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Wyoming Mining Disasters

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Disasters | Mining Disasters | United States Mining Disasters || Wyoming Mine Disasters

Contents

State Mining History

The first record of a coal deposit in Wyoming was in 1843 by the second Frémont Expedition. Lt. John C. Frémont, guided by Kit Carson, set out to explore routes to Oregon with the intent to gather, publish and promote new settlement in the West. In August 1843, a few days after crossing the Green River in what’s now western Wyoming, Frémont noted coal was displayed “in rabbit burrows in a kind of gap” in hills through which the travelers passed before camping late one afternoon.

Carbon was the first company town in Wyoming, on the Union Pacific line southwest of Medicine Bow, founded by Thomas Wardell in 1868 and incorporated in 1890. Seven mines were worked in Carbon and the town supported a population of about 3,000 people. Later that year The Wyoming Coal and Mining Company opened the Rock Spring's No. 1 Mine.

The earliest exploitation of Wyoming coal was a bit of a scandal. At the time, the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad owned the land and mineral rights along the east to west route but didn't own a mining company. In the late 1860's the Wyoming Coal and Mining Company was the Union Pacific’s coal supplier. The problem for UP was that the coal company's stocks were owned by Oliver Ames, President of the Wyoming Mining and Coal Company and five of the Union Pacific's directors. The company could sell coal at highly inflated prices to UP. As a result, the UP formed the Union Pacific Coal Department in 1874 which took charge of the railroad's coal supply.

During the late 1860's and into the 1870's coal production in the state was over one million tons per year, and by 1890 that amount had reached nearly two million tons per year. By the turn of the century almost three million tons of coal were being mined. By 1890 however, the Union Pacific's wholly owned subsidiary the Union Pacific Coal Department had been replaced by the Union Pacific Coal Company which was producing most of the state’s coal from mines located near Rock Springs, Hanna and Carbon. [1]

In 1899, the railroad was relocated to Hanna, just northwest of Carbon, to avoid climbing a steep grade. The Hanna mine then became the main supplier of coal for train locomotives. The mines and the town of Carbon were finally abandoned in 1902 by the UP Coal Company. All that remains of the town is the cemetery, dugouts that served as houses on the hillside, and a few of the sandstone walls and foundations from the buildings that made up this once flourishing coal town. [2]

Local Mining Histories

Below is the local mining histories for each of the towns and/or counties for which a mining disaster tragically happened during the period between 1868 to 1942.

Afton

Afton, Wyoming is in the Northwest part of Lincoln County off Highway 89. The town was founded by Mormon settlers along the Lander cutoff of the Oregon Trail. The town is in the Star Valley region and is separated from the rest of the state by the Salt River Range. [3] Not much history is record about the early years on the coal mining in the area. However, the area is still being mined for other mineral currently. If you have additional information about the early years of coal mining Afton please let me know so it can be added.

Looking up from Afton Canyon

Almy

Almy, Wyoming is located North of Evanston, off Highway 89. In the summer of 1868, mining camps started opening in the surrounding Bear River valley. Dreams of prosperity lured miners from England, Scandinavia, China, and from throughout the United States to settle in "Wyoming Camp", which later became Almy. Named for James T. Almy, a clerk for the Rocky Mountain Coal Company, and located 3 miles north west of Evanston, Almy was strung out along the Bear River for five miles. This particular "string town" owed its existence solely to coal mining. Her 4000 residents suffered more than their share of mining tragedies. Finally, in 1900 the mines were closed by the Union Pacific due to labor troubles and explosions. [4]

Coal Mines at Almy 1871

Cumberland

Cumberland, Wyoming originally called "Little Muddy”, is located South of Kemmerer, Wyoming on the Uinta County line. It consisted of four camps, Cumberland No. 1, Cumberland No. 2, South Cumberland, and Cumberland Gap. Coal camps in the Rocky Mountain West consisted of Company owned towns in which everything, the store, the schools, the public hall, belonged to the Coal Company. The Cumberland mines, owned by the Union Pacific Coal Company, opened in 1900 after the discovery of two seams by engineer in charge August Paulson. Paulson later served as mayor of Superior, Wyoming, another Union Pacific Coal town. [5]

Cumberland Mine No. 2
Mine Hoist at Cumberland Mine
Coal Miner’s at Cumberland Mine

Diamondville

Diamondville, Wyoming is located South of Kemmerer, Wyoming. In 1868, a man by the name of Harrison church discovered coal near the Hams Fork River. He built a cabin on the hill where part of modern Diamondville now stands. Realizing the area’s potential, he sought financial backing from a group in Minneapolis, who eventually formed the Hams Fork River Coal Company, incorporated in 1884. Later S.F. Fields, a promoter from Salt Lake City, Utah, took over management of the company and with the financial backing of the Anaconda Mining Company, renamed it the Diamond Coal & Coke Company.[6]

Diamondville was incorporated about 1896 with a Scot immigrant, Thomas Sneddon, as the first Mayor. Most of the original settlers came from Almy, Wyoming, where they had been working in the Almy mines, which had been closed after explosions in 1881, 1886, and 1896. Like many of the other miners in the area he previously had been in the service of the Union Pacific Coal Co. in Almy near Evanston.

