The Eccles Mine Disaster

|
West Virginia coal miners, 1908. (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

On the morning of April 28, 1914, dozens of local men and teens left their homes to go to work at the Eccles Mine No. 5, one of a collection of West Virginia coal mines owned by the New River Colliers Company. That afternoon, however, a sudden explosion rocked the Eccles mine, and more than 180 workers never made it home.

The Eccles Mine Disaster

Eccles Mine No. 5 opened in 1905 in Eccles, West Virginia, a tiny rural town in Raleigh County. At 2:30 P.M. on that fateful day fewer than 10 years later, the mine was rocked by a series of violent explosions and parts of the mine collapsed while others were heavily damaged, trapping the miners inside. The people of Eccles and officials from the mining company rushed to the scene to aid the rescue efforts, but it soon became clear that the situation was more of a recovery than a rescue. All the miners in Eccles Mine No. 5 were killed, including five who were under the age of 14, as well as nine workers in a nearby mine where deadly gas had seeped in and a salesman who had the misfortune of choosing that day to visit the mine and sell insurance to its workers. Many of the victims could not be identified because of their horrific injuries.