Since, I moved to Rich Hill in the late 1970's I have heard numerous stories about the "Terrible Mine Explosion of 1888."
Here are a couple of stories I have found about the Terrible 1888 disaster. The first story I found on the Internet site: gendisasters.com
THE MINE DISASTER.
FURTHER PARTICULARS OF THE EXPLOSION IN THE RICH HILL, MISSOURI, MINE.
Kansas City, Mo., March 31. -- Further particulars of the disastrous mine explosion at Rich Hill, Mo., show that there has been a great loss of life. The mine is 240 feet below the surface, and eighty-five men were employed in the mine, but it is thought not all were at work at the time. At the time of the explosion eight men were in the cage coming up. There was a sudden report, a collapse of the shaft, and the horror had been completed.Superintendent SWEENEY immediately went down the shaft in a tub lowered by ropes. He had scarcely reached the bottom when two other reports were heard, followed by the screams of wounded men. It was impossible to make any extensive exploration, but the most conservative estimate puts the loss of life at thirty. The mine is six miles from Rich Hill and it will be some days before the debris can be cleared away and the actual loss of life known.The following is the latest authentic list of the victims: CHARLES SMITH, colored; GEORGE MAY, white; G. McPHERSON, white; FRANK LAWLER, white; JORDAN SMITH, colored; JOSHUA TRUMBE, white; JOHN ROBERTS, white; GEORGE BLOCK, colored; G. BLACK, colored; W. Black, colored; H. SHEPPARD, colored; J. C. NEPTUNE, white; JOHN LEFFLER, white; CHARLES KAY, white; JOHN GRAY, white; BRUCE BROWN, white; L. R. DIXON, white; FRED HENDERSON, colored; W. H. HILL, colored; ALEX WHITE, colored; GIBSON McFERRON, white.Of the above named the first five were taken from the mine dead. TRUMBLE and ROBERTS died after being out, and the last fourteen are the unfortunate imprisoned miners who were suffocated in the west end. Of the eighteen injured miners taken out nine are reported to be in a critical condition, but their names are not ascertainable.There is still a great deal of conjecture as to the cause of the catastrophe, some persons claiming that natural gas was the cause, while others contend the accumulation of foul gasses without proper ventilation was the real cause of the explosion.State Mine Inspector WOLF is strongly censured by the miners. He examined the mine on March 6 last and pronounced it perfectly safe. All the victims will be buried at the expense of the owners of the mine, MESSRS. KEITH & PERRY, of Kansas City.
Hamilton Daily Democrat Ohio 1888-03-31\
I found the following information in a book about Rich Hill, called "The Town that Coal Built." This excerpt from the book happens in Mine No. 6. "On a bright March day at the noon hour in 1888, the shaft, buildings, and all underground workings were ruined throughout by a terrific explosion caused by a great accumulation of natural gas." In the words of R. L. "Dobber" Wilson, who was employed at a nearby mine at the time, "The lives of fifty-six men were snuffed out in the twinkling of an eye, either by falling debris, or burned to death or suffocated." Relatives of the doomed flocked to the mine from the surrounding hills and there resulted a bedlam of screaming women and crying children. George Sweeney, superintendent, was the first of a great many volunteers to clamor down the torn shaft in an effort to care for the dead and dying. The rescue party had just reached the floor of the mine when a second explosion occurred. None of the party were seriously hurt although several were badly burned. Almost all of the men killed were Negroes, although there were several white miners among the number, of which, it is remembered was Cal Neptune. A brother, ]eff Neptune, was frightfully burned but managed to climb to the surface by way of an air shaft. These two men were uncles of the late Earl Neptune.
The excitement in Rich Hill, created by the holocaust, was intense. Business was suspended until all the dead and injured had been brought out of the inferno which, on account of the indescribable wreckage and aftermath of recurrent smaller explosions, required several days. On Easter Sunday, 1888, the dead Negroes were buried in a small plot of ground near the mine in which they lost their lives, while the white men were buried in Greenlawn Cemetery.