Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Farmington Disaster

Farmington Disaster
November 24, 1968
Farmington, West Virginia

Baby Duel Wife Keeps Vigil at Mine Head

Her Man Trapped With 77 Underground-

Schenectady Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y. --Saturday, November 28, 1968
By Niles Lee Jackson

MANNINGTON, WV(AP)--Her baby is due at any moment but dark-haired Barbara Toler is not about to leave the mine where her husband is trapped with 77 other men 500 feet underground.

Her 26 year old husband, Dennis, has been entombed in the flaming passageways of Mountaineer Coal Co, No 9 since Wednesday morning. And there is little prospect he'll come out alive.

"I'm so hopeful he'll get out that I brought him a nice clean shirt in case his work clothes get burned off," the 24 year old brunette said. "But I forgot to bring a pair of pants for him."

Barbara squirmed in an easy chair, not knowing whether word of her trapped husband or the baby's birth would come first.
"I'm just not going to move from here," she said as she continued her long vigil at the mine's entrance."I just can't."

"If I go to the hospital, they'll make me stay there four or five days," she said. "But if I have the baby here-here at the mine site-they'll declare it a 'dirty baby' and won't allow it in the hospital."

The three nurses at the company store say they'll try to take Barbara to the nearby Farmington Clinic if she gives them enough warning."
If not, the baby will be born near the mine entrance on the _____ _____.
It was used Thursday as an examination room when Barbara thought she felt labor pains. It will be used as a delivery room if necessary.

Dennis and Barbara were married four years ago. He operates a coal-bearing shuttle buggy down in No. 9. Their two children-Chad, 2, and Melissa, 13 months - are staying with friends.

"When we got married, I never thought anything about him going down there," Barbara said. "Now, I'll clobber him is he says he wants to go back down."

Barbara wore a loose-fitting blue dress, now badly rumpled from long hours of wear. She talked about her life as a coal miner's wife and what it means to be in debt.

"We owe the company store and other people so much. Dennis has got only two paychecks in two years," she said. "The last check he got was for $7.32 and the rest from his work in the mine was taken out ahead to pay our debts."
Dennis averages about $270 every two weeks as a miner. "He's trying to get out of debt but once you're in as deep as we are, it's impossible to get out," she said.

Barbara said Dennis worked another full-time job at the cemetery-digging graves and setting headstones-for eight hours after his midnight shift in the coal mine.

"He takes cabbage sandwiches to lunch in the mines and he's giving up smoking," she said. "We eat beans and cabbage a lot at home. But it's getting better all the time. We'll be out of garnishing the first of the year. But now, he only gets about two hours of sleep a day."

She referred to a popular song about coal mining, one on juke boxes across the nation a few years ago.

"That song '16 tons' sure is true for him," she said. "That sure is his song if any is."