Eccles Mine Disaster
April 28, 1914
Eccles, West Virginia
The Eccles Mine Explosion
The Colliery Engineer
Conditions Existing at the Mine Before the Explosion Methods of Working-Results of Investigation Written for the Colliery Engineer
Eccles, where the mine exploded occurred on April 28, is in Raleigh Co, WV about 4 miles from Beckley, the county seat, and is reached by the Virginian Railway or the Piney Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The coal mined is the New River semibituminous coking coal of the Pottsville series, and is considered to be the same as the Pocahontas smokeless coal. Two beds, the Beckley and Sewell, are worked at Eccles. The Beckley seam which is about 520 feet below the surface, has the following section: Coal, 1 foot; bone, 2 inches; coal, 2 feet 3 inches; slate, 8 inches; bottom coal, 2 feet 4 inches. Toatl thickness, 6 feet 5 inches. The roof is sandstone with about 1 foot of draw-slate above the coal; the floor is fireclay with sandstone immediately below it. An approximate analysis of the Beckley seams is; Mosture, 3.2; volatile matter, 15; fixed carbon, 78.1; ash, 3.7; sulphur, .7;. It is in this seam at No. 5 shaft that the explosion originated and the bulk of the damage was done.
The Sewell seam at Eccles is about 254 feet above the Beckley, and is worked through No. 6 shaft although this shaft goes down to the Beckley seam. the Sewell bed varies in thickness, being thicker in the southern than in the northern part; for example, at this mine, the low section has 4 feet 5 inches of clean coal; the middle section 2 inches of bone and 4 feet 8 inches of coal; the high section 7 inches of bone and 4 feet 11 inches of coal. The roof of this seam is jointed and weak in places, while the floor is fireclay above hard sandstoe. An approximate analysis of the Sewell bed in 3.71 per cent, moisture, 13.74 per cent, volatile matter; 79.81 per cent, fixed carbon; 2.74 per cent ash, and .59 per cent, sulphur, this composition making it one of the best smokeless coals in West Virginia.
Eccles is one of the two large mining properties owned by the New River Colieries Co, the other being the Sun, in Fayette County. Franklin B. Guiterman, E.M., is president and F.P. Bayles, general manager.
Of the six shafts on the Eccles property, Nos. 5 and 6 are the ones of special interest because of the explosion, which occurred about 2:30 P.M., April 28, in which 180 men lost their lives. the two shafts being connected by an airway, the blast was transmitted to the Sewell bed in No. 6 shaft and eight men were found dead at this place. At the time of the explosion 73 men were at work in the No 6 mine, and with the exception of the eight mentioned all the others survived. The force of the explosion or possibly the bad air which did the damage seemingly did not pass beyond No. 6 shaft; all on the other side of the shaft were uninjured. At No 5 mine, 172 men were killed, none escaping, making the total killed 180. As the mine was quite busy on the day of the explosion, a number of loaded mine cars were standing at the shaft bottom and these were thrown by the blast into the hoisting shaft, making it difficult to clear away so as to get inside the mine. One cage was thrown up into the head-frame, where it lodged, not quie reaching the sheave wheels, thus leaving the hoisting gear intact. The explosion doors of the 18' x 7' Jeffrey fan were blown off, but otherwise the fan was uninjured, and was stopped only so long as to fix the explosion doors and reverse the direction of the air-current. At 10 P.M. it was in working order. Soon after the explosion L.B. Holliday, mine inspector, of the 9th West Virginia District, arrived, and the rescue of the miners in No 6 was commenced and carried out effectively with the aid of Thomas Donaldson, mine superintendent. In the meantine, assistance was offered by miners from the company's nearby operations also from miners in the vicinity, and these Manager Bayles organized into rescue crews. He also organized a refreshment bureau where those who were working in the rescue parties could be fed.
At this improvised free restaurant the meals were excellent and preferred by the mine inspectors to those, they obtained at boarding houses in the vicinity. Every one about the plant seemed to be endowed with some natural talent which could be turned to useful and helpful channels; even the school teacher became a waiter, while one of the company employes became an adept in soup makeing, ham and egg frying, coffee brewing, etc. This pleased Mr. Guiterman because there were 200 rescuers, and more who must be fed, as they had exhausting work to do on short shifts of 2 hours. As No. 5 was the downcast and No 6 shaft the upcast, the rescuers