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Life Inside the Page

A Absolute Bath & Body Works fan who writes a blog for both men and women covering various topics including photography, gardening, cooking, arts and crafts .

Pennsylvania Coal Mines and a new postage stamp

August 13, 2013

Earlier this week, the United States Post Office unveiled some new postage stamps:
Made in America ~Building a Nation-- featuring images of those who work hard making America great.... textile workers, mechanics, riveters, miners and those who built iconic buildings like the Empire State Building. 

I think sometimes we take so much for granted in our daily lives.  We do what we do and have what we have but how often do we think of the sacrifices that were made to give us so much.

Living in a coal mining town myself...and having a grandfather who worked in the mines as a shovel operator, I was proud to see these new stamps.  I remember as a child waiting for him to come home from work seeing him covered in coal dust missing the tips of a few fingers from accidents that happened at work scared at the thoughts of what he did for a living. I could not imagine going underground.  And growing up there were a lot of stories over the dinner table about the mining accidents that have happened around this area now memorialized with plaques and signs.

VOL. XIX...NO. 5691
Heading: Ten or More Persons Buried Alive.
Disaster in the Coal Region
Caving is of a Pennsylvania Coal Mine
The Shaft Choked up
Fall of two Dwellings with the Bank
Ten People Buried in the Ruins.

Hazleton, Penn., December 18.-Another terrible mining accident occurred at 5 o'clock this morning at Stockton, near this place. A coal mine caved in, filling the shaft and tunnel with enormous masses of earth, carrying two large housed down with it, and choking the entrance to the mine. There were several persons in the dwelling houses at the time of the accident, and those were carried down in the falling mass, buried in the ruins, and doubtless instantly killed. As yet it has been entirely impossible to reach their bodies. Some men were in the mine, it is reported, at the time of the terrible disaster, and they are supposed to have been killed instantly. Ten persons in all lost their lives, and efforts are now making to extricate their bodies. The houses fell a distance of forty feet and were broken to fragments.

New York Times
Monday, December 20, 1869 (price: four cents)
The Sunken Coal Mine
The Latest Pennsylvania Mining Horror-
A Block of Houses Sink into a mine -
Ten Persons Engulfed-
Apprehension of Further Disaster

Hazleton, Penna., December 18.-Another terrible mining accident occurred at 5 o'clock this morning at Stockton, near this place. A coal mine caved in, filling the shaft and tunnel with enormous masses or earth, carrying two large houses down with it, and choking the entrance to the mine. There were several persons in the dwelling houses at the time of the accident, and these were carried down in the falling mass, buried in the ruins, and doubtless instantly killed. As yet it has been entirely impossible to reach their bodies. Some men were in the mine, it is reported, at the time of the terrible disaster, and they are supposed to have been killed instantly. Two persons in all lost their lives, and efforts are now making to extricate their bodies. The houses fell a distance of forty feet and were broken in fragments.

Mauch Chunk, Penn., Dec. 18.-One block of houses were swallowed up in the cavity so quickly that two families living in them had not time to escape. A girl who had fled from one of the houses as it went down, but not fast enough to escape falling, fell on top of the houses and was rescued. Three families in an adjoining block had just time to get off at a safe distance when the houses fell. Ten persons were swallowed up with the houses. GEORGE SWANK, his wife and four children, Mr. RETCH, (Rough) his wife, child and mother, were the unfortunates, and are still in the mine, and most certainly all be dead. The Hazleton steam fire engine has been throwing a continual stream on the ruins since daylight. The fireman are doing all I their power; they have taken charge of the affair, and extended a rope round the hole and allowed no persons inside. Trains are running from Hazleton every hour to the scene of the disaster, and will continue to do so until all the bodies are recovered, which will be some time yet, as it is still dangerous to enter on the work of the rescue, as the earth still continues to fall in, and thus enlarge the cavity continually, The excitement now is very great, and is increasing. Families in the vicinity are moving out of their houses, fearing that theirs will fall in next, and their fears are not groundless. The general opinion, indeed, is that other houses will soon fall. Mesers: Linderman & Skeer, the owners of the mine, arrived at the scene of the disaster this afternoon. They are sparing no pains to secure the bodies as speedily as possible. The mines are known as the "East Sugar Loaf Mines."

