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Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company
Wadesville Mine Shaft Disaster
Fall of Persons

Wadesville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
January 13, 1897
No. Killed - 5

1897 Pennsylvania Bureau of Mines Annual Report  PDF Format
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(From Reports of the Inspectors of Coal Mines of the Anthracite Coal Regions of PA, 1897, p. 210)

A sad accident occurred at the New Wadesville shaft about 7 o'clock on the morning of January 13, while the men engaged in sinking the shaft were changing shifts.  Four of the day shift men had gone down, and four of the night shift had been hoisted to the surface.  After they had gotten off the bucket, the chargeman of the day shift, with three laborers, got on to go down, taking with them the pump boy.

The weather was very cold and during the time the bucket had been standing at the landing, the cross head had been frozen to the guides above the surface landing, and, unnoticed by the top man or those in the bucket, did not follow the bucket down.

The bucket was stopped at the pump station, 200 feet below the surface, and the pump boy got off and relieved the night pump boy, who got on the bucket to go to the bottom to be hoisted with the next load of men.  The bucket was again lowered, and when about 100 feet below the pump station, the cross head became loose by the jarring of the rope through it, and went down, striking the bucket with fearful force, breaking the cross head and one of the three chains, by which the bucket was suspended, knocked the four men off, causing them to fall to the bottom of the shaft, a distance of three hundred feet, killing them instantly.

The pump boy was inside of the bucket but had been struck by part of the broken cross head, and was fatally injured, but had been left in the bucket, which was hanging sideways, being held by only two chains.  The engineer, when he felt the jar, stopped the engine, and, not knowing anything of the condition of the bucket or cross head, was afraid to move either way, when one of the men employed at the shaft, who had just arrived on the scene, quickly took in the situation and the need of prompt action, sprung on to the rope and slid down, at great risk to himself, as he did not know whether the bucket had been left on the rope or whether the rope had been broken between the surface and the bucket.  He, however, succeeded in getting down safely and found the pump boy as above described, and, after disengaging the bucket from the wreck of the cross head, guided him to the top, when he was sent to the Pottsville Hospital, but the poor boy died shortly after reaching there.

The writer was at the shaft shortly after the accident, and made an examination as to the cause, and found the guides in the shaft in very good condition, and free from ice or anything that would prevent the cross head from following the bucket down.  The steam pipe in the shaft kept the temperature much above the freezing point.  There was a thin coating of ice on one of the guides, about ten feet above the surface landing, at the place where the cross head was when the bucket was at the landing, and I think that as the bucket had stood longer than usual on this trip, that the cross head froze and stuck there unnoticed by the top man or those on the bucket.

Five Persons Killed While Descending into a Mine
Titusville Herald, Pennsylvania
January 14, 1897

Pottsville, Pa., Jan. 13. -- A terrible accident, by which four persons were killed and one fatally injured, occurred at the new Wadesville shaft of the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company today.

The dead are:
  • Peter Tinco, 30
  • John Taylor, 40
  • Henry Flynn, 35
  • William Taylor, 40
  • Theodore Frounkenstein, 16
The work of sinking the new shaft commenced last March, the contractor in charge being Thomas Richards, of Minersville.

The four men and boy formed a part of the day shift.  Soon after arriving at the shaft this morning they stepped on the rim of the iron bucket to be lowered into the shaft.  A big cross beam, weighing several hundred pounds, through which the rope passed, became frozen to the girder and did not move when the basket started.  When the men had gotten about half way down, the huge cross head fell, striking the bucket.

The men were hurled to the bottom of the shaft, a distance of 300 feet.  The four men were terribly mangled and must have been killed instantly.  The Frounkenstein boy was terribly bruised.  All of the workmen were experienced hands and are survived by families.

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