unknown pocket filled with gas, which was exploded, wrecking the mine.

Dawson is one of the largest coal mining camps in the United States.  Four mines are operated at that place, the total population of the company numbering about 5,000.

Cause of Mine Blast Unknown
Akron Weekly Pioneer Press, Akron, Colorado
February 16, 1923

Dawson, N. M. -- The shattered depths of Dawson mine No. 1 had given up seventy dead and two living.  Within the subterranean tomb fifty miners still remain.  It is more than a reasonable certainty that all have perished, according to officials.

Bathed in the warm rays of the dazzling sun, Dawson set about the task of burying her dead.  The rough pine boxes, carrying all that was mortal of those whose lives were snuffed out in the disaster, were borne through the main street of the town, out along the winding rustic trail to the peaceful, cross-bedecked hillside, which is to be their last resting place.

A small knot of men idled around the entrance to the mine waiting for more bodies to be brought out.  A huge crowd surged against the ropes which barred them from the mine mouth.  In the crowd were many women and children.  As in the other days since the blast, they are dry-eyed, unemotional and quiet.

Touching scenes were enacted in the little Catholic church of Dawson and at the graveside.  It was there, apparently that the full realization of the enormity of their loss smote for the first time many of those who have been too stunned by the explosion to betray their sorrow.

In a few brief words of comfort, Father Joseph Couterier and a visiting priest sought to assuage the pain of the people left behind, as the last rites of the church were administered to their loved ones.  In Protestant homes the last rites were simple.

Dawson's soldier dead were buried with such military services as possible in the emergency.  The coffins of the men who had served in the World War were wrapped in the Stars and Stripes.

Each grave will be marked with a simple cross bearing the name of the occupant.  Adjoining the burial plot of Thursday's disaster are more than 20 graves of Dawson men who died when Stag Canon Mine No. 2 was wrecked by an explosion in 1913.

Regular shifts of more than fifty men worked inside the mine.  In several instances bodies have been found to be deeply buried in debris.  Others are more visible beyond piles of rocks and coal and will be brought out as soon as passageways have been cleared for the stretcher-bearers.  Daniel Harrington, supervising engineer of the United States Bureau of Mines, after a journey through the damaged mine, declared his search had revealed nothing to indicate what was responsible for the blast.

"The mine shows the usual wrecked condition of a mine after an explosion," he declared.

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