Location: Sutton, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska
Surnames/tags: Mining_Disasters Alaska Disasters
Return to Alaska Mining Disasters
History and Circumstances
- Date: 18 Jan 1957
- Location: Sutton, Alaska
- Victims: # deaths, # injuries
- Cause: Explosion
- The discovery of coal in on the Kenai Peninsula in 1786 was one of the many things that helped Alaska become colonized in her infancy. Coal mining didn’t begin until 1855 when Enoch Hjalmar Furuhjelm opened the first coal mine in what is now called Port Graham. Once gold was discovered in Alaska, coal demand increased expediently as steamships began to take prospectors and their supplies up rivers and on ships across the Gulf of Alaska. Even with many steamships converting to petroleum power in the early 1900’s the trains that were beginning to be introduced, thanks to the Alaska Railroad Act and U.S Naval ships still operated using coal. 
- The Evans Jones Coal Mine operated between 1920 and 1968 in Sutton, AK where it produced over five million tons of coal and was the site of a serious mining accident in 1937. 
Mine Disaster Circumstances
- Mid-morning on 18 January 1957 an unexplained explosion in the Evan Jones coal mine near Sutton, Alaska trapped miners behind a wall of debris one thousand feet from the mine exits. The explosion blew out the mine's ventilation system which stalled rescue work until it could be repaired and air pumped to the rescue crews.
- Investigation Report
- Workers said it appeared all the men were killed instantly by the concussion of the explosion. It was believed that the explosion was caused by methane gas or coal dust in the tunnel. The explosion knocked down a 35 foot mass of rock, dirt and timber into the shaft 300 feet from the mine entrance.
Rescue Effort & Rescuers
- An 80 man rescue crew was directed by Don Hill, manager of the Evan Jones Coal Co. which leases the mine to the independent operators. Rescue efforts were hampered by narrow working space and ventilation problems.
- Four bodies were recovered quickly but the fifth man was not found. A sixth member of the crew survived because he had left the main shaft on routine business a few moments before the explosion. 
Men That Died
- Merrit Long was the crew member who survived the explosion because he had left the area a few minutes before the explosion. He helped direct the rescuers toward the place where he left his coworkers.
- Add genealogy resources here that are found specifically relating to this disaster or the area.
- Alaska Church Records on FamilySearch
- Alaska Historical Society on AlaskaHistoricalSociety.org
- Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska on Wikipedia.org
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- ↑ History of coal mining in Alaska
- ↑ Jonesville Coal Mine
- ↑ Five Trapped By Mine Blast. The Billings Gazette(Billings, Montana). 19 Jan 1957, Sat. Page 1
- ↑ Rescuers Still Seek One Man; No Hope Held for His Survival. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner(Fairbanks, Alaska). 19 Jan 1957, Sat. Page1.
- ↑ no hope
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