Location: Hastings, Las Animas County, Colorado
Surnames/tags: Mining_Disasters Colorado Disasters
Contact: United States Mining Disasters
History and Circumstances
- Date: Apr 22, 1917
- Location: Hastings, Colorado
- Victims: 121 casualties
- Cause: Explosion
- Area History
- Hastings, Colorado, got its start as a railroad station in 1889 and quickly developed into a coal mining camp, founded by its owner the Victor Coal Company and Colorado Coke Company ,, Colorado’s oldest mining company. However, mining had occurred at the site since the 1870s.
- A railroad was constructed here by the Canon de Agua Railroad Company, a predecessor of the Union Pacific, Denver and Gulf Railway Company, between 1888-1889. The tracks connected with the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad at Barnes, three miles east of the mine. The railway line was later bought out by the Victor American Fuel Company and become part of the Colorado & Southeastern Railroad.
- By the end of 1899, the Denver Times described Hastings as:
- “The seat of operations of the Victor Fuel Company. The camp has a population of nearly 1,000, engaged in mining, and supplies 100 coke  ovens with some of the best coking coal of the district… The Victor Fuel Company furnishes supplies to all the railroads, smelters, mills and reduction plants …The coke output is partly distributed through the state, the balance finds its way into Mexico, New Mexico, and Arizona and there used in the copper, gold, silver and lead smelters.”
- Mine History
- In 1896 John C Osgood bought up several coal companies in Southern, Colorado and New Mexico. He bought a controlling interest in Victor Fuel Company as well. During 1903 he joined Victor Fuel Company and American Fuel Company under Victor-American Fuel Company.
- At some point between 1908 and 1912 Victor-American Fuel Company opened the B Seam in Hastings mine number 2. 17 June 1912 the mine would suffer its first disaster. George Pappas who survived the 1912 Explosion would die in the 1917 Explosion.
- 1913 through 1914 the miners of the Hastings coal Camp joined other mining camps in Striking. See Colorado Coal Field War and The Ludlow Massacre The Ludlow Massacre. for more information. The Hastings Camp was attacked along with Berwind and Deluga along with Several other camps in the Area during the 10 Day War following the Ludlow Massacre. During this time many people were killed on both sides of the issue. Many miners left to look elsewhere for work and those that remained went back to work.
- At the end of March, 1917 things had improved somewhat for the Hasting Miners. Victor American Fuel Company had signed a three-year operating agreement with the United Mine Workers of America. On April 6, 1917, Congress declared war on Germany raising the demand for coal and coke that would be needed for the war effort. Miners were given a deferment option to continue working the mines or be drafted. On April 22, 1917, many of the miners who would lose their lives 5 days later and their families attended the Commemoration of the 3rd Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre. In all 3000 people attended the event.
- It was April 27, 1917, at 9:00 am Frank Millatto a Tripper, was riding the coal cars back into the mine in the worked out A Seam for the third time that day. Trouble began when the cars stopped and Frank Millato encountered smoke. He ran out of the mine sounding the alarm.  Besides Frank Millato , Henry Haines who was a regular miner on the day crew missed the disaster because he was sentenced on April 6th to jail for 60 days for discharging a gun, and one other man on the day shift who was not in the mine because he was replacing a lost work hat in the Company Store. These three men were the only survivors of the day crew at the mine.
- Hastings mine production in 1917 was 74,221 tons of coal and fell to 11,944 tons in 1918. By 1923 production fell to 7,049 tons, and the mine was then abandoned and the portal sealed with concrete. Final cleanup of the site was done in 1952, and the railroad was torn up. Today only concrete foundations, deserted half-ruined coke ovens, and a granite monument mark the site. In 2011, there were more than 50 coke ovens still standing. 
