Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In The Adirondacks Mining Accidents Once Occurred Regularly

According to the Associated Press the deadliest mining accident in American History was an explosion in a Monongah, West Virginia coal mine in 1907 in that killed 362 people.

Other recent mining accidents include:

2001: Explosions at a Jim Walter Resources Inc. mine in Brookwood, Ala., kill 13 people.

1992: A blast at a Southmountain Coal Co. mine in Norton, Va., kills eight.

1989: An explosion at a Pyro Mining Co. mine in Wheatcroft, Ky., kills 10.

1986: A coal pile collapses at Consolidation Coal Co.’s mine in Fairview, W.Va., killing five.

1984: A fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah, kills 27.

Here in the Adirondacks, mining accidents occurred with regular frequency in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Chateaugay Ore & Iron Company mines have claimed several men. William Otten was killed on March 13, 1928; later that year, 21-year-old Lyon Mountain miner Floyd Rounds was seriously injured when dust from an explosion was thrown into both his eyes.

Fred Brinks, an Englishman, was killed on July 9, 1927. Polish miner Aleksandra Dachkon was killed at the Lyon Mountain mines in 1920. Another Polish immigrant, Edward Suzbalia, a foreman and 18-year veteran of the Lyon Mountain mines fell into Number 11 Mine in 1909. He fell 200 feet landing on his head and died instantly leaving a wife and two children. “He was held in the highest esteem both by his superior officers,” the Plattsburgh Sentinel reported, “and the men with whom he worked and was considered one of the most careful and reliable men in the employ of the company.”

Three men were killed and one seriously injured in one terrible week in 1927. One was 50-year-old George Bouyea who fell 300 feet into a shaft at Lyon Mountain. The 18-year company veteran and foreman in charge of repairing motors was adjusting a cable at the top of a shaft when he lost his footing. He was instantly killed leaving a wife and seven children.

In 1907, five unnamed miners – “Polanders, and it was impossible to learn their names” – where injured when the roof of a mine at Lyon Mountain caved in. Two men broke their legs and the other three were less seriously wounded.

Foreign workers frequently went unnamed. “An Italian who was blown up at Tongue Mountain died Thursday,” one report noted. “He accidentally struck a stick of dynamite with a crowbar. The man’s left arm was blown off at the shoulder, there is a compound fracture of his right arm just above the hand, both eyes were blown out of his head, a stone was jammed against his heart and his head was bruised.” It was a remarkable that he wasn’t killed instantly.

Dynamite was the culprit in a fatal explosion at the Harmony Shaft in Mineville in Essex County in 1901. During the day shift a charge of dynamite had failed to explode. When the night crew came on, George Baker was informed about the unexploded charge and Baker, James Tate, and Thomas McClellan went to the spot to correct the situation. The blow of the tapping bar exploded the charge of dynamite and Tate’s head was blown off. Baker was blinded, his arm broken and his face badly injured. McClellan was seriously hurt. Baker lost an eye but he and McClellan recovered. Baker was troubled by what had happened. His wife went insane and was committed to a mental hospital in Ogdensburg. Baker started drinking heavily. In 1915, fourteen years after he the mine accident George Baker tried to kill himself with a shotgun. He overloaded the shells and the gun exploded – not to be deterred, he took up a razor and slit his own throat. He was just 45.

UPDATE 1/6/06: Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio (NCPR) interviewed Lawrence Gooley, Adirondack author of “Lyon Mountain: The Tragedy of a Mining Town” after reading about Adirondack mining accidents here at the Almanack. NCPR has set up a webpage where you can hear the interview here.

UPDATE 5/1/06: The Almanack is now an NCPR Featured Blog.


Suggested Reading

Lawrence Gooley’s History of the Lyon Mountain Mines

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Editorial Staff

Stories under the Almanack's Editorial Staff byline come from press releases and other notices.

Send news updates and story ideas to Alamanck Editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com.


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