Diamondville got its name from the quality of the superior-grade coal from the local mines that seemed to resemble black diamonds.

Diamondville Mine Buildings
Diamondville Mine

Hanna

Hanna, Wyoming is located West of Cheyenne, just off Interstate 80. The town was established in 1889, when the Union Pacific Railroad needed a reliable fuel source to run its massive coal-fired engines. After the coal mines in Carbon, Wyoming ran out, it hastily formed the Union Pacific Coal and opened a mine at Chimney Springs.

Chimney Springs was renamed Hanna in honor of Marcus A. Hanna, a member of Union Pacific Company management and an Ohio United States Senator. Hanna, Wyoming was founded and built by the Union Pacific Coal Company for its workers and their families. The Union Pacific Coal Company owned everything in each of the towns, there was a total of three towns. Within the towns, it included the boarding house, the general store and the miners' houses that were rented to them by the month. Hanna was a major hub of the emerging transportation industry of the day with the Union Pacific Railroad and the Overland Trail passing through.

Throughout the early years, the Union Pacific Coal Company mines located in Hanna experienced many accidents ending in fatalities. However, only mine No. 1 of the mines owned by the Union Pacific Coal Company experienced three separate 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.

Hanna Town Site and Mine's No. 1 and No. 2 during Winter of 1889
Early Development of Mine's No. 1 and No. 2

Kemmerer

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. [7]

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 1908
Kemmerer Mine No. 1 - 1910

Rawlins

Rawlins, Wyoming is located on Interstate 80 were Highway 287 begins. Rawlins, originally Rawlins Springs, was founded in 1868 with the arrival of the Railroad and named by Granville M. Dodge after Gen. John A. Rawlins, who visited the area on a tour of the west in 1867. Within two years it had attained a population of 574 including 81 members of the military assigned to Fort Rawlins. It was incorporated as a municipality in 1886. Carbon County, itself, predates the formation of Wyoming Territory and was created by the Dakota Legislature and included present day Natrona and Johnson Counties. [8]

Front Street in Rawlins

Rock Springs

Rock Springs, Wyoming is located on Interstate 80 were Highway 191 begins. The first documented mention of coal in the Rock Springs area came from an 1850 U.S. Army survey party seeking a quicker way through what’s now Wyoming. The party was commanded by Howard Stansbury and guided by the famous mountain man, Jim Bridger. Stansbury noted, “We found a bed of bituminous coal cropping out of the north bluff of the valley, with every indication of its being quite abundant.” [9] The Rock Springs mines were vital to the Union Pacific railroad in its early stages of formation. U.P. President Charles Adams is quoted as saying they were the “salvation of the UP; those mines saved it. Otherwise the UP would not have been worth picking up.”

By September of 1868, mining efforts started near Rock Springs when Thomas Wardell and his Missouri minors opened the no. 1 mine in Rock Springs. The no. 1 mine went on to become one of the largest coal mines in the West. Rock Springs coal was considered the highest quality coal found along the Union Pacific mainline. [10] Incorporated in 1888, Rock Springs owes much of its existence to the mining industry, boasting as many as 10 coal mines in the downtown area alone at one point.

Union Pacific Coal Mines Nos. 7 and 9
Rock Springs Coal Miners

Sublet

Sublet, Wyoming was located North of Kemmerer which is on Highway 189. Mines No. 5 and No. 6 of the Kemmerer Coal Company being located here. The Oregon Short Line Railroad [11] spur was completed to Sublet in 1907 and the town was soon afterward incorporated. The town was named for the Sublette family in the area but the spelling has been corrupted. [12] The town of Sublet does not exist anymore. If you have additional information about Sublet please let me know so it can be added.

Town of Sublet, Wyoming
Sublet Tipple No. 5 Mine

Coal Mine Disasters

During the late the 1800's and after the turn of the century coal mining techniques hadn't fully developed to today's standards, but then like now every miner wanted to make it home for dinner. From the beginning of mining near Carbon in 1868 until 1942, 23 separate mine disasters resulting in the death of at least one miner and in multiple cases over a hundred miners lost their lives. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the term “disaster” applies to any mine mishap in which five or more miners are killed. But for this instance we are going to pay our respects to all of the miners who have lost their lives working the coal mines in the State of Wyoming. Of course, this number does not count the individual incidents where individual miners often were killed, lost limbs or were otherwise maimed by cave-ins, explosions or equipment malfunctions within the mines. [13]

However, for this project even those explosions that claimed the lives of one miner are being written about, because their sacrifice is worth being recognized. These 23 disasters have claimed the lives of approximately 525 miners and left countless families without fathers, sons, brothers, grandfathers and uncles. These numbers are approximate due to the limited and vague lists provided by the newspaper articles and sources available. Below are the dates and locations of these mining disasters.


