Location: Kemmerer, Lincoln County, Wyoming
Surnames/tags: Mining_Disasters Wyoming Disasters
Contact: United States Mining Disasters
History and Circumstances
- Date: 14 Aug 1923
- Location: Kemmerer, Wyoming
- Victims: 99 deaths
- Cause: Mine explosion
- Kemmerer, Wy is located North of Interstate 80 off Highway 30. With coal deposits in Wyoming being discovered in 1843 by the second Frémont Expedition. It opened opportunities for companies and individuals to invest money. When the Union Pacific Coal Company opened the first underground mine in 1881 after construction of the Oregon Short Line Railroad from Granger to Oregon. Mining companies starting to find locations throughout the state, one such location was near what is currently Kemmerer. In 1897, Patrick J. Quealy founded Kemmerer as an "independent town" and later incorporated it in 1899. Quealy was the vice-president of the Kemmerer Coal Company. The company and town was name after Quealy's financial backer, Pennsylvania coal magnate Mahlon S. Kemmerer. 
- Throughout the years, the mines located in Kemmerer experienced many accidents ending in fatalities. The accidents were not exclusive to just one mining company they all experienced accidents caused by explosions. These accidents left many families without fathers, sons, brothers, and uncles. Many of the deaths received compensation depending upon whether they had families.
|Kemmerer Mine No. 1 - 1910|
Mine Disaster Circumstances
|Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, Kansas – 14 Aug 1923 |
On Tuesday, 14 August 1923, 136 men reported to work in the Frontier Number One mine. Ordinarily, 250 miners would have reported for work, but about 125 men took a holiday that day. At approximately 8:30 a.m., after the second trip car carried miners into the mine, a terrible explosion took place. The town of Frontier knew something had happened from the dense smoke coming out of the large mine fans. The influence of the accident began immediately. One hundred and thirty-five men had reported to work that morning and only thirty-six came out alive. Ninety-nine miners perished. According to the coroner’s inquest, "The explosion was caused by gas in No. 7 room 30 entry, same being ignited by fire boss when relighting his safety lamp, all victims of the explosion thereby meeting their death." This accident became the second worst mining disaster in the state of Wyoming.
|Frontier Mine No. 1|
About a thousand people had gathered at the mouth of the mine by noon, on the day of the accident. The Kemmerer Camera reported, "Within a short time all roads and paths from the town to the mine were filled with wives, children, and friends of the imprisoned men." Citizens of the community banded together both in grief and in the necessity to care for its own. The women of the community made meals, hot coffee and fed the rescuers. Others fed the families who lost loved ones. Men in the communities, many coal miners themselves, lent their manual labor in the rescue efforts and in the digging of the graves. The Kemmerer Republican reported, "For every task, and there were many, that was presented following the tragic affair, there were volunteers without number..." The whole community was involved. Local physicians and nurses responded by offering their services at the mine. The blacksmith shop was changed into a first aid station where several miners were treated.
|Families at Frontier Mine No. 1 Entrance after Explosion|
Rescue Effort & Rescuers
Rescue teams initiated efforts while residents of the communities gathered at the mine entrance. About a hundred miners answered the call to rescue and to help with the recovery of the dead. These miners came from surrounding mines including Cumberland, Glencoe and Diamondville to help. The relief crew included men who had the day off work, but ordinarily would have worked in the Frontier mine that fateful day. P.J. Quealy and Tom Jiacoletti directed the rescue operations. Trip after trip went into the mine clearing debris and looking for survivors or bodies of the dead.
They did not go into the mine to rescue strangers, they went in the mine to rescue fellow miners.
Rescue teams successfully saved the lives of 37 men and recovered the bodies of 99 men. Rescue efforts for survivors took a total of forty hours, but they continued their work recovering the remaining bodies of the deceased miners over several days.
Volunteers, including many miners, had to help dig graves in the local cemetery for burial. Several hundred men worked in shifts preparing graves for the deceased miners. Most of the graves held eight coffins each. In addition to the large graves, throughout the cemetery, private graves in family plots needed digging. The Kemmerer Republican reported, "It is a gruesome (sic) sight at the City cemetery, this morning, with a hundred rough boxes awaiting the coffins this afternoon. Great credit is due the volunteer grave diggers, most of whom are fellow-workers of the dead."