- Mine Disaster Circumstances
- 27 April 1917, 6:30 AM the Night Crew fire boss Tom DavisHeritage and The Day Crew Fire Boss, H. J. Millard. Welsh cleared the mine as safe to work. At approximately 7:30 AM the day crew entered the mine to work. 93 Mules, 28 Company men, and 93 miners went to work that day. One Day Crew miner Henry Haines' was serving a sixty-day jail sentence for discharging a gun on April 6, 1917. Another missed the explosion because he was in the store buying a new work cap to replace the one he lost. Note that Mules were rated more valuable than the men who worked the mine the reason being a mule had to be bought and a miner can be hired there is no mention of their loss but can be safely assumed that all mules perished. The difference between a Company Man and a miner is the Job title a Company Man typically has a non-miner job. Company men are paid either an hourly or Daily wage for their work. A miner is considered under contract to work and is paid by the amount of coal or ore he produces.
- At 9:00 AM Frank Millato was making his third trip back into the mine with the Coal Cars via the worked out A Seam. Although Frank Millato heard or felt nothing unusual the explosion had caused the Signal wires to cross causing the bell to ring and stopping the cars. Frank was about , 300 feet into the A Seam when the explosion occurred. He saw the smoke coming up the slope and ran out of the Mine sounding the alarm for fire.. At this time it was thought that a fire had started in the mine, because no explosion was felt unlike the Cokedale Explosion which was felt seven miles away in Trinidad
::With black smoke billowing out of the slope, Superintendent James Cameron hastily organized a rescue force of five men and entered the slope but the smoke and heat from the fire was so intense that they soon were forced to retreat. Another rescue force was organized and equipped with oxygen helmets. These men, eight in number, again led by Superintendent James Cameron, reentered the mine determined to reach the imprisoned men. Whether debris from the explosion was blocking the slope farther back had not been determined at last reports.
- 1:50 PM. 50 men enter the mine to aid in the efforts to rescue the entombed miners. Colorado Fuel and Iron Company sends a force of 150 Rescue workers to Hastings. The men are drawn from the following Mines - Sopris, Primero, Starkville, and Fredrick. They will arrive sometime in the afternoon. Victor-Americans Rescue Car and crew from La Junta arrives at Hastings and the crew enters the mine. At 2:30 PM Superintendent James Cameron and his 5 man rescue team was forced back out of the mine by heat and dense smoke. They penetrated about 1,200 feet into the mine. The entombed men are about 2000 feet further in.
- Night time unknown. Victor-American release names of 119 miners trapped in mine.
|Hastings 1917 Mine Disaster Monument|
- May 19, 1917 – Full military burial honors were accorded the body of Eugene O. Pratt, member of Company C of the Colorado National Guard, who was killed in the Hastings mine disaster. 
Results and Findings
- On the morning of 28 April, 1917, Two thoughts on the cause of the Disaster, the first which was the change in wather caused the sponteaneius combustion of coal dust and the second was sabotage by Austrians because of WWI. Attorney General Leslie L. Hubbard.  arrives to investigate rumors of Austrians causing the disaster due to World War I. Entering the mine with him was Bertram Beshoar his Assisstant State Mining Inspector James Dalrymple, Italian Consul Joe Basoni, and a Deputy Inspector Frank Obel. Joe Basoni was looking after the interests of any Italian miners entombed in the mine and John McLennan, President of the State Federation of Labor. Attorney General Leslie L. Hubbard initially stated, "The men coming out report there is evidence of an explosion. There can be no explosion without gas and the actual setting off of something. This leaves a possibility of something of this kind - actual design in the explosion." By this time 15 bodies had been found but no effort was being made to recover them as the focus was on attempting to reach any miners who were still alive. Rescue crews report that the fire was out.
- Investigation Report
- The lack of no sound of explosion or no explosion felt and the amount of smoke led to the supposition that the mine had caught fire due to sudden weather changes. This was quickly discounted by the rescue crews who found evidence of an explosion while working in the mine.
- The second thought was rumor. Because America had entered WWI against the Germans it was believed that Austrians had sabotaged the mine. Attorney General Leslie L. Hubbard and his entourage arrived the morning of April 28th, 1917 to investigate this rumor. The true cause of the Disaster would not be known or determined until the Body Of David H Reese was found and brought ought out during the Coroners Inquest on May 16th, 1917 in Trinidad, Colorado.
