Lost Creek No. 2 Mine Disaster 1902

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 24 Jan 1902
Location: Oskaloosa, Mahaska County, Iowa, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Mining_Disasters Iowa Disasters
This page has been accessed 879 times.

Disasters | Mining Disasters | United States Mining Disasters | Iowa Mining Disasters|Lost Creek No. 2 Mine Disaster

Contact: United States Mining Disasters


History and Circumstances

  • Date: 24 Jan 1902
  • Location: Oskaloosa, Iowa
  • Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 41° North , 92° West (est.)
  • Victims: 22 deaths,ɫ [1][2] 11 injured [3]
  • Cause: Explosion
ɫ The original count of 21 deaths was updated to 22 on the 31st of January, as one more miner succumbed to his injuries. The injured was raised from 8 to 11. [4]

Mine History

Mahaska County, Iowa, 1900
The village of Lost Creek was a company town, owned and operated by the Lost Creek Fuel Company.[5][6] Two shafts were being operated in 1902.[5] The mining camp itself had actually been laid out in 1894 when the first shaft was sunk.[5] The most prominent feature of the small town was the large company store.[5] By 1900 there were also two large boarding houses and more than a hundred company-owned miner's homes.[5] To shop in the store one would take a check, issued by the company, that was punched when you shopped.[2] The company store carried everything from food to clothes; all available on credit.[2]
  • "...the house didn't have steps to the backyard. When we had to go to the bathroom, which would be out in the back end of the lot, I remember my parents letting me down by taking hold of my armpits. ... My parents made things comfortable. I remember when our furniture, the cupboards and things like that, was made out of store boxes." ~Harry Booth

Mine Disaster Circumstances

Iowa Miners, 1890's
To the miners it was just another workday. They would leave home before daylight and not return until after dark.[2] Many of the miners, like C. B. Crews and Daniel Boone "Boone" Fish, were not expected home until well after dark.[2] By then their toddlers would most likely be sound asleep. It was midday and they had just fired their noon blasts in the Lost Creek No. 2 mine.[6][7] Suddenly the mine exploded around them, shooting debris and smoke 200 feet in the air.[3][6][7]
  • "Anna Booth was preparing a noon meal for her husband, William, and their nine-year-old son, Harry, [when] the mine whistle sounded a warning that something was wrong at Shaft No. 2... Anna's [husband] and fifteen-year-old son, William A. were working in the coal mine that day, along with a hundred or so others."[5]
  • "Some of the women and children reportedly became "frantic with grief" and others ran about "shrieking, moaning, and praying." To lessen the chaos, the women and children were ordered to return to their homes and wait there for the news."[5]
The damage to the fans and cages made rescue difficult. It wasn't until three hours later that volunteers entered into the east entrance, where the explosion had occurred.[3][7] Fires had broken out and added to the grisly scene in the mine.[7] Some of the miners had lived but were badly injured and burned.[3] The remaining miners left bodies that were damaged beyond recognition.[3][7] Several of the rescuers had collapsed from the fumes within the mine and were later carried out to safety.
  • "Two brothers died in the same section of the mine, while a third (in another section) escaped to safety. Michael Fox had tried to shield his eighteen-year-old son (Mike) from the fire and fumes. He had thrown his cap over the boy's mouth and nose, clasping him in his arms to save him from the flames. The father and son were [found] dead."[5]
  • "The heartrending appeals of the wives and children and mothers of the sixty men imprisoned (moved) the living on to a duty that seemed beyond the range of human endurance. Every possible means of rescue that ingenuity could devise was tried..."[8]
Word quickly spread and the neighboring towns rallied to help. Doctors and other help rushed to the mine aboard buggies, wagon, trains, and on foot.[5][6] Injured miners were cut, bruised, and burned and were cared for in a temporary hospital nearby.[3] Funerals took place on the Sunday and Monday following the tragedy.[5] As many as a thousand people gathered to follow a procession in behind the fifteen coffins on their two-mile journey to Eddyville.[5]

