Burnett No. 5 Mine Disaster 1904

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Burnett, Pierce County, Washingtonmap
Surnames/tags: Mining_Disasters Washington Disasters
This page has been accessed 502 times.

Disasters | Mining Disasters | United States Mining Disasters | Burnett No. 5 Mine Mine Disaster, 1904

Contact: United States Mining Disasters


History and Circumstances

Mine History

The mine in Burnett, Washington employed anywhere from 100-200 people in the late nineteenth century.[2] At their peak, 300 people worked in their coal mine.[6] It was owned by the South Prairie Coal Company.[7][8] 70 miners perished over the forty-seven year period that the mine was in operation.[6] Their mines were seen as "some of the deadliest mines in the state."[6] The Burnett mines were closed for good in 1927, after producing 3.6 million tons of coal.[6]

Mine Disaster Circumstances

An explosion rocked the mining town of Burnett when an explosion went off[2] at about 3 o'clock in the nearby mine.[5] Forty workers were starting to leave at the end of their shift when the rumbling was felt.[8] A search party was immediately organized and the townspeople worked for eight hours to recover eleven of the bodies.[3] Caving walls and noxious gases endangered the rescuers.[5] The brave searchers continued until almost midnight.[5] Hundreds of people went to the site the following day, as "an air of profound gloom pervaded the little town."[2] Twelve of the sixteen killed had their bodies recovered.[2][3] The remaining four were not expected to be recovered.[2][3][7]
"The scene at Burnett tonight is heartrending."[5]
"Frantic women, unconsolable with sorrow, are crying for their loved ones. Little children seek their fathers who met death while earning the support for the family."[5]
"[The] disaster at coal property in Pierce County brings death and suffering to homes of many workmen."
"One of the most terrible calamities that has ever blighted the mining industry in the state of Washington..."[7]
George Barber was one of the four that was in the lowest level of the mine. Originally thought to be too unsafe, the miners recovered his body three days later. George was only nineteen, single, and had been working in the mines by the time he was fourteen.[9] He was predeceased by a brother and survived by his parents, one sister, and three brothers. His story was only one of many that took a tragic turn that December 4th.

Results and Findings

The cause of the explosion was not clearly evident.[5] The theory was that the fire damp was responsible for the explosion.[5][7] About forty men were working when the tragedy occurred.[5][7] At least sixteen men perished in the Burnett No. 5 mine.[2][3] Nine (or more)[10] of those men left families behind.[3][7] The only survivor was the foreman, Joseph "Joe" Forsyth.[2] Joe had been trapped beneath the collapsed layers and was badly burned about the head and body.[7] He died three days later from his injuries.[11] Ventilation was returned to the mine but no further rescues were expected.[2][3] The coroner, C. C. Mellinger, arrived on the scene the next morning while the State Coal Mine Inspector, C. F. Owen, was still on his way.[7] The coroner's decision was not to hold an inquest until all the bodies were recovered, which was not expected to happen.[5][8] The four remaining bodies were recovered on the 9th of December.[12] Seventeen deaths were originally reported.[1] The final number was twenty-four.[1] With two of those names being possible duplicates, the minimum amount of souls lost was twenty-two.[1] The Burnett mines remained open until 1927.[6] In modern times the small community, once a mining town, lives on with many of the original buildings and houses in ruins.[6]

In Memoriam

Men That Died

Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
John Bambo, ?
George Barber,ɫɫ 20 Yes Yes No Yes
John Burke, 38
James Chapman,ɫɫ 19
Matt Cora, ?
Justus Eloon/Elson,ɫ 26, married
Matt Erickson, 35
Joseph "Joe" Forsythe
Charles "Charlie" Hill,ɫɫ 22
Sali Hill, ?
Matt Kusta/Karkas/Karkos, 29, married
John Lewis, 36
O Lina, 30
Erick Loma/Louma,ɫ 42, married
Johnathan/John Louma/Luoma, ?, single or married
John Luma/Lewis, 22, married
Oscar Luoma/Luckma, 18 (Louma?), married/single
Oscar Lura/Lubro/Fliro, ?, married
Oscar Makan/Mukan/Mukari/Mukara, ?, married
Andrew Matson/Maston, 39, married
Matt Pura/Penra/Peura, 34, married
J. S. Taylor,ɫɫ 45
John Valco, ?, single
ɫ These men were possibly a duplicate entry, later spelled differently
ɫɫ Men whose remains were originally left in the mine

Men That Were Injured

  • the foreman, Joe Forsythe,ɫɫ 39, rescued badly injured. Joe died on the 10th of December, just three days after the accident.
  • Gus Stran,ɫɫ ? (thought to be dead, found after the foreman - badly injured)(check if he actually survived. If so, note above)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Washington Mining Agency, "Washington Mining Fatalities, 1885-1960" ( : accessed 5 February 2020).
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 "Frightful Explosion in Washington Mine Snuffs Out Lives", Reno, Nevada, Reno Evening Gazette, 8 December 1904
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 "Terrible Mine Explosion," Lewiston, Maine, The Lewiston Daily Sun, 8 December 1904, p. 8, col. 5.
  4. Kelley, K. K. "Contributions to the Data on Theoretical Metallurgy" (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 96.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 News staff, "Fifteen Perish by Mine Horror." The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), (9 December 1904), p. 2, col. 3.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Webmaster. "Burnett: Ghost Towns of Washington" (, as viewed 5 February 2020. See the website for pictures of the overgrown buildings in 2013 as well as the mine in 1912.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 News staff. "Sixteen Lives Snuffed Out In Big Explosion: Four Miners Entombed." The Seattle Star, Seattle, Washington, 8 December 1904, p. 1, col. 8.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 News staff. "Mine Horror at Burnett." The Evening Statesman, Walla Walla, Washington, 8 December 1904, p. 1, cols 1-2.
  9. "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (www.ancestry.comk : accessed 5 February 2020), George H Barber in household of Robert Barber, South Prairie and Wilkeson Precincts, Pierce, Washington, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 160, sheet 5A, family 85, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,748.
  10. News Staff. "Killed at Burnett," The Spokane Press, Spokane, Washington, 8 December 1904, p. 1, cols. 7-8.
  11. News staff. "Seventeen Dead at Burnett," The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 11 December 1904, p. 15, col. 1.
  12. News staff. "Dead at Burnett Number 16," The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 10 December 1904, p. 3, col. 2. [The mine is incorrectly identified as Number 16.]


Comments: 1

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.
A man that died seems to be also Valentin Banko. Source:
posted by Bernard Banko