The Cause of the Disaster-
Twenty Feet Between the Mine and the Surface
Pottsville, Penn., Dec. 19-A dispatch to the Daily Journal from Hazleton says the cause of the accident at Hazleton was working the breast in the colliery too near the surface under the houses, there being only about twenty feet space left where they caved in. Only a few days before a couple of persons in a truck were pitched into a similar hole, where a portion of the foundation of the railroad had given way, over some workings that approached to near the surface.

The New York Times December 21, 1869
The Hazleton Coal Mine Disaster
Three Bodies Recovered

Mauch Chunk, Penna., Dec. 20-
Up to 7 o'clock P.M. to-day three bodies, those of Mrs SWANK, her oldest daughter and youngest child were found in the mine at Stockton, near Hazleton. The youngest child was in the oldest girl's arms with a sheet wrapped around it. The head of the oldest girl was crushed. Th mother was much bruised in the face.
New York Times Wednesday, December 22, 1869
Hazleton, Penn.,
December 21.-In addition to the bodies of Mrs SWANK and her two daughters, those of Mr. EATON and Mr. BAKER were also found on Monday night. The bodies were crushed to a pulp, and Mrs. SWANK's head was burned to a crisp.

On this day in local history

Hazleton, PA Mine Accident, Mar 1908

Two Killed in Hazleton Mine.
HAZLETON, Pa., March 18.---Howard Nelms and Henry Krause, mine workers of this city, were killed today in the Hazle colliery of the Lehigh Valley Coal Company, where they were doing repair work. The men were trying to release a loose piece of rock weighing several tons from the roof of the slope when it fell and crushed them to death.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA 19 Mar 1908

In Todays newspaper, the headline is another reminder of a mining tragedy most remembered, now 50 years later,  as well as a story of a miracle that no one in this area will ever forget.  I see the photos from the past and as an adult I still find them haunting.  This blog today is in honor of those passed who have helped build up the towns across America and the sacrifices it took to do so.....and to those continuing to do so.....God Bless all of you always...


Mine cavein 50 years ago grabs worlds attention
By ED CONRAD (Standard-Speaker)
Editor's note: The Standard-Speaker published this story a decade ago on the 40th anniversary of the Sheppton mine cave-in and rescue. It has been modified for today - 50 years after a mine collapse trapped three men underground, including one forever.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of one of the greatest local stories ever published by the Standard-Speaker or its predecessors.

It will forever be remembered as the Sheppton Mine Disaster, even though it really didn't happen in Sheppton and the word "disaster" might be a misnomer because many believe what happened was nothing less than a miracle.
That's because two anthracite miners, David Fellin and Henry "Hank" Throne, were rescued after being trapped underground for an incredible 14 days following a cave-in more than 300 feet below the surface.

