The Marianna Mine Was Safe When It Exploded

Read this in 3 minutes Skip To Map

The Marianna Mine when it exploded
The Marianna Mine when it exploded
Photo credit: Public domain

Coal mining is dangerous. The Marianna Mine was built to be the safe. The mine was a year old on Saturday, November 28, 1908 when an explosion erupted shortly before 11:00 AM. The blast was heard for miles.

The explosion happened at shift change. Miners had entered the facility before the previous shift cleared out – meaning that more miners were present than usual.

The Marianna Mine was equipped with improvements intended to prevent accidents. It was a model of safe industrial technology. Many people thought it was the finest mine in the world. U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt & European coal mining officials toured the facility. The coal town itself – which was a company town – provided a comparatively high standard of living. Drawings, photographs & a model of the town were exhibited at the Carnegie Art Galleries in Pittsburgh. A thorough, two-day inspection of the mine right before the accident found everything in order.

The explosion destroyed two mine shafts & derricks. It wrecked ventilating fans. A tipple was ruined. Equipment was devastated. Buildings were leveled.

Following the explosion, the mine could be reached only through air shafts & other mines. People worked to make air circulate inside the mine in hopes that miners may have survived. They labored to get into the mine. They surveyed the damage. It was determined that the mine wasn’t on fire. Workers endeavored to make the mine safe for rescue efforts.

As night fell, electric wires were strung to bring light around the shaft, where stretchers & blankets were laid in the hopes that survivors would need them.

The miners’ families, their friends & gawkers gathered to watch the rescue effort. People drove cars – which were new at the time – to see the devastation first hand. Special trains were pressed into service to accommodate other spectators. The area around the mine was roped off, keeping people from getting closer than fifty or 100 feet. Company & state police kept the crowds behind the rope so that the work could continue unhindered.

Company officials, doctors & morticians descended on the devastated mine. One by one, bodies – not survivors – were brought up. 152 miners were dead. It was the 10th deadliest explosion in mining history.

Statistics from the U.S Mine Safety & Health Administration show that more 100,000 miners died in coal fatalities during the 20th century.

One miner survived the Marianna Mine Explosion. Fred Elinger fell unconscious from toxic gases. When he woke, he heard rescuers. He shouted until they found him. The explosion had torn his clothes off, singed his hair & burned his eyes. Tiny pieces of coal peppered his body. He wasn’t expected to live. More than a month later, he was released from the hospital.

An inquest found that coal dust had concentrated in the air of a tunnel that was dynamited to loosen the coal. No fault was found. Improvements to mining laws were recommended. An inquest found that coal dust had concentrated in the air of a tunnel that was dynamited to loosen the coal. No fault was found. Improvements to mining laws were recommended.

The mine reopened. It was sold a few years later then sold again to Bethlehem Steel. In the late 1950s, six miners died in another explosion at the facility. Bethlehem Steel extracted coal from the Marianna Mine until the late 1980s, when the main conveyor caught fire. The fire was extinguished. The mine was closed. The complex was demolished.