Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thunder in the Mountains

The Havaco Story

Many long years have passed since two major mine explosions rocked the small community of Havaco, West Virginia. Havaco, formerly known as Jed, lying on Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River in McDowell County, would never be the same.



On the morning of March 26, 1912, the Jed Coal and Coke Company mine at Jed, West Virginia, exploded killing eighty miners. The mine employed about one hundred underground miners on each shift. Reports indicated the flame from an open light, commonly used by all miners at that time, ignited methane gas in the mine which in turn ignited coal dust that had accumulated during mining. In the blink of an eye, another mine disaster had occurred. Some of the eighty were killed by asphyxiation, many others died from heat and flame. On the outside the blast was not as destructive as others had been, but on the inside the effect was devastating. State mine inspectors and miners from nearby mines arrived on the scene shortly after the blast and assisted rescue workers in their search for survivors. That afternoon, after several previous attempts had failed, due to smoke and heat, a group of rescue workers were finally able to enter the mine. Great care had to be taken to insure that the rescuers did not become victims themselves. The force of the blast had blown mine timbers down, allowing about a foot of slate above the coal to fall. The downed slate severely hampered the efforts of rescue workers. Crews of men worked around the clock hanging brattice cloth for ventilation and moving the fallen slate in an attempt to reach the men, hoping to find survivors. Survivors were not to be found. Even with the tireless efforts of rescuers, two days passed before the first bodies were recovered and carried outside. On the hillside below the mine, at a location known as Little Egypt, several crews of men were digging graves for their fallen comrades. Coffins, which were in short supply, were brought in by train along with undertakers needed to prepare the men for burial. As the men were brought from the mine, each was identified by family or friends. Some were taken away by family for private burial. Most were placed in a coffin and buried nearby at the newly prepared cemetery. On March 29, 1912, the last bodies were brought from the mine. The blast at Jed created a list of casualties far exceeding any suffered in the upper Tug Fork valley.
John Agash, Merco Agnew, Sol Agnew, Joe Borotz, Guiseppe Capara1, Charles Chandler, Jack Chandler, Willie Denton, Alex Dombroski, Emilio Flex, Dettino Flex, Rinaldo Flex, John Fleshman, John Fuigley, Andrew George, Robert Gillispie, Lee Gilman, I. C. Gilmer, Mike Gosgashi, Frank Goyla, Mike Goyla, John Greley, Mario Guidolotti, Mike Guydluck, Sam Hampton, Tony Harendo, Henry Harris, William Harris, James Haynes, William F. Helton, Frank Hill, Steve Howard, Samuel Jefferson, Ed. Johnson, Alex Kissavich, Valley Lash, James Leeper, Paul Matee, Sterling Martin, Ed. McClure, John McClure, Adam Mimsick, Frank Molnar, John Moto, Steve Moto, Kalman Papp, James Parsons, Mike J. Patt, Bruno Pecos, R. E. Pennington, Domineck Perri, Frank Rice, Joe Ross, Alex Sabo, John Sammy, Thomas J. Sanders, Peter Sarvoliski, Peter Sowalski, Berta Selida, Sam Ski, George Smith, Alex Solaski, Goivanni Sovanni, Carmelo Spagnoula, Francisco Spagnoula, Victor Steele, Nick Stid, Ted Swabie, Mike Syntor, Steve Szatmaria, Alex Tarantello, Wilson Terryall, Emmett Terry , Mike Williams, W. J. Woodward, Steve Yaskoney and Andre Zavechy