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Rocky Fork Mine Accident 1906

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: 7 Jun 1906
Location: Red Lodge, Carbon County, Montanamap
Surnames/tags: Montana Mining
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Disasters | Mining Disasters | United States Mining Disasters |Montana Mining Disasters| Rocky Fork Mine Accident, 1906

Contact: United States Mining Disasters


History and Circumstances

  • Date: 7 June 1906
  • Location: Red Lodge, Carbon County, Montana
  • Victims: 8 died, 7 survived
  • Cause: Fire

History and Circumstances

Area History

On September 17, 1851, the United States government signed a treaty with the Crow Nation, ceding the area which now contains Red Lodge to the Crow Indians. Rich coal deposits were found there in 1866, and gold was discovered nearby in 1870. An 1880 treaty between the U.S. government and the Crow allowed the area to be settled starting April 11, 1882.
The settlement of Red Lodge took off when the Rocky Fork Coal Company opened the area’s first mine in 1887, hundreds of immigrants, Finns, Scots, Irish, Italians and Slavs, arrived and mined coal. During this boom time, Red Lodge was a lively place, with 20 saloons and a burgeoning population.[1]

Mine History

Coal was discovered in the Rock Creek Valley nearly two decades before Red Lodge was established as a mail stop on the Meeteese Trail in 1884. In 1887, the Rocky Fork Coal Company opened the first large-scale mine at Red Lodge sparking the community’s first building boom, consisting mostly of “hastily constructed shacks and log huts.” The completion of the Northern Pacific Railway branch line to Red Lodge in 1890 resulted in the construction of many brick and sandstone buildings that now line the city’s main street.
Bearcreek owes its existence to area coal mining that began in the 1890s to supply coal for the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Anaconda Company. The town was platted and incorporated after the arrival of the Montana, Wyoming & Southern Railroad in 1906, and it grew rapidly as American and foreign-born workers moved there, drawn by the promise of steady work. By 1917, the mines around Bearcreek were employing 1,200 men. [2]

Mine Disaster Circumstances

The fire started in No. 5 of third west entry on Wednesday. After a difficult night, it was thought to be under control. However, a new fire was discovered in No. 6. and men had been working on it during the night. About 6 am several were overcome by gas. A rescue party started down at 7:30 Friday morning. When they reached a depth of 1,200 feet they were overcome by gas. Smoke suddenly erupted from No. 5 incline and the air in No. 6 was so foul that rescuers were driven back. At 10 am a second rescue party of 13 men was formed. The second rescue group was successful. The fans were reversed and the smoke forced back out of No. 6 incline. Six of the first rescue group were found unconscious. Two of those were unable to be revived. Further down the incline, six other bodies were found but all were deceased. [3]
The two fires were still burning three weeks later. The west entry to the mine where the second fire was burning was abandoned. All efforts were being concentrated in trying to subdue the original fire in the east entry. There were four six-hour shifts going every day to fight the fire. Because of difficulty finding sufficient numbers of men, the shifts were reduced to three daily. There were discussions of sealing and abandoning the west entry on vein No. 5.[4]
Investigation Report
The Coroner's jury said the officials neglected their duty by allowing the day shift to enter without the fire boss' report. The primary blame for the disaster was assigned to Fire Boss George White who failed to report the existence of damp in No. 6 before the morning shift went into the mine. He had not filed a report since June 2 and it is required by regulation to be done daily.[5]

Miner Victims

8 Lives Lost in the Rocky Fork Coal Mine Fire[6]
Miner Deaths
Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
Bailey, William, Married Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bracey, Joseph E., Married, 4 children, Rescue Party Yes Yes Yes
Carey, Roy, Single, Rescue Party
Fleming, Terrence , Leaves 5 Orphan Children, Brother Is Alderman Roger Fleming
Garrich, Mike, Married, Alternate Name: Gabriage
Mcfate, ALVIN, Married, (CARBON)
Reikka, Matt, Married, (Carbon)
Skelly, Thomas, Married, Married In May, one month before disaster


Miner Survivors
Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
DAVIS, DAN, Alternate Name: Don
WOOD, JOSEPH, Alternate Name: Woods

Rescue Effort & Rescuers

Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
Hugh Fleming
Matt Kendla
Joe Woods
Dan Sutherland
Sam Newman
H.L. Bolyard
William Earlard

Others Involved/Supporters and the Aftermath


The mine was badly damaged by the fires. Several airshafts had to be made and other repairs completed before the mine was safe enough for workers to return. [8] The mine reopened on 21 July 1906.[9]


Genealogy Resources


  3. Fire in a Mine. Great Falls Tribune(Great Falls, Montana). 08 June 1906, Fri. pages 1and 4.
  4. Fire is Raging in Rocky Fork. The Anaconda Standard(Anaconda, Montana). 24 Jun 1906, Sun. page 1.
  5. Fire is Raging in Rocky Fork. The Anaconda Standard(Anaconda, Montana). 24 Jun 1906, Sun. page 1.
  6. Biennial Report of the Department of Labor and Industy, Montana, vols. 1913-1914.
  7. Fire in Mine. Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, Montana).08 Jun 1906, Fri. Page 4
  8. Fergus County Argus(Lewistown, Fergus, Montana). 15 Jun 1906, Fri Page *
  9. Great Falls Tribune(Great Falls, Montana). 22 Jul 1906, Sun. page 8

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