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White Oak Mine Cave-in and Rescue

Villa Heights, Jasper County, Missouri
July 30 - August 2, 1911
No. Killed - 0

Successful Rescue

Rescuers worked for three days to free Joseph Clary, 32, from the White Oak Mine near Villa Heights, Missouri, where a cave-in had occurred on July 30.  Once a drill hole was large enough, a fried chicken dinner, water and whiskey were lowered to Clary along with a telephone from which he conversed with his family and rescuers.

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In 1911 a trapped miner gives telephone interview as rescuers work to free him
The Joplin Globe
September 4, 2016

One of the most dramatic mine rescue attempts took place in the summer of 1911 at the White Oak mine, ˝ mile east of Villa Heights.  On Sunday morning, July 30, Joseph Clary, 32, of Villa Heights, was in a drift some 90 feet below the surface when a cave-in occurred.

A dramatic three-day rescue effort began with more than 500 hundred people surrounding the site - some involved in the rescue and others to keep vigil.  The newspapers reported the latest efforts on their front pages.

The miners had a good idea where Clary was behind the collapsed rubble, so they attempted to drill holes to contact him.  The work started on Sunday, and after three failed tries, on Tuesday morning, a fourth drill hole successfully penetrated the roof of the sealed drift, bringing fresh air and communication.  When the driller heard Clary’s words, "Oh, my God," the driller shouted, "Boys, he’s alive - he lives!" which resulted in enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.

Clary was uninjured, but the drift was slowly filling with water.  The ground was soft and unstable.  The drill hole was large enough that a fried chicken dinner, water and whiskey were lowered to him.  Chief of Police Joseph Myers brought electric lights which were dropped down as was a Home Telephone Company line and receiver.

Once the telephone connection was made, Clary was connected to his mother in Villa Heights.  His father was on-site and had been one of the first to shout through the drill hole to learn his status.

The next connection was a call to the Globe office.  City Editor Ray Cochran talked with Clary about his situation:
"How are you feeling, Mr. Clary?"

"Well, it’s a little bit cool, but I’m all right."

"How are your accommodations?"

"They are all right now - I have a light and a telephone."

"You say you have a light?"

"Yes, I have now."

"Can you see sufficiently to read in the mine?"

"Yes, I read this morning’s Globe."

"Good: We’ll send you some more later papers in the morning."

"Send them down; I’ll certainly read them."
By 1 a.m. Wednesday, rescue workers decided it was taking too long to brace the soft ground with cribbing because of the rising water level.  That spurred a more drastic rescue effort.

Clary was instructed to stand as close to the drill hole as possible and as soon as a hole was large enough, to plunge through.  As the size of the hole increased, "the timbering creaked in ominous warning, threatening another cave-in.  But the hole was big enough to enable Clary to get through."  The Globe recounted the rescue:
"Finally, all was ready.  The word was given to ‘come on.’"

"And miner Joe Clary came on."

"He swung into the tub, shouted ‘pull’ and the hoisterman began reeling him up."

"It was not a minute too soon.  As the tub came up through the pitch darkness, there was a groan, timbers cracked and by the time the tub reached the mouth of the shaft, a rush of dirt had closed up the opening through which Clary had a minute before crawled forth from his 72-hour tomb."

"Then came the shouting and the frenzy.  Some of the rescuers laughed hysterically.  Others wept.  Some toppled over in collapse, the strain of suspense no longer bearing them up."

"The women who had kept up an endless vigil sobbed softly.  The crowd of spectators sent up a mighty cheer.  The rescued miner was borne to an ambulance, which carried him, alive and well, through the fragrant dew-drenched woods, along sunny streets, to the mother waiting for him at home."
The Globe published an "extra" which carried a red-letter banner bearing this happy message: "Joseph Clary Rescued."

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