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Raleigh Coal and Coke No. 4 Mine Disaster

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Location: Raleigh, West Virginia, United Statesmap
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Disasters | Mining Disasters | United States Mining Disasters |
Southeast United States Mining Disasters Team | West Virginia Mining | Raleigh Coal and Coke No. 4 Mine Disaster

Raleigh Coal and Coke No. 4 Mine Disaster, 1940

  • Date: 17 December 1940
  • Type: Mine Fire
  • Victims: 8 deaths
  • Cause: Mine Explosion

This Mine Disaster is Considered Complete with all Victims Listed


Miner Victims

Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
William M Kirk Yes age 41 No Yes
Ernest "Pete" Anderson Yes age 28, engineer No Yes
John Preston Yost Jr Yes age 20, Engineer Yes Yes
Charles Joseph Patrick Yes age 52, pumper No Yes
Ernest Henry Hill Yes age 36, Day Worker No Yes
Charles Joseph Hairston Yes age 59, Day Worker No Yes
Luther H. Pack Yes age 41, Day Worker No Yes
Roy Lee Hill Yes age 39, Day Worker No Yes

Rescue Efforts

There were about 70 men in the mine at the time of the explosion, but all but 12 were in unaffected areas. The company employs about 300 men in its mines in the county.
The blast occurred two miles back in the "slope" mine, actually under the streets of this southern West Virginia city in the heart of the coal fields.
Five men were brought out soon after the blast and taken to hospitals.
Rescue crews found seven bodies four hours later.

Results and Findings

An investigation by the Bureau of Mines into the disaster that occurred December 17 at the No, 4 mine of the Raleigh Coal & Coke Company, Raleigh (near Beckley), West Virginia, which killed nine men, disclosed that the explosion was due to an ignition of gas by smoking, it was announced today by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes.
The investigators reported that at the time of the explosion an engineer employed by the company was making a survey underground and had stationed himself at the point where it is now thought the explosion started. "Burned matches were found near the transit," the report states, "and it is probable that the engineer attempted to smoke and ignited the gas."
The report further stated that smoking is a general practice in this mine, and probably every man in the mine at the time carried matches, a practice which is severely condemned by the Bureau of Mines. [2]

- 25 Year Anniversary

Article from the Raleigh Register Hearld [3]

Seven were dead and seven more were left buried beneath the earth after an explosion stopped rolling through a mine near Woodlawn Avenue in Beckley.

An explosion had snaked its way through the Raleigh Coal and Coke Co. No. 4 Mine on Dec. 17, 1940.

For some, it was a lifetime ago, but the men lost in the explosion have never left their minds.

“My older brother was an engineer that measured the rock that the miners would remove,” Arnold Yost of Raleigh said. “My brother was burned up pretty bad in the explosion. Looking back, even now, it’s not pleasant. It hurts when you miss someone like that.”

Arnold’s brother, John, was only in the mine by chance, according to The Raleigh Register.

“Their work only led them into that part of the mine every month or so,” the article said.

Yost said he remembers hearing that one of the carbide lamps ignited coal dust and that’s what caused the massive explosion.

The explosion spread out underground more than 400 feet.

John Ware, a driller, said he was working in an air duct about 600 feet from the center of the blast.

Ware said he heard the muffled “whoosh” of the explosion.

“I saw three men hurt and, a little way on, another one dead,” Ware told The Raleigh Register.

Among the dead was William Kirk, who left behind six children.

The other dead were:

• John P. Yost Jr., 20, engineer

• Ernest “Pete” Anderson, 28, engineer, married, no children

• Luther Pack, 41, day worker, married, no children

• Charles Hariston, 59, day worker, married, 11 children

• Charles Patrick, 52, pumper, married, 11 children

• Ernest Hill, 36, day worker, married, seven children

• Roy Hill, 39, died from his burns and raised the death toll to eight

The mine was within a half-mile of Black Knight Country Club, articles reported. About 45 men normally worked the day shift of the mine, but this was a light crew day.

“The tragedy was the first serious accident in over 40 yeas of operation at Raleigh,” The Raleigh Register reported. “It was the first incident of its kind in the entire Beckley district since the 1926 disaster at Eccles.”

The disaster was brought to the forefront of the mind of a local man when he was hiking in the woods in 2007.

“I was hiking below Woodlawn Avenue and discovered these stone ruins,” Steve Bennett said. “I got curious about what they were and began searching archives. I found a map that detailed the explosion and several news articles that talked about it.”

Bennett said he’s hoping people haven’t forgotten the disaster or the lives lost in the explosion.


  1. Raleigh Coal and Coke Company Raleigh No. 4 Mine Explosion, USMRA
  2. Final Report, US Dept of Interior Bureau of Mines.
  3. Dec. 17 marked 75th anniversary of mining disaster in Beckley, December 27, 2015. The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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