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Mine Disasters in the United States


Piedmont and George’s Creek Coal Company
Washington No. 5 Mine Cars Disaster

Franklin, Allegany County, Maryland
January 25, 1909
No. Killed – 5

(From the Maryland Mine Inspector's Annual Report, 1908-09, p. 9)

January 25, 1909 — The most distressing mine accident of the year, or I may say, in the history of mining in the George’s Creek Valley, occurred at the Washington Mine No. 5, of the Piedmont and George's Creek Coal Company, near Franklin.  Here on Monday morning, January 25, five men were killed; two outright, two dying within ten hours after the accident, and another on the day following the accident.

Nine others were more or less seriously injured.  James Condry, laborer, aged 18 years, single, and William Hamilton, blacksmith, aged 46, married, were killed outright.  Both men resided at Franklin.  Cleaver Kight, carpenter, aged 22 years, single, residing at Westernport, and Joseph Blantt, mine laborer, aged 26 years, single, and residing at Franklin, sustained injuries from which they died shortly after the accident.  William Smith, weighmaster, 22 years old , married, and residing at Westernport, died from injuries received two days later.

The accident occurred on the plane, early in the morning.  It was the first trip run.  The men were riding up the plane to their work, as had been the custom for them to do.  The incline-plane is very steep and about 2,200 feet long, which no doubt caused many to ignore the danger and ride up.

In the middle of the incline-plane there is a double track, where the loaded car descending passes the empty car going up.  At this point, an automatic switch is used, so constructed that the loaded car, going down, passes through and leaves the latches in proper position for the empty car, ascending on the following trip, to pass on the opposite side.

The accident happened on the first trip on Monday morning, which accounts for so many men being on the car.  No cars had been run on the plane since Saturday evening.  For some reason not clear the first trip on Monday, with fifteen men, some on the inside of the car, and others standing on the front and rear bumpers, ran in on the wrong track and collided with the loaded car descending, killing five and injuring nine, as stated before.  Of the fifteen on the car only one escaped being injured, and strange to say, this man was riding on the front of the car going up the incline.

On being notified I went to the scene of the accident and made a thorough investigation.  I examined the switch carefully and found it in good working condition, in fact, not the least impaired.  The only logical conclusion as to the cause of this frightful accident is that the latches were changed some time between the time of the last Saturday and the ill-fated one on Monday morning, which dealt death and injury to so many.


Four Killed in Crash of Coal Cars
Washington Post, District of Columbia
January 26, 1909

Westernport, Md., Jan. 25. -- Four men killed , a dozen injured, and miraculous escape for several more was the result of a collision this morning on the incline road, half a mile long, leading to Washington Mine No. 5 of the Piedmont and George’s Creek Coal Company at Franklin, just east of this place.

The dead:
  • Cleaver Knight, carpenter, Westernport, Md.
  • William Hamilton, blacksmith, Franklin
  • James Cordry, Jr., dump man, Franklin
  • Joseph Brunette, Italian laborer
The injured:
  • Edward Fitzenbaker, roadman, Westernport, hurt about the arm
  • L. Lambert, Relms Station, near Westernport, leg broken
  • William H. Smith, weighmaster, Relms Station, shoulder blade broken and injured in the back
  • James Gowen, laborer, Harton, Md., face cut
  • C. Hamilton, miner, Franklin, face cut, son of William Hamilton, who was killed
  • Morris Murphy, foreman, Franklin, part of back injured
  • R. Partik, brakeman on the mine train, Barton, injured on arm and chest
  • Robert Plodbin, Barton, face cut and bruised
  • Joseph Lacian, Italian, hurt on head
The accident occurred at about the midway point, where there is a loop for approaching cars.



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