The events of August 1963 would put the Hazleton area in the international limelight for almost two full weeks.
On the morning of Aug. 13, things were relatively quiet in the newsroom of the Standard-Speaker.
Then there was a frantic phone call informing Dominic Antonelli, the day city editor, that part of a bridge in White Haven had just collapsed into the Lehigh River.
Within minutes, another frantic call came in. There had been a cave-in at a coal mine near Sheppton and three miners were entombed.
The loss of three miners in a cave-in was only of local news and of little interest elsewhere in the world.
But, five days later, on Aug. 18, 1963, contact was made with two of the miners underground, and it became a sensational human-interest story that girdled the globe.
The dramatic rescue effort, which lasted more than a week, was front-page news in many newspapers across the world.
Reporters, columnists and photographers from overseas - London, Japan, Germany and other countries - were dispatched to the mine site to cover the event.
Watching, waiting
For the first six days of their ordeal following the cave-in on Aug. 13, 1963, Fellin and Throne were completely out of contact with the rest of the world.
Louis Bova, 54, of Pattersonville, near Shenandoah, the third miner entombed that morning, had been separated from the other two and his body was never found.
But for those first six days, Fellin, then 58, of Sheppton, and Throne, then 28, of Hazleton, courageously faced what appeared to be certain death.
Fellin, a miner for more than four decades, knew there was nothing the rescue party of volunteers could do to reach them.
There was only one entrance or exit - known as a slope - at the Oneida No. 2 mine, which was actually located outside the geographical limits of the village of Sheppton midway between Hazleton and Shenandoah.
However, rescuers couldn't enter the slope because of additional rumblings deep inside, as well as the presence of hazardous gas.
So, for several days, officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Mines and Mineral Industries as well as members of the rescue party could do very little but watch and wait.
Meanwhile, Fellin and Throne were simply trying to stay alive.
Fellin, co-owner of the mine with Gene Gibbons, was semi-retired and no longer a full-time miner. But that morning, he descended underground with Throne and Bova to show them what he wanted them to do and also help load a metal mine car that ran on railroad tracks and hauled the coal to the surface.
When the first buggy was loaded, Bova pulled a cord that signaled George Walker, the hoisting engineer in a small building topside, to activate the mechanical hoist and pull the car out of the mine.
That first buggy made it about halfway to the surface when, suddenly, it stopped and the earth began quaking perhaps 100 feet above the three miners.
Within seconds, Fellin, Throne and Bova heard louder rumbling above them just as a long electrical cord inside the gangway snapped and began dancing wildly, sparking electrical current.
Fellin immediately knew he or the others would be electrocuted if they came in contact with the live wire. So he beckoned them to a small chamber off the main gangway to get out of the way of the dancing wire.
When they entered the small enclosure - only about 2 feet wide and 9 to 10 feet long - the rumbling intensified and it appeared that tons of dirt, rock and coal were about to cascade down on them.
But, just then, Bova noticed a different chamber a short distance away and began running toward it.
It was a fatal mistake because, almost immediately, the worst of the cave-in occurred, filling the area where they had been working.
That was the last Fellin or Throne saw Bova, whose body was never recovered and who is remembered today by a tombstone at the site of the rescue.
Water, warmth
While the initial rescue team was totally frustrated above ground, Fellin and Throne were doing what they could to survive below.
For almost an hour they sat side by side in the enclosure, which was hardly wide enough for one of them to squeeze past the other.
And all the time - while waiting for the aftershocks of the first cave-in to subside - each pulled up his shirt and placed it over his nose and mouth because there was little letup in dust.
Finally, when the tremors had ended and the dust finally settled, they realized they had to find water.
Fellin, familiar with the mine, knew there was a reservoir of stagnant, sewer-smelling water beneath their feet. So he used a broken tool to dig a small hole and, after it seemed to have hit a void, he grabbed an empty oil can, tied a rope to it and lowered it deep below him.
Soon, he was hauling up a can of putrid water.
Sipping it the first time, both Fellin and Throne spit it out. But, after a few more sips, it wasn't tasting so awful and they began swallowing.
Next, the two miners had to combat the cold.
The temperature inside the mine hovered around 55 degrees but the clothes Fellin and Throne wore were saturated and they were shivering.
That's when Throne, sitting aside Fellin with their backs to a wall, nonchalantly told his companion that he knew how he could make them warm.
He told Fellin to sit between his legs and start rocking, which he did.
And each time they rocked, Throne had Fellin's shirt lifted and was blowing air down his back. And, soon, both men were warm.
Fellin expressed amazement but Throne told him it was something he had been taught in the armed forces while stationed at a base in the far north.
They didn't have to face the other necessity - food - until the next day. That's when Fellin and Throne, who hadn't eaten for more than 24 hours, experienced serious hunger pain.
They were so hungry, in fact, that they attempted to eat the bark off timber that was holding up the roof of their chamber. But they spit it out in disgust when they realized they couldn't swallow it.
Then, suddenly, Fellin told Throne that he believed he had a way to "feed" them. He then got the can of water, held a finger to his Adam's apple and took a sip. Fellin then told Throne to do likewise.
And, after doing it a few times, both realized they were no longer hungry.
Fellin explained that, for some reason, he remembered seeing movie newsreels in which Mahatma Gandhi would be shown in the midst of his many long hunger strikes, subsisting only on water. And Fellin said he remembered that anytime Gandhi was shown taking a drink, he was pressing onto his Adam's apple.
Years later, Fellin said he had learned that the maneuver triggers a mechanism in the body that allows a person to live off body fats. He did that until food was sent down through a borehole after the rescue crew made contact.
'They're alive'
On the surface, rescuers began to fear there was nothing they could do to save the men, if they were even still alive.
And, when virtually all hope was lost that any of the three miners might be found alive, a million-in-one gamble was taken.
It was decided, as a last-ditch effort to satisfy the families of the miners, to drill a 6-inch-wide borehole in an attempt to reach one or more of the men buried more than 300 feet underground.
Drilling the hole took much of Aug. 17 and all of Aug. 18, but around 11 p.m. on Aug. 18, a Sunday, a hole had been drilled to the proper depth.
And just before midnight, a light and a microphone were lowered into the earth in an effort to establish contact with one or more of the miners.
A member of the rescue crew cupped his mouth over the borehole, got as close as he could to the ground and yelled: "Look for the light!"
He thought he had detected something, so he stood up and waved both arms, demanding total silence.
Once again he got on all fours and once again hollered, "Look for the light!" then cupped an ear to the borehole and excitedly jumped to his feet and screamed: "They're alive! I hear them! They're alive!"
Within minutes, the astounding news spread like wildfire around the world.
"MINE MIRACLE" was the giant headline across the top of The Los Angeles Times the next morning.
However, the original article in the Times contained an unfortunate error. The article, transmitted via a wire service, stated that all three miners were found alive. That was not the case, as Fellin informed the rescue team just minutes after the original contact was made that Bova was not with them.
What followed was the patient drilling of larger boreholes, then the drilling of a 17½-inch borehole with a drill loaned by one of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes' companies.
People worldwide waited for a happy ending - and it finally came in the wee hours of Aug. 27, 1963.
First Throne, then Fellin were pulled to the surface wearing parachute harnesses and football helmets.
It was a scene that would be almost duplicated at the Quecreek bituminous mine in Somerset County in 2002.
There was a great difference in the two rescues, however.
At Somerset, high-tech scientific equipment was used to determine where the men might be underground.
In the cave-in and rescue near Sheppton, it was sheer guesswork - and a good deal of luck.
The original drill had traveled many miles to arrive at the site where the cave-in occurred. It was destined to drill the borehole near a wooden stake that indicated where the miners might be found, at the recommendation of state Bureau of Mining and United Mine Workers officials and veteran miners who had worked inside that mine years before.
But it didn't quite work out that way.
The truck carrying the drill broke down quite a distance from the stake. With little recourse and less time to waste, rescuers decided to sink the borehole there.
And the rest is history.

