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Mine Disasters in the United States


Virginia City Mine Explosion
George and Everett Schuler, owners

Virginia City, Jefferson County, Alabama
February 20, 1905
No. Killed - 112



List of the deceased  External link icon

From the Engineering and Mining Journal
(March 23, 1905, p. 597; March 30, p. 625; April 13, p. 741)

The State Mine Inspector has submitted his report to the Governor.

Every man who was at work at the time of the explosion lost his life.

The chief inspector expresses his belief that a windy shot was made by one of the miners in the 5th entry left, in which too much dynamite or powder was used.  This shot caused a dust explosion.  The damage to the mine was not serious.

The State Mine Inspector and his two assistants are making a close examination of all mines in the State, especially in regard to coal dust.

In the Flat Top mines, where 154 state convicts are worked, besides a large number of county convicts, they found that short fuses were being used and mining rules not strictly carried out.  Coal dust was reported, and the operators were instructed to sprinkle the mine and take out an accumulation of dust.

The mining laws of Alabama are to be enforced to the letter, and all indications point to some radical amendments.

The coroner's jury has returned a verdict, that the explosion was caused by a windy shot and that certain warnings had been given previously.  A number of damage suits have been filed.

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


Seventy-Five Bodies Taken from the Virginia Mine
Omaha World Herald, Omaha, NE
February 23, 1905

Birmingham, Ala., -- At 8 o'clock this evening seventy-five blackened and disfigured bodies had been recovered from the Virginia mines, in which the awful explosion occurred on Monday afternoon, entombing what is now confidently believed to be more than 150 of the best miners in the Birmingham district.

Tomorrow will be a day of funerals at Virginia City, Bessemer, Pratt City and Ensley.  The men have been taken to Bessemer as fast as identified.  An extra supply of coffins from neighboring cities arrived today.

The rescuers are still heroically at work in the slope and as the diggers advance the bodies further in the mine are found to be worse burned and mutilated than those nearer the exterior.  No hope is now held out that any of the men can be alive.  Three men were found yesterday whose hearts were still beating but they expired immediately on reaching the outside air.

The Birmingham district has come promptly forward in the matter of relieving the destitute families of the victims and mass meetings have been held in Birmingham, Bessemer, Ensley and Pratt City today for that purpose.  Hundreds of dollars have been subscribed in the suburbs and the Birmingham Commercial club and has raised more than $3,000 for the sufferers.

Alabama District No 2, United Mine Workers of America today voted $5,000 to be distributed among the bereaved families.


Water Floods Mine Filled with Bodies
The Fort Worth Telegram, Ft. Worth, TX
February 22, 1905

Birmingham, Ala., -- Two staff correspondents of the Birmingham News, who have just returned from the Virginia mines this morning, say forty-eight bodies have been taken out.  A number of corpses, the rescuers reported, are still in sight, but could not be reached because of the water.  The explosion broke the water pipes and flooded a large portion of the mine.  It is therefore possible not a few of the men were drowned, as several bodies have been seen floating around in the flooded rooms.  Forty-four corpses have been taken to Bessemer, where a vacant storehouse has been secured and is being used as a morgue.  Within that building bodies in every form of mutilation are stretched out on the floor for identification.

In very many instances it is impossible to identify the corpses, they are so badly blackened and mangled.  Absolutely no hope is held out now of finding anyone alive in the mine, especially in view of the discovery that many of the rooms have been flooded.  There was a report several men taken alive, but this afterwards was denied as true.  It is now stated the muscles of three bodies were relaxed when they were brought out, but there was not life in the bodies.

Coroner Paris is busy inquiring into the disaster, having already empanelled a jury.

Newspaper men who have made a close estimate on the number of men in the mine, say there were 116, and there is no doubt but every man perished.  From now on the work of recovering the bodies will be slow because of the presence of water in the mine.


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