The two local funeral parlors, Fitzpatrick and Embree, had a difficult time handling the sudden influx of business. The mortuaries needed volunteers to assist in transporting the bodies from the Frontier mine to Kemmerer and in preparing the bodies for burial. Many of the dead could not be embalmed, because of the limited number of undertakers, so they used another method to preserve the bodies. Between the alternative method of embalming and the hot August weather, burial had to take place immediately.
Another factor relating to the mortuaries had to do with space. The funeral homes did not have enough room to hold the large number of deceased miners. The local I.O.O.F Hall improvised as a morgue to accommodate the large number of bodies. The Wyoming Press describes the scene, "Stretched out on the floor at the I.O.O.F hall at Kemmerer were the dead. They were laid out in two rows, their bodies covered only by a sheet. In another room, the miners were being stripped of their work clothes and the bodies washed and a third row of the dead was being added to as fast as the workers could accomplish their awful task."
|Family and Friends Identifying Bodies of Miners|
Reports by several sources, maintain that the undertaker’s greed combined with the large ordeal had unfortunate consequences. Apparently, in their hurry they carelessly stacked the bodies on the waiting trucks. Upon leaving the mine, one of the trucks hurried over the railroad tracks causing several bodies to fall from the truck on the way to Kemmerer. Whether carelessness, greed, or because of the enormous task, this incident put this particular funeral parlor out of business. This carelessness during the Frontier mine accident caused this funeral homes' ultimate demise.
A community memorial service was held in Kemmerer in Triangle Park. The Kemmerer Republican newspaper describes:
- All of Kemmerer bowed its head in sorrow last Friday and Saturday as the victims of the mine explosion were tenderly laid at final rest, and it was a great relief to all when the last body, the last reminder of the awful tragedy, was laid away. It really was a three-day funeral, as nine caskets were lowered Thursday the second day after the explosion, 63 Friday, the day of the community services; 10 were shipped to out-of-town points, and 17 were buried Saturday. 
|21-Gun Salute at Memorial Service for Miners|
Results and Findings
E.W. Holmes, Coroner of the County of Lincoln, State of Wyoming, opened Court at Kemmerer, in the said County, on the 17th day of August, A. D. 1923, at 9:00 o'clock A.M. Said Coroner summoned Geo. W. Brown, Wm. McAllister and Joseph Bird Sr., to appear in the Court forthwith to act as jurors at this inquest, and all of the said jurors being present, they were duly sworn as required by law; and thereupon they inspected the bodies lying then and there before them, and proceeded with the inquest.  To view excerpts of the Coroner’s Inquest click on this link.
- See the category for a list of the men that died, or were injured, in the mine explosion.
- To see a list of the names of the 37 individuals who were rescued from the mine after the explosion click on this link. The list is located on the right side of the page near the bottom of the page.
Men That Died
- Frontier Mine No. 1 - 99 Miners Killed
- 14 American--10 married, 4 single, 26 children
- 12 Austrian--6 married, 6 single, 22 children
- 37 Italian--16 married, 21 single, 32 children
- 17 Japanese--8 married, 9 single, 3 children
- 11 Finnish--6 married, 5 single, 6 children
- 5 Mexican--5 married, 6 children
- 2 Slavic--2 married, 2 children
- 1 Canadian
This page has biographies with photos of gravemarkers along with date & place of birth and other information.
- Note: Once the profiles have been created, researched, had sources added, and had the categories added; please link their profile in the chart below. Thanks!
- 99 miners--53 married men--46 single men--97 dependent childrenɫ
- Frontier Mine No. 1 - 37 Miners Rescued
- ɫNOTE: The number of children shown are only those who are dependent and entitled to compensation under the state Workman's compensation law. 
- Lincoln County, Wyoming Genealogy on FamilySearch.org
- FindaGrave List of Cemeteries in Lincoln County, WY
- ↑ Welcome to the City of Kemmerer. City of Kemmerer, n.d. Web. 4 July 2017. http://www.kemmerer.org/
- ↑ Hutchinson News, Hutchinson, Kansas - 14 Aug 1923
- ↑ "What Happened." Frontier Mine No. 1 Disaster. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2017. http://fronterminedisaster.blogspot.com/p/disaster-community.html
- ↑ Holmes, E. W. "Coroner's Inquest." Frontier Mine No. 1 Disaster. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2017. http://fronterminedisaster.blogspot.com/p/coroners-inquest.html
- ↑ List of Deceased and Rescued Frontier Mine No. 1 Disaster. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2017. Frontier Mine Disaster Blogspot
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