Sheppton Mine Disaster Photos:
thanks to the greater Hazleton historical society and museum

The "command" center where press and others, passed information in and out during the tense days leading up to the rescue. The news riveted the area and the nation.

Wife of one of the trapped miners (David Fellin) is overcome with anxiety as she waits for word that her husband is alive and can be rescued.

Crowds and cameras gather as news spreads that a middle of the night rescue was about to happen.

Rescue efforts are set up to save the trapped miners in Sheppton. Two drills were in constant use during the entire period of the rescue efforts. One dug a rescue outlet for Fellin and Throne, while the other drill probed the underground to attempt contact with Bova

Joy on the faces of the rescuers, priest, family and friends as the miners are in the process of being rescued!

Medics prepare to rush the rescued miners to medical help.


David Fellin (r), then 58, and Henry “Hank” Throne(l), 28 ...both men were trapped and thought dead, then miraculously rescued after being buried 330 feet underground for a long 14 days.

The rescued miners plant a tree and commemorate their rescue.

Other photos:

Children of the mines-hazleton
Honey Brook Colliery - 1869. This photo was used in a September issue of Harper's Weekly that year. The issue profiled the Coal Region. The author wrote, "The Honey Brook Mines are located at a point where the counties of Carbon, Luzerne, and Schuykill meet, this point being the highest in Pennsylvania, if we except the treaty ridge a mile distant, which is 50 feet higher..."
photos courtesy of the greater haz. historical
society and museum
Bath and Body Works Autumn Signature Traditions
Bath and Body Works: fresh picked hard working han...


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