A Special Tribute

Historical association to honor fallen miners

Morgantown Dominion Post
12 April 2012

At 2 p.m. April 29, the Everettville Historical Association (EHA) will pay tribute to more than 149 coal miners who died at Federal Mine No. 3, at Everettville, during its operation. It is open to the public.

The largest loss came April 30, 1927, when an explosion claimed 111 lives. Another 38 miners died in individual accidents from the time the mine opened in 1920 until it closed in 1951.

This year marks the 85th anniversary of the mine explosion.

Last year, EHA placed a 7 1/4-ton memorial near Friendship Baptist Church on Pickhandle Hill Road, eight miles south of Morgantown, recognizing those who died.

Taking part in this year’s tribute will be the Monongalia County Marine Corps League Detachment 342; the Rev. Robert T. Buckner, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church and EHA treasurer; EHA President Carol Thorn; and Union Mine Workers Association District 31 International Vice President Mike Caputo.

The Second Cousin Band — MaryAngel Blout, Chris Plein and Duncan Lorimer — will perform “Henry Russell’s Last Words,” a song based on notes written by trapped miner Henry Russell before he died. Diana Jones wrote the song for the Federal No. 3 miners. Casandra Hood will read “When Coal Dust Turns to Gold,” a poem by Irving Rice.

WVU Assistant Professor Peter Butler and WVU student Jared Frederick will present an update on the progress of the Miners Memorial Park Education Project.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s Bureau of Mines guide says the explosion that April day “originated near the farthest working face in the mine when an open-type storage battery locomotive ignited an accumulation of gas.”

It set off methane and coal dust to all sections of the mine except the south mains. The mine had been partly rockdusted, but the rock dust was not maintained. Rock dust dilutes the coal dust, making it less explosive.

The 3:20 p.m. explosion killed six men in the tipple, the federal report said, and 91 in the mine. Of those, 86 met instant death, while two traveled about 500 feet before they were overcome. Three others attempted to barricade themselves in a pumproom, but were also overcome.

Nine men men cut off in the south main section were able to escape after one made his way through the smoke and returned with a party wearing self-rescuers.
The description of the accident in the West Virginia Encyclopedia added that “Flames and debris blown out of the mine by the force of the blast destroyed a nearby tipple, killing six workers and injuring several others.”

The entry notes, “messages later found by the rescue teams near the bodies of entombed miners indicated that some men had survived several hours after the blast.”

Rescue teams worked in relays around the clock. It was two weeks before the fires were contained and the last bodies were removed.