Whitesburg KY

Worst U.S. mine disaster killed 362

As I have stated before, coal is the lifeblood of the Appalachian region, which includes not only Kentucky but other states as well. Inhabitants not connected to the coalfields reap benefits from coal as well.

I prefer coal heat above all others and I was raised using coal, not just for heat but for cooking and other tasks.

Mining coal is and always will be a hazardous occupation. There have been many, many fatalities connected to it as well as health problems. According to records that have been kept about the coal mining industry, the worst mining disaster in U.S. history happened in Wynongah, W.Va., on Dec. 6, 1907 when two mines of the Monongahela Coal Co. exploded killing 362 miners, many of whom were mere children, 10- and 11-year-old boys called breaker boys.

The breaker boys worked in the mines picking rock and driving ponies. They probably never realized the danger they were in.

It was speculated that methane, which they called “fire damp” was what set off the explosion killing 362. Many more perished during recovery operations from bad air and they had no breathing equipment and could stay inside the mines for only a few minutes at a time.

The majority of the dead were Italian immigrants, just poor people trying to earn money to send home to their families. There were also miners from Hungary, Russia, and Austria. There were African Americans and other native born Americans.

One Italian mother had three sons and lost all three in the disaster. One can only imagine the anguish that poor mother suffered.

Once the accumulated coal dust ignited, it was like an explosion going down a gun barrel, the farther it traveled the more devastating it became.

Instead of downing the coal miners, people ought to give them a pat on the back. Even today many miners fail to realize the danger they are in once they go between those two rocks. They don’t realize it is not the roof bolts and timbers that keep those two rocks from coming together, but our redeemer the Lord.

That’s all from the funny farm for now.

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