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Mine Disasters in the United States

Tank's Poetry

Utica Mine North Shaft Disaster Marker

Mine Owner: Heywood and Hobart
Utica Gold Mine North Shaft Cave-in
also known as the Lane Mine

Angels Camp, Calaveras County, California
December 24, 1889
No. Killed - 17

Note:  This disaster is not included on the CDC/NIOSH disaster list, nor is it found in the MSHA Fatality Archive Database.
Utica Mine North Shaft Disaster Marker
Location: 38° 4.323′ N, 120° 32.585′ W.
Marker is in Angels Camp, California, in Calaveras County.  Marker is on Utica Lane north of Sam's Way, on the right when traveling north.  Marker is in this post office area: Angels Camp, CA 95222, United States of America.
Photographed by Andrew Ruppenstein
Source: Historic Marker Database
From the News Archives
(news links open in a separate window)

Sixteen Miners Lose their Lives
San Francisco Call
December 25, 1889

San Andreas, December 24th. --- On Sunday afternoon at about 2 o'clock, a cave occurred in the Lane mine at Angel's Camp, by which sixteen men lost their lives.  The news did not reach this place till Monday morning, as all telegraphic communication with Angel's was cut off by the storm.  A special reporter at once started for the place on horseback, the roads and creeks being impassible for vehicles.  The trip was accompanied by no little peril, owing to the swollen streams.

As soon as the town of Angel's was reached it was apparent that something terrible had happened, as all the mills had been shut down and the citizens were gathered in little knots, speaking in hushed tones at the scene of the disaster sturdy miners were at work endeavoring to reach the interior of the mine.  Women and children, whose husbands and fathers and relatives were in the mine, stood about wringing their hands and weeping.  Strong men broke down.

The officers of the mine had been at workday and night directing the work, but at fearful odds, the cave was tremendous, and it was impossible to work fast.  The mine is in the heart of the town and has extensive hoisting works and a mill upon it.  It is one of the prominent gold mines of this county and is owned by Messrs.  Haywood and Hobart of San Francisco.  These gentlemen purchased this and the adjoining Stickle mine about three years ago, since which time they have made extensive developments and improvements and are employing about ninety men.

The vein in the mine is thirty feet wide and is worked through two shafts, called the north aud south shafts, being about ninety feet apart and being 450 feet and 400 feet deep respectively.

The vein matter is extracted from the full thirty feet in width, and the openings thus left are braced by enormous timbers, two and three feet in diameter, and five feet apart.  Little if any waste rock is thrown into the opening to fill in.  It was the pressure of the earth against these walls of the worked out vein, increased by the heavy rains, that caused the cave.

At the time of the cave on Sunday afternoon there were nineteen or twenty timber men at work in the stopes timbering the mine.  A most lucky circumstance is that the regular force of miners had been laid off for a day or so, owing to an abundance of ore, and thus seventy men were not in the shaft that would have been there had the regular work of mining been going on that day.

Three of the timber men, named Dan Danielson, August Anderson and Tom Corwin, escaped from the mine after the cave occurred by running through a long drift into the adjoining "Stickle" mine, and climbing up a ladder 700 feet through a shaft.  The first knowledge of the cave on the surface was the appearance of these three men, who gave the alarm.  Corwin was badly cut and bruised about the face. Danielson stated his experience as follows:
"Myself and Anderson were working in the 100-foot level, and were waiting for timber to come down the shaft.  I went to the south shaft to get a shovel, and when returning heard a fearful crash and explosion, the concussion of which threw me to the floor of the level on my face, extinguishing the light.  I crawled back toward the shaft and lit my candle, when I heard rocks and debris falling, and timbers crushing above me, and knew that a cave had occurred.  I found my partner, and as we started to run heard a voice calling for help from one of the stopes.  Going to the spot, we found Corwin groping around in the dark with his face cut and bleeding.  We hurried him along with us, and the three of us reached the 'Stickle' shaft, through which we climbed the ladder 700 feet to the surface, where we gave the alarm."
This man Danielson was uninjured.  As soon as the alarm was given the greatest excitement prevailed in the town.  The foreman, Charles Lillie, immediately took a force of men and went into the north shaft and down to the 330 foot level.  They went along the level about sixty feet when they found the passage closed tight, and an inextricable mass of timbers, logging and debris.  The ground was still moving, and the crashing of the timbers and falling rock drove the men out of this place.

They went to the surface and got on to the cage in the south shaft, and after descending about 200 feet the cage could not go further.

They then re-ascended, and went to the Stickle mine, and got up steam by the aid of coal oil, and getting into the cage descended that shaft and went through the drifts into the Lane mine, and here again reached the cave and could not go further.

Here again the rock and debris were still falling and timbers crashing.  The stopes looked like a mass of driftwood.  The timbers were in fearful confusion and crushed.  Peering into the mass the bodies of two men were seen crushed and mangled between the timbers.  They could not be reached and were not recognized.

There was no other recourse than to go into the north shaft on the 330 foot level, and by axes and blasting cut through the debris.  This work has been commenced and volunteers are at hand far more than can work.

The men are undoubtedly all dead, as no human being could survive in that fearful crush.  It is a doubtful question when the bodies will be reached.  Some may be recovered in a week, and others may never be recovered from the terrible mass of debris.

Not a sound comes from the mine but the cracking of timbers and the falling of rocks.  The names of the men lost in the mine are Thomas Knucky, married: George Williams, married and has four children; J. Bray, married, Nick Cuich, B. Sagare, Pete Perenio, Thomas Bertro, Paul Owsovich, John Buiolotto, John Toboco, Charles Pollark, Joseph Cornow, John Martin, Mitchell Brondwich, Jim Casey, William Vincent.

The extent of the cave is not certain.  It is believed that the ground between the 200 and 400-foot levels has fallen, and for a distance of 100 feet or more in length the surface of the mine is intact save a few cracks.

The mine is a peculiarly unlucky one.  More accidents have happened in it than in any mine in the county.  A great number of lives have been lost in the mine, and there are miners who have refused to work in it on account of the liability to caving, because of the great width of the vein, and the enormous cavity left in the mine, supported only by timbers, leading to the belief that caves were likely to occur.

The Seventeenth Victim, San Andreas, December 24th. --- It is reported that another miner Carlo Luzzetti, is killed in the mine.  If true, this makes the seventeenth victim.  He leaves a wife and two children.  One body among the timbers has been recognized as Peter Perini.  It cannot be reached.  Another body is in sight, but not recognized.

Latest From The Mine, San Andreas, December 24th. --- The latest report from the Angel's disaster is that the surface of the mine has sunk forty-five feet deep, from shaft to shaft, and has completely shut off all work at rescuing the bodies.  The rescuing party were nearly caught in this new cave, and only escaped to the surface by the prompt action of the top men.

No bodies have been recovered, and owing to the severity of the storm at present it is impossible to do anything with the mine.  The works on the surface are likely to be destroyed.

The following is the list of the deceased:
  • Thomas Bertro
  • J. Brady
  • Mitchell Brondwich
  • John Buiolotto
  • James Casey
  • Joseph Cornow
  • Nick Cuich
  • Tom Knuckey
  • Carlo Luzzetti
  • John Martin
  • Paul Owsovich
  • Pete Perenio
  • Charles Pollark
  • B. Sagarel
  • John Toboco
  • William Vincent
  • George Williams
Source: San Francisco Call, December 25, 1889

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