Carbon Hill No. 7 Mine Disaster 1899

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Date: 9 Dec 1899
Location: Carbonado, Pierce County, Washingtonmap
Surnames/tags: Mining_Disasters Washington Disasters
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Disasters | Mining Disasters | United States Mining Disasters | Carbon Hill No. 7 Mine Disaster, 1899

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History and Circumstances

Mine History

The Carbonado mining town
By the 1860s the extension of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the growing commodity needs in Seattle caused coal mining to expand.[5] In 1879 Richard D. Chandler, a San Francisco investor, purchased the Carbon River Coal Mining Company's claim.[5] Charles Crocker, the cofounder of the Central Pacific Railroad and controller of the Southern Pacific Railroad,[1] was so impressed with the Carbonado coal operation that he bought the town and the mines in 1881.[5]
Carbon Hill Coal Company[6] continued to make improvements and expand the mine.[5] Mules were replaced by steam engines to hoist the materials into the mine.[5] A second railroad spur was built in 1888.[5] Approximately 400 men had been given work by the mine.[6] By the 1890s the mines were the first to be illuminated with electricity.[5]

Mine Disaster Circumstances

A Miner's home in Carbonado
On the 7th of December 1899 the morning shift (2 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) showed up for work as the evening shift was preparing to go home.[5][6] About eighty men (or more)[1] were in the mine at the time.[6] The foreman gave the "all clear" signal and a small team prepared an explosive charge to dislodge a load of coal.[5] The ensuing explosion shook the mine and sent the miners scrambling.[5] Those who could escape fled to the surface,[1][5] many of which were "knocked senseless."[1] Word spread quickly and the off-duty miners raced to the mine to assist with rescue efforts.[5] It was several hours before the rescuers could enter the mine.[6] At that time they thought all the miners were dead and the families flocked around the shaft hoping to hear different.[1][6] People seemed "too dazed for any expression of grief of a demonstrative nature."[4]
  • Women--the wives of the men supposed to be in the shaft--ran to and fro screaming and wringing their hands with anguish, crying children clinging to their skirts.[1][4]
  • Groans of the dying and wounded were heard on every hand. By the dim lights of their safety lamps, they could find charred and twisted bodies behind piles of timbers and masses of coal.[1]
The steep incline to the mine
The rescued men returned to the shaft after breathing the clear air at the surface.[1] Several were overcome by the after-damp which resulted in further deaths.[1] Ten additional men were pulled out through the debris using ropes.[1] The wounded, once lifted out by ropes, were carried a mile or more down the steep incline and then to the town of Carbonado.[1] Some were carried on stretchers, others on horseback.[1] Seventy-six men had been employed in that shift, working from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.[4] The explosion was said to have occurred between 10 and 11 a.m..[1] The foreman, Jonah H. Davies, escaped unhurt.[1][4] Those who had escaped the explosion were anxious to return to the shaft to rescue fellow miners.[4] Once allowed in it took "no time at all" to get the dead and the wounded up to the surface.[4]
  • As I passed down the timbered shoot I saw men lying dead in bunches of two and three, but I paid no attention to them, for I had gone down to rescue live men, and not bring out bodies.[1]
  • This dismal solemn procession of men, just alive, was certainly one of the most terrible sights a human being could be called upon to witness. Only the weird light of a few lanterns and miners' lamps lighted the pathway to enable the wounded and those assisting them to find their way down the mountainside. Strong men wept as they beheld this parade of blood and death.[1]
  • The scenes at the hospital were pitiful. Men whose clothing was almost burned from their bodies were laid out as fast as they arrive, their eyebrows and hair singed and their faces black and bleeding. Women and children surrounded the building weeping.[1][4]
  • I was working on the fourth cross cut when the explosion came. After that I went to sleep, and somebody came and woke me up and took me out of there.[7]
As a sign of the times some articles segmented the miners names as follows: Company men, Contract Miners, Finns, Poles, Germans, Welsh, and Americans. There was no separation of race or class on this horrific night as the miners were all bound together by this tragic fate. Watt Jones, at age thirty-five, had been the last living child of his widowed mother.[3] His three brothers had all been killed in coal mine accidents.[3] A few years before her daughter and grandchild, the only living relatives, had been killed by a falling tree.[3] Mrs. Meredith, the wife of Howell Meredith, feared that she had lost both her husband and son.[3] Her husband perished after returning to the shaft to find their son who was later found alive and rescued.[3] These were just two examples of the many townspeople who were surrounded by their neighbors, their mining "family," offering consolation.[3]

