Saturday service will recall Darr Mine disaster of 1907
Monessen Valley Independent - Monessen,PA,USA
By Emma Jene Lelik
September 26, 2007
One-hundred years ago history was made in Rostraver Township.
It wasn't a happy event.
Two-hundred thirty-nine men and boys perished when the Darr Mine exploded. It was reported there was only one survivor.
This was the worst mine disaster in Pennsylvania.
Most of those killed in the explosion were Hungarian immigrant laborers and, due to that fact, six Hungarian organizations are sponsoring a commemoration of the event on Saturday.
All interested persons are invited to gather at Olive Branch Baptist Church and Cemetery, located along State Route 981 in Van Meter, for a program of remembrance at 11 a.m.
There will be a wreath laying ceremony at the grave site in Olive Branch Cemetery where 71 Darr miners, 49 of whom are unknown, are buried in a common grave.
Remarks by representatives of the sponsoring organizations will be made. They are: American Hungarian Federation, Bethlen Communities (Ligonier), Calvin Synod of the United Church of Christ, Hungarian Reformed Federation of America, Hungarian Reformed Church of America and William Penn Association.
The American and Hungarian national anthems will be sung and Hungarian-American children will read the names of the deceased miners.
Mary Lou Magiske, corresponding secretary of the Rostraver Township Historical Society, said Scott Hamilton has been engaged to play the bagpipes and George Bacsi will offer violin selections.
A luncheon reception at the Holiday Inn in Rostraver Township will follow the program. There is a fee for the luncheon and advance reservations are required. They may be made with Magiske at (724) 872-6102, or with the Rev. Imre Bertalan of Ligonier at (724) 238-2235.
There is no charge to attend the program.
Magiske has a personal interest in remembering mine victims. Her grandfather, Lajos Pecsi, was killed in the Peters Creek Mine in 1909. His survivors included two sons, ages 2 and 4, the latter becoming Magiske's father.
Joe Galayda, of Rostraver, remembers the early days when his father worked in the Somers Mine in Pricedale.
"The mine whistle would blow at 5:30 a.m. to alert miners to awaken and make preparations for the work day," he said. "It would also blow at 9 p.m. as a signal for bedtime and needed rest. But, oh how sad if the whistle blew at other times, meaning there was trouble in the mine."
Fifteen of the Darr victims are buried in St. Timothy Cemetery in Smithton. Five of those miners reportedly came from the same hometown in Hungary.
December 1907 is known as the deadliest month in U.S. mining history. The month began with an explosion inside the Naomi Mine in Fayette City, where 34 miners were killed. Five days later, 362 men perished in an explosion and roof collapses in Monongah, W.Va. On Dec. 16, 57 miners died, many of asphyxiation, in Yolanda, Ala. By the month's end, 3,200 miners had died in accidents.
The Darr Mine explosion occurred on Dec. 19 when, according to the Julian Calender, Greek Catholics and Orthodox observed a major feast day, St. Nicholas, and nearly 200 Darr miners who chose not to go to work that day due to the saint's day, were spared.