Mar 30 2009
07:05 am
By: WhitesCreek

By Ray Collett

Hello Readers, This week I would like to continue sharing my research on the 1925 (the first) Rockwood mine explosion. This was taken from the Rockwood Times microfilm a week after the disaster. Even though eight men are still lost and presumed dead in the blast, work has resumed...

"Uncertain When Brattice Will Be Removed...Rescue Men Risk Lives To Seek Bodies....Routine Work Resumed Monday"

No new developments have occurred in the Roane Iron Company coal mines since the Rodgers entry on Bryson Dip was sealed at 7:o'clock Friday morning with the bodies of W.J.Snow, Roy Limburg, Tom Green, John Green, Jim Wilson, Sam Givens, Tom Sullivan, and Sam Doughty. Mine Inspector, A.J. Holden, was unable to state when the condition of the air in the gas filled and flame swept entry would permit the removal of the brattice. A vent through which air for testing purposes can be obtained has been placed in the barricade and as soon as it is possible to do so, rescue men will enter in search of the bodies. Work at the mines was resumed Monday, when 50% of the normal production of coal was dug and by Tuesday the production figure had risen to 70% with prospects of a further rise as work continues.
Funeral services for Claude Tindell, one of the two men whose bodies were recovered were held Friday afternoon at the Christian church, with Rev. Leland Cook officiating. Interment was in the Odd Fellows cemetary. The body of Raymond Watkins was taken to Westel Friday on the noon train with funeral and burial held at that place. Memorial services for the eight men whose bodies are still in the mines wre held Sunday morning in all the churches of the city.
No official announcement as to the cause of the disaster has been made by mine officials and all theories as to the cause are merely speculative. one supposition is that the globe of a safety lamp might have been broken by the fire fighters, setting off the deadly gas mixture and another is that the gas from the "feeders" may have reached the fire and ignited.
Tom Sullivan, one of the dead miners, discovered the blaze at 11:00 last Wednesday night, while clearing a pile of fallen coal from the track. The coal was coked on top from the old fire that had burned for three months, and which had been pronounced out the previous day by federal and state mining experts. As the coke layer was removed, the coal beneath burst into flames, and Mr. Sullivan sent Raymond Watkins for superintendent Snow. The mine chief called San Doughty, Tom and John Green and Roy Limburg, all members of the day shift, and with the others who were on night duty went to his death in an effort to stop the fire.
"Speculation as to what ought or ought not to have been done is now of no avail, but it is sufficient to say that Mr. Snow and his party were loyally doing their best and gave their lives in doing it", was the reply of company officials when the Times reporter asked what the circumstances of the explosion were.
Mr. Snow had been connected with the local mines for the past 80 years, ( that's what it said), and was the oldest employee in point of service as well as in age. He and the seven other entombed men were all married, and all except Sam Givens are survived by one or more children. Watkins and Tindell, whose bodies were recovered, were young men and unmarried. Chief inspector came and looked over the mines and before his departure, Mr. Pile issued this statement. " Realizing the full seriousness of having to close the entrance to the Rogers Entry, in which the bodies of eight entombed miners are held, and knowing full well the heartaches and sorrows caused by such an act, I feel that I should make a statement of why this step was taken. "The entry was filled with fire, damp, and gas to such an extent that it was utterly impossible for any living creature to explore it farther than where the bodies of the men rescued were found. The rescue party following found that the fire damp had backed up over a distance of more than a hundred feet since the previous rescue party had left. This step, (sealing the entry) was not taken until a council of all the leading miners familiar with the Rockwood mines, together with other area miners met. In the last party tha was assembled at the point where the entry was to be bratticed off, each man, 21 in all, was called upon to express an opinion and there was not a dissenting voice, but each asserted that in their honest opinion it was the only thing to do, and as much as the condition is to be regretted, and every member of the rescue party knew the very best possible had been done.
One of the outstanding features of the disaster was the high order of heroism and courage displayed by the miners making up the six rescue parties. A number of these men volunteered time after time to go into the gas filled death trap with the danger of another explosion hanging constantly over them. ASome of them actually risked their lives three or four times in an effort to reach the bodies of their comrades. Among those deserving special commendation are Wheeler C. Taylor, Jim Falls, Clarence Stevens, Bill Harding, Rube Cook, Nelse Dale, Ed Burnett, Malcom King, and a number of others who also did their utmost and whose names were not noted. Another man, John Millican, of the city police force, who has not been connected with the mines for some time won the praise of everyone connected with the rescue work by his efforts. Three times, he put on a safety helmet and utterly disregarding danger and the risk, went with the rescue parties and rendered valuable service. Rube Cook, who had never worn a safety helmet before, volunteered to take the place of an experienced helmet rescue man who was temporarily overcome by gas, and Dave Brummet, another miner who had never worn a helmet asked to be allowed to go with the helmet crew.
Families of the dead miners iwill receive substantial sums under the workmen's compensation act, the amount in each case being based on the man's age and average earning power. The total compensation as a result of the accident will exceed $50,000 it is stated.
Later on I will try to find the newspaper that covers the mines being opened and the bodies recovered. I believe that was in October of 1925..
I guess I have bored you enough with the mine disaster, but so little has been written about it, and it is a huge part of Rockwood's history, I did want to bring it to your attention. After all, when were in school, it had happened only 20 or 25 years previously. Until next week......Ray

Thanks Ray,

I have not replied before but I do enjoy these Rockwood Memories posts.

Rockwood Memories

Thanks a lot ! I have five mailing lists totaling over eleven hundred readers who I send these to each week. RoaneViews is kind enough to post them on this website since the Rockwood Times discontinued my column Also the Roane Reader publishes the column. Ray Collett

Before I found this site I

Before I found this site I did read some of your columns in the Roane Reader. I grew up in a place where there are no mines and most of what I learned came from movies or history books when I was in school. Reading these personal accounts and now living in close proximity to where these events happened makes it real for me. I do have family who worked in mining and textile mills in NC and VA years ago.

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