Results and Findings

The miners that escaped estimated that at least fifty people had died.[1] At the minimum, thirty-three men perished in the tragic explosion at the No. 7 mine. Governor John Rogers (1838-1901) quickly gathered a committee and traveled to the scene.[1][5] Also there were the County sheriff, the coroner, and a number of state officials.[5] The mine wasn't declared clear of gas until 9 o'clock that evening. The rescue teams entered finding no survivors where the blast occurred.[5] Thirty-three men they had worked alongside had lost their lives in the explosion.[5] Forty-two people had escaped; five with injuries.[8] Two of the survivors were not rescued until the following morning, having been entombed in the mine all night.[8] Nobody blamed the mine as this was considered to be a common hazard.[1] With so many miners to account for the initial list of thirty-three missing men was thought to be "defective."[1] Incidents such as these were why the mines later made metal name discs for the miners to take with them when they went into the mine. After returning to the surface they placed their name tab back on the board.
It had been theorized that a small pocket of gas had opened, ignited, and caused the explosion.[8] Early on the Superintendent Davies expressed disbelief in this theory.[1] The investigation that followed determined that twenty-year-old Ben Zedler had triggered the explosion when he opened his headlamp to light a pipe.[3][5] This had ignited flammable gas that set off a nearby dynamite charge.[5] Relief efforts from around the county sent support to the victims families.[5] A memorial service was held on the 12th of December 1899 at the local cemetery, where most of the miners were buried.[5]

In Memorium

See the category for a list of the men that died, or were injured, in the mine explosion.

Men That Died

Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
Paul Curtiss
Richard Dape/Dare/Durr,ɫ§ 27, married, "one of the finest young men living here. He was married only a year ago and his aged parents had just arrived to visit them (from Pennsylvania)[1][3]
Daniel/Dan E Davis,ɫ§ 18, son of Foreman Davis, single
William M Davis
John P. Dekonink
Thomas J. (T.J.) Edwards,§ 40, married
John Folta
Andrew Geley/Gecey/Goceyɫ
August/Gustave Halnayt/Hainaut
Emil Halnayt/Hainaut
John Hillɫ
Leonard Johnsonɫ
John H Jones II,ɫ§ 64, married, adult daughter
Lee S Jones
Reese Jones,§ Fire Inspector, 30, unmarried
Walkins/Watkin/Watt Jones,ɫ Chief Starter, 35,
the last child of his widowed mother, 3 others killed in mining accidents
Michael/Mike Kichniko/Kichinko/Knish/Kachenko,ɫ 25, single
Steven/Steve Kraugnoga/Kraunoga/Kromoga
Jacob Lange/Lande (listed as dead but alive at the top of the mine)
Joseph/Joe Lee,ɫ 26, single
Evan M Lewis,ɫ§ 20/24, single
John Mellonɫ
Howell/Howard Meredith Sr,ɫ§ 59, 9 grown children,
Howell went back into the mine for his son, Daniel, working below. His son came out unharmed but Howell was later found dead.[1][3]
Matt Nuland/Nulond
Adam Pavoli/Pavol
Matt Rehlea/Rhilaɫ
Evan Richards,§ married, 6 children
Victor Ruhinskiɫ
Henry Solni/Soini/Sorniɫ
David X Thomas,ɫ 55, married, several children
Joseph/Joe Thomas
??/William Wilson or Wilson Williamɫ
Ben Zeidler/Zedler Sr
Ben Ziller/Zeinler/Zedler/Sedler Jrɫ
Peter Merpɫ
? Sewack

ɫ These were listed as Company Men. The rest were classified as Contract Men.
§ These men were initially thought to be missing and were later found to be deceased.

Men That Were Injured

# Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
1 Kachiuga, Unnamed
2 Conway, James, married, 2 small children
3 Donovan, Unnamed, of Fairfax
4 Loughlen, Unnamed, of Tacoma
5 Rummel, Unnamed, of Tacoma
6 Stewart, F. J., of Carbonado
7 Taylor, Charles, of Wilkeson
8 Carlunt, Abraham
9 Meredith, Dan
10 Lewis, Dave
11 Langwen, Samuel
12 Hockyard, Daniel
13 Unknown Hungarian, didn't speak English


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 Special Dispatch. "Terrible Disaster in Carbonado Mines," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, Washington, 10 December 1899, p. 1, cols 4-6.
  2. "Washington Mining Fatalities 1885-1960," Washington Mining Association, viewed on, 5 February 2020.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Special Dispatch. "Terrible Disaster in Carbonado Mines," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, Washington, 10 December 1899, p. 9, cols 1-4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Staff. "Thirty-two Victims, Aurora Daily Express, Aurora, Illinois, 11 December 1899, p. 1, col. 7.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 Echtle, Edward. "Carbonado - Thumbnail History" (, as viewed 5 February 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Staff. "The Carbonado Mine Disaster," Lewiston Evening Journal, Lewiston, Maine, 11 December 1899, p. 1, col. 2.
  7. Webmaster. "Mine Disasters in the United States: Carbon Hill No. 7 Mine Explosion,", as viewed 5 February 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Staff. "A Mine Explosion at Carbonado, Washington," Boston Evening Transcript, Boston, Massachusetts, 11 December 1899, p. 9, col. 2.



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