Cherry Mine Disaster 1909

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 13 Nov 1909 [unknown]
Location: Cherry, Bureau County, Illinoismap
Surnames/tags: disasters mining disasters Illinois
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Disasters | Mining Disasters | United States Mining Disasters |Northeast United States Mining Disasters |Cherry Mine Disaster 1909

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History and Circumstances

The Cherry Mine was located in Bureau County, Illinois. It was owned by the St. Paul Coal Company, and had been in operation since 1905. On November 13, 1909, a fire spread through the mine; efforts to stop the fire only made it worse. 259 miners, most of them immigrants, died in the mine. 21 miners survived for eight days, after blocking themselves off from the fire and gases; 1 of these died after rescue.

According to the U. S. Department of Labor, this was the third worst coal mining disaster in U.S. history. [1]

In Memoriam

Please visit the link below for the profiles of the 259 men who died in the Cherry Mine Disaster. (Note: names are taken from the list in the official state report, and spelling may vary in other records.)

Victims of the Cherry Mine Disaster

Rescue Efforts and Rescuers

Powell, David - superintendent of the Braceville, Illinois mine.
Heaney, Father James - Pastor of St. Mary's Church in Mendota.
Wencel, Father - of St. Bede Abbey in Peru.
Kenney, Captain - of the Chicago Fire Dept.
Hozey, Joseph - saloon keeper

Survivors found on November 20:

Barnoski, John
Brown, Thomas
Cleland, William
Eddy, George - age 48; mine examiner; lived in Cherry.
Halofcak, Daniel - died 2 days after rescue.
Lanzi, Fred
Lorimer, John - brother-in-law of George McMullen
Pigatti, Joe
Pigatti, Silvatore, d. of tetanus in 1923. [2]
Prohaska, Frank
Prohaska, Fred
Quartarole, Antenore - later wrote an account of the disaster, which was published in Italian and English.
Ruggeri, Bonfiglio
Semich, George
Semich, John
Stimez, George
Waite, Frank
Waite, Walter
White, Thomas - cousin of Thomas English, of Streator.
Zanarini, Frank

Other survivors:
Buckels, Albert - age 14.
Cawley, John - hoisting engineer, formerly of Streator.,br. Dean, Robert -- cager. Attempted to fight the fire.
Francisco, Matt - age 16.
Hanney, James - age 56. President of the local union; born in Scotland.
Hewitt, Thomas - driver, of Streator.
Lettsome, Alma - age 26, married, lived in Cherry.
Maxwell, William - lived in Spring Valley. His son also worked in the mine, and survived.
Hugh McMullen -- son of George McMullen, Sr.
Quimby, John -- first to call up with word of the fire.
Rosenjack, Alex -- cager. Attempted to fight the fire; participated in early rescue attempts.
Shaw, Robert - lived in Spring Valley; miner for 10 years.
Smith, William A. - lived in Cherry.
Stuckert, John - secretary of the local union; miner for 35 years.
Tallio, Consiglio - said he was the last man to escape alive.
Vickers, William - lived in Cherry; married.

Results and Findings

The fire was determined to have been caused by a coal car, filled with hay for the mules working underground, being placed underneath kerosene torch. By the time the flames in the hay were put out, the pine timbers inside the shafts had begun to catch fire.

As a result of the Cherry Mine fire and deaths, the Illinois legislature passed stronger regulations over mine safety, and the beginnings of the state's Worker's Compensation program.[3]


  1. Mining Safety and Health Administration, Fact Sheet 95-8
  2. Dixon Evening Telegraph clipping
  3. Illinois Labor History Society
  • Cherry Mine Disaster, pages 36-45 for Table of Victims
  • Memorial of the 50th Anniversary of the Cherry Mine Disaster, 1909-1959. Anton Demichelis. Peru, IL: St. Bede Abbey Press, 1959.
  • Buck, F. P., "The Cherry Mine Disaster." Chicago, IL: M. A. Donohue & Co. (1910)

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