Saturday, January 24, 2009

More on the Terrible Mine Explosion of 1888

This blog was inspired by a question from someone who read one of my earlier blogs and asked for some more information.
One of my first blogs was about the Terrible Mine Explosion of 1888. Consequently, I have had some inquiries about those killed in the mine explosion. Another one of his questions was, "Where was mine #6 located?" and "where the negroes buried?" In the earlier blog " The Terrible Mine Explosion of 1888" I stated that the negroes miners were buried in a field. Well, I recently found this information in the Mary Griffin Archives that actually gives names and explains the exact location in Green Lawn Cemetery where the Negroes were buried by the mining company.
I have heard that mine #6 was loacted about 2 1/2 mile northwest of Green Lawn Cemetery. However, I have not found any documentation to support the mines location at least now I know that it was located on the Wilson Farm.

This picture is not of the mine explosion of 1888. I used this picture for a visual on just how dangerous the mines were.

In a newspaper article in the Rich Hill Mining Review March 27, 1958, Frank Ralston tells about his search and findings on the death and burial of the miners killed in the Gulf No. 6 mine explosion March 29,1888. First he talked with Mr. Robert Wilson who lived on the farm where the explosion had occurred four and one half miles northwest of Rich Hill.
Mr. Wilson, who was only sixteen when the mine exploded, was unable to give him the exact number of men killed. Other men who had gone to the scene of the explosion or had been active on the coal industry were also interviewed by Mr. Ralston. These men were John D. Moore, Charles Beasley, Arthur Baukston, J. Elmer Jones and George Copeland. None were certain as to the number killed or injured.
Next he decided to search for official records from the State of Missouri Mine Inspection office in Jefferson City. They had no records for the year 1888. This was also true of the Central Coal and Coke Company who succeeded the Keith and Perry Coal Company. The search continued to the files of newspapers. The files of the Rich Hill Mining Review had burned when fire destroyed the newspaper plant on Sixth and Walnut. No information could be found on the Rich Hill Tribune, an early Rich Hill paper. Then in 1955 Mr. Ralston was examining the Green Lawn Cemetery Burial Permit records in the office of the city clerk. He turned to the 1888 records. Here he found under the March 29-31, 1888 a continuous listing of thirteen names that showed that all were killed March 29, 1888 by a coal mine explosion. It also said that all thirteen were Negroes and were buried in Green Lawn Cemetery. The record gave the names as Charles Smith, Charles F. Young, George Black and George Robertson as single men, and Frank Lawler, Gordon Smith, John Roberts, Henry Sheppard, William Black, Charles Black, Henry Hill, Alex­ander White and Fred Henderson as married men.Mr. Ralston said there was no marker to mark the graves of these thirteen Negroes in Green Lawn but he further inquired and found that Mr. Beasley had attended the funeral and said they were buried in the extreme southeast part of the cemetery. He also talked to Mr. Sam Walls, the only Negro citizen in Rich Hill, and Mr. Walls told him that he too had attended the funeral with 300 other Negroes from the neighboring mine camps. He said that a large excavation was made and all thirteen were buried in one large grave. All were buried in caskets bought and paid for by Keith and Perry Coal Company. He said their mass burial was made in the southeast part of the cemetery and that the graveside services were conducted by the Rev. H. S. Shangle, pastor of the Methodist Church south.Still not feeling that this was authen­tic enough, Mr. Ralston talked to L. W. Matthews who referred him to the files of the Western Enterprise, a competi­tive newspaper to the Mining Review. He found a complete record in the issue of this paper the week following the explosion. This record also gave the names of ten white men killed in the explosion. Those men were Joshua Tricker, age 30 and married; John Lefler, married, aged 29; Peter Spaugler, married, aged 35; Gibson McPheren, Joseph Mays, John C. Neptune, John Gray, L. R. Dixon, Bruce Brown, age 19; Charles Key, age 16. This report also told that twenty-five miners were injured, and all the pit mules were killed in the explosion. No mention was made of the place of burial of the white miners, but it is very likely in some part of Green Lawn as the families of many of these men became permanent resi­dents of Rich Hill.


Vicki Barge said...

Bart - This is very interesting --as some of my ancestors worked in mines around Rich Hill (not in this disaster)- but very interesting to read about.

Calvin Neptune said...

My direct ancestor was killed in the 1888 mine explosion. He was John Calvin Neptune. My father and I were named after him. I am attempting genealogical research on my Rich Hill ancestors of the Neptune and McPheron families.

Calvin Neptune lll
Aurora, CO