Mining Disaster Chart

Wyoming Mining Disasters
Date Mine Space Done Location Cause Deaths Profiles Done
4 Mar 1881 Almy No. 2 Mine Disaster 1881 Almy, Uinta County Explosion 38
12 Jan 1886 Almy No. 4 Mine Disaster 1886 Almy, Uinta County Explosion 13
20 Mar 1895 Red Canyon No. 5 Mine Disaster 1895 Yes Red Canyon, Uinta County Explosion 64
25 Feb 1901 Diamondville Mine No. 1 Disaster, 1901 Diamondville, Lincoln County Fire 26
30 Jun 1903 Hanna No. 1 Mine Disaster 1903 Yes Hanna, Carbon County Explosion 169
1 Dec 1905 Diamondville Mine No. 1 Disaster, 1905 Diamondville, Lincoln County Explosion 18
8 Mar 1908 Hanna No. 1 Mine Disaster 1908 Yes Hanna, Carbon County Explosion 59
14 Aug 1923 Frontier Mine No. 1 Disaster, 1923 Yes Kemmerer, Lincoln County Explosion 99
16 Sep 1924 Kemmerer Coal Company No. 5 Mine Disaster, 1924 Yes Sublet, Lincoln County Explosion 39 Needs names

Historical Museums and Field Trips

If you enjoy visiting museums or taking field trips and learning about the history of our country here are links to six in Wyoming that will provide you information about the history of coal mining in the State of Wyoming.


Sources

  1. Larson, T. A. "Mining, Then and Now." Historical Wyoming Coal Mine Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2017. https://archive.is/jElcw#selection-839.0-851.468
  2. The Coal Business in Wyoming. Chamois L. Andersen, Web. 17 Apr. 2017. http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/coal-business-wyoming
  3. Reel, Estelle. The Star Valley, Afton. Wyoming Tales and Trails, n.d. Web. 17 July 2017. http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/afton.html
  4. "SHPO Monuments and Markers." Legend of Almy. Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, n.d. Web. 6 July 2017. http://wyshpo.uwyo.edu/mmdatabase/
  5. http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/coalcumberland1.html
  6. Historic Diamondville. The Town of Diamondville, n.d. Web. 6 July 2017. http://www.diamondvillewyo.com/history.htm
  7. Welcome to the City of Kemmerer. City of Kemmerer, n.d. Web. 4 July 2017. http://www.kemmerer.org/
  8. http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/rawlins.html
  9. Propst, Chris. "Rock Springs, Wyoming." WyoHistory.org, n.d. Web. 13 July 2017. http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/rock-springs-wyoming
  10. Larsen, Abe. "THEN & NOW: Coal Mining in Sweetwater County." Sweetwaternow.com, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 13 July 2017. http://www.sweetwaternow.com/now-wyoming-coal/
  11. https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Oregon_Short_Line_Railroad
  12. Sublet. Wyoming Places, n.d. Web. 17 July 2017. http://wyomingplaces.pbworks.com/w/page/12716451/Sublet
  13. Roberts, Phil. "The Most Dangerous Occupation: The Quest for Safety in Wyoming’s Coal Mines." WyoHistory.org, n.d. Web. 4 July 2017. http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/coal-mine-safety

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A big thanks to Dean Anderson from the Disasters Project for all of the incredible time and hard work he put into these mining pages! Thank you Dean!












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Comments: 8

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Thank you for your post, Alex. This page and contents will be looked at and corrects/modified as appropriate sometime in the future.

We appreciate your pointing this out. Best, Sheryl

posted on Wyoming Mine Explosions (merged) by [Living Moore]
While researching I noticed the 1895 Mar 20 Rocky Mountain Coal & Iron mine no. 5 explosion killing 64 at Red Canyon is listed as Red Canyon, Fremont County WY. This disaster occurred in Uinta County, near Evanston WY. Very closely north of Almy, County road 108. Red Canyon Fremont County is a beautiful scenic canyon along highway 28, but not an area that was mined for coal.
posted on Wyoming Mine Explosions (merged) by Alex Kreile
Dean, the page is looked GREAT.
posted on Wyoming Mine Explosions (merged) by Mary Richardson
Wow! Look at this page. Nice Job! Evanston, Wyoming was my home for quite some time and I had heard stories about some of these mining accidents. So interesting to read. The Kemmerer Mining, Frontier No. 1 explosion, just horribly tragic. So cool that excerpts from the coroners inquest was added. You get a better understanding of what happened.
posted on Wyoming Mine Explosions (merged) by Eileen Bradley
Hello

I have started the subproject under Worldwide Disasters: Worldwide Mining Disasters. I would like to be added to the Trusted List so I may add info to Wyoming and want to link this page for the Wyoming State Mining Disasters page. Please email me if you would like further info. I am in the process of setting the pages up now so not yet in a "presentable" format. Thank you! Sheryl

posted on Wyoming Mine Explosions (merged) by [Living Moore]
I agree with Mary, an absolutely Excellent Job!!!
posted on Wyoming Mine Explosions (merged) by Lynette Jester
Dean, this page is looking great!!

Mary

posted on Wyoming Mine Explosions (merged) by Mary Richardson
Thank you!
posted on Wyoming Mine Explosions (merged) by Kelly (Sullivan) Rishor