- On May 10th, the body of Fire Boss David H Reese was along with his Wolfe Keyed Safety Lamp which was found disassembled with no damage near his body. Evidence found at the location indicated that the explosion had occurred at this point. Coking of the coal in the tunnel walls support the fact that the explosion started near Reese and went in both directions from that point.
- Investigator in Charge Dan Harrington
- Assistant Investigator Dr. J. C. Roberts, of the School of Mines
- District Mine Inspector Henry King
- Mine Inspector for the Mutual Insurance Company J. W. Graham.
- Thomas Bradley Las Animas County Coroner
- James F Moran of Pueblo, CO., District President United Mine Workers
- James Bartlett, President Victor-American Fuel Company
- William Murray, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Victor-American Fuel Company
- David Griffiths, District Superintendent, Victor-American Fuel Company
- James Cameron, Local Superintendent, Victor-American Fuel Company
- https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzKu88TByGnlZ21YVGdpVHFBWWc/view Report on Explosion
- Personal To Dos
- Find Denver Times Article about Hastings, Co.
- Create map of railroad and mining camps that sent rescuers to Hastings.
- Road Trip next month for original Photos.
- Cleanup and annotate drawings of Hastings mine (include info on bodies, mine dange and Keynotes.)
- Visit Pueblo Library for more info, obtain copies of newspaper articles.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Trinidad City Directory 1892 p. 68
- ↑ History Colorado, "Canon_de_Agua Railroad_Company."
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQM6-BHL : accessed 18 April 2019), Christino Antonocha in household of Stephen Antonocha, Precinct 27 Hastings Hastings city formerly Victor city, Las Animas, Colorado, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 71, sheet 9B, family 207, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,126.
- ↑ Trinidad City Directory 1892 p. 68-71
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors, "Coke (fuel)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, "" (accessed April 18, 2019).
- ↑ Trinidad City Directory 1910-1911 p. 106
- ↑ "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MK4Z-8W2 : accessed 18 April 2019), Christina Antonucci in household of Steve Antonucci, Precinct 25, Las Animas, Colorado, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 101, sheet 16A, family 101, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 121; FHL microfilm 1,374,134.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Coal Age, Googlebooks pdf pg. 19-21 [https://books.google.com/books?id=TIBNAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA752&ots=npR2Wykp1o&dq=Victor-American%20Fuel%20Company&pg=PA752#v=onepage&q=Victor-American%20Fuel%20Company&f=false
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Iron Miners Historic Mining History and Gold Mining Services .
- ↑ Scamehorn, H. Lee. "John C. Osgood and the Western Steel Industry." Arizona and the West 15, no. 2 (1973): 133-48. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40168131.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_Coalfield_War
- ↑ https://www.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/2017/heritage_spg17_heritage-web.pdf
- ↑ Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado February 10, 1911
- ↑ https://www.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/2017/heritage_spg17_heritage-web.pdf
- ↑ The Ogden Examiner, Utah. April 28, 1917
- ↑ Trinidad, Colorado, The Evening Pickrtwire, Friday, April 27, 1917
- ↑ Steamboat Springs Routt County Sentinel - May 25, 1917
- ↑ Breckenridge Summit County Journal – May 19, 1917
- Pueblo City-County Library (note some resources require a Library Card I visit this library weekly and will happily do look up work) - http://www.pueblolibrary.org/eresources
- Las Animas County, Colorado GenWeb Page - http://www.roadsofthepast.com/
- Carnegie Library of Trinidad, Colorado, Research and Databases - https://www.carnegiepubliclibrary.org/research
- The Denver Public Library online - https://history.denverlibrary.org
- JSTOR - Free account allows access to 5 free books a month. https://www.jstor.org
- University of North Texas (UNT).https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc12740/hits/?q=Hastings
- Most of the victims were buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Trinidad, the Masonic Cemetery in Trinidad and in the Knights of Pythias Cemetery two miles north of Aguilar or about four miles from Hastings. Today most of these victims have no gravestones on their graves. Most Greeks were buried in the Knights of Pythias Cemetery.
Trinidad History Society and Museum 312 E Main St. Trinidad CO 81082-2713
Southeastern Colorado Genealogical Society PO Box 1407 100 E. Abriendo Pueblo, CO 81004-4290 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Website
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