Results and Findings

Mining Children - Iowa - 1900
There had been more than a 100 miners working in the mine at the time of the explosion.[3][6][7] With so many families that had lost husbands and fathers to mine incidents; boys as young as twelve were allowed to mine.[9] As luck would have it, most of the miners were out of the radius of the blast (near the east exit). Some, like Harry Darrock, recovered from their injuries[10] and returned to coal mining.[11] A quick count after the explosion showed that up to fifty men had escaped the shaft, leaving fifty to sixty below.[5] It was some time before the actual count could be calculated. The Superintendent Jasper M. "Jap" Timbrell had immediately worked on the fans to fix them, saving countless lives from the noxious gases.[10] He then led the rescue party in what was slow and tedious work. It was discovered later that the miners furthest from the explosion were unaware that it had happened.[5] They only left the mine when someone appeared asking urgently for them to exit.[5]
Within days the Governor appointed a special commission to investigate the causes of explosions in Iowa coal mines.[5][12] Within one week about fifteen hundred mine workers walked out of the pits, on strike against the dangerous noon shot method.[5] After one week of being on strike they were allowed to hire shot-examiners and were told further issues would be addressed at the upcoming annual meeting.[5][12] By the end of the year several measures had been put in place to protect the miners.[5][12]
The mine had only been open for about a year.[6][7] It was well kept, the roadways always clean and in good condition.[6] An inspection of the mining site showed that the miner who had fired the blast had been careless in preparing the powder, as well as had used too much powder.[12] The loss of property was $10,000.[3][7] The twenty-two lives lost were immeasurable. Nearly all of the men were married and left families behind.[3] The coroner, Mr. Foshlinger of Oskaloosa, held an inquest to determine who was at fault for the disaster. The nature of the type of the explosion itself was seen as dangerous, and the reason for the explosion.[6] It was considered, at that time, to be the worst mining disaster in the history of Iowa.[7] Despite the fact that the temperature was approaching 10 degrees below zero on the 27th when the services were conducted; a large number of miners and Oskaloosa residents attended.[13] The "enormous crowd" was taken to the Congregational church for services, then to the Catholic church (across the street) where the miners were buried.[13]
Mahaska County mine © by Dave J. at

In Memoriam

See the category for a list of the men that died in the coal mine explosion.
Harry DarrockWilliam FothergillGeorge GogoWilliam M. Harvey • John Jerkin aka Jenkins • Charles LehmanJonas Mabie Jr.Jonas Mabie Sr.Edward Christian "Ed" SecrestFranklin Thomas "Frank" SecrestEdward "Ed" Swanson


  1. U.S Government. "Bulletin, 1932." (DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 96.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Booth, H., (1990) “'You Got to Go Ahead and Get Killed': Lost Creek Remembered”, The Palimpsest 71(3), 118-125. doi:
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 "Twenty-one Are Dead," Adams County Free Press, Corning, Iowa, 29 January 1902, p. 7, col. 3.
  4. "Mine Dust Explodes," The Denison Review, Denison, Iowa, 31 January 1902, p. 3, col. 1.
  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 Davis, Merle. (1990) "Horror at Lost Creek: A 1902 Coal Mine Disaster" ( : accessed 14 February 2020). [online report from the State Historical Society of Iowa.] The Palimpsest 71(3), 98-117.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Iowa Geological Survey. "Mines and Minerals, Volume 22" (Scranton, PA: International Textbook Co., 1902), p. 364.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 Webmaster. "Lost Creek No. 2 Mine Explosion" US Mine Disasters (, as viewed 14 February 2020.
  8. "Twenty-one Killed," Sioux City Journal, Sioux City, Iowa, 25 January 1902, p. 1, col. 1.
  9. Walley, Cherilyn A. "The Welsh in Iowa," (Wales: University of Wales Press, 2009), p. 123.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Twenty-two Dead," Fort Wayne Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 25 January 1902, p. 1, col. 5.
  11. "United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 16 March 2020), Harry Darrock, Colfax, Jasper, Iowa, United States; citing ED 43, sheet 5A, line 33, family 104, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 496; FHL microfilm 1,820,496.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 "To Avert Explosions," Evening Times-Republlican, Marshalltown, Iowa, 22 February 1902, p. 3, col. 2.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Miners Are Buried," Evening Times-Republican, Marshalltown, Iowa, 27 January 1902, p. 3, col. 2.

Last edited 00:39, 24 March 2020 (UTC)

  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)


Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.