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Monarch Mine explosion, Apr., 1897

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Monarch Mine explosion, Apr., 1897

Posted: 1083121870000
Classification: Biography
Edited: 1116900943000
Surnames: Carlton, Stone, Trathen, Atkinson, Evans, Vanison, Greenwood, Johnson, Helsley, Goodsmith, Page, White, Rule, McManus, Allen, Tenant, Nunnly, Hopson, Rodgers, Phillips, Howard, Harned, Haefer, Lepkin

Only Detailed and Accurate Report of the Disaster Published


And How the Heroes of the Coal Mine Brave Dangers for the Love of Fellowman


The Bee gives today the only report of the explosion at Monarch mines that has been published which can lay claim to accuracy and fullness. Some of the reports have been so far from an intelligent or accurate statement as to provoke laughter from anyone who knows anything about the subject handled. The Bee has taken care to get at the facts as fully as maybe, but accurate first, as is always its endeavor.

The Bee's deepest sympathy goes out to the bereaved families of the unfortunate men who lost their lives, and to the estimable gentlemen who own and operate the Monarch mines.

A few minutes before 4 o'clock last Friday afternoon, the distress whistle at the Monarch mines attracted the attention of the people in Earlington, Madisonville and the surrounding country, and the telephone quickly told the story of a dreadful accident. Almost immediately the highways were thronged with people on foot, on bicycles, in delivery wagons, horse-back and every other way, all hastening toward the scene of the accident.

Upon arriving there, it was found that a terrific explosion had occurred, about 3:20 o'clock, whose force was so great as to lift one of the heavy iron cages several feet in the main shaft, demolishing the building over the air shaft, and the large fan and engine therein. This in itself, though serious, was of minor importance as compared with the loss of life below which must certainly follow.

It was very soon ascertained that but three men were in the mine, viz., Foreman Jabez TRATHEN, and the two "shooters," Robert CARLTON and Theo. STONE. Fortunately, TRATHEN happened to be at work on a pump at the bottom of the main shaft and although knocked senseless by the force of the explosion, he recovered, made his way to the air shaft and by means of the safety ladders therein, escaped with his life. He was the first, however, to return to the depths below to try to rescue his comrades. Mr. Thomas HOWARD, of Madisonville went down with him.

In a short time, and as soon as they could get there, the St. Bernard people, headed by Mr. John B. ATKINSON, began to arrive upon the scene fully equipped with whatever appliances thought that might be needed and everything was done that could be done to reach the unfortunate men.

The first thing to do was to restore the circulation of air in the mines and rid it as quickly as possible of the noctious gases. To this end large fires were built in baskets on the iron cages, which were quickly lowered in the main shaft. This furnished an excellent current of fresh air throught the works for the short distance between the air shaft and hoisting shaft and made the work of exploration possible.
The labor now began and continued without cessation until the stark bodies of the two unfortunate men were carried away from the shaft's mouth to their sorrowful homes at 11:30 that night.

The names of all who rendered assistance could not, of course be had, but those who did the most efficent work were the members of the exploring party which did not relax its efforts for one moment until the work was finished and all possible doubt settled.

These are the explorers sixteen in all, eight of them Earlington miners, a number, those who have spent their lives thus:


Foreman Jabez TRATHEN worked as long as there was strength in his body. His son was active also. Others who gave aid in the mines were Thos. HOWARD, Jno. HARNED, Ed HAEFER and Henry LEPKIN. Mr. Jno. B. ATKINSON, President of the St. Bernard Coal Company, and Mr. Howard WHITE, his mining engineer, rendered every assistance possible. A telephone was rigged from the office to the bottom of the shaft and Mr. WHITE reported the progress of the work every few minutes. In this way the frequent laborious climb up 265 feet of ladders was avoided and much valuable time saved. Henry LEPKIN, Wm. VANISON, Edwin PHILLIPS, Howard WHITE, W.W. JOHNSON and others climbed these ladders to report, and to take back what was needed before the telephone was put in.

By common consent that old veteran, Mr. John R. EVANS, was put to the front in charge of the explorers. The work lay along two entries running in an easterly direction, known as 1st and 2nd East. The air course had been out one of these entries and back the other. They were separated by a wall of coal containg numberous "break-throughts" all of which were blown out. These had to be bratticed (or walled) up one at a time tin order to carry the good air on to the next break-through and make work there possible. Mr. EVANS had no safety lamp and was compelled to work his way slowly and with great care by the naked flame of his lamp turned very low. But his experienced eye read the flame as a printed page and told him just how far he dare go. Thus by inches the work proceeded and every break was carefully bratticed up. At times some of the men were compelled to stop and rest where the air was better. Once Mr. EVANS was almost overcome by the gas and, staggering back, fell down and lay panting for the air which restored him.

The party of explorers went up to the face of 1st and 2nd East entries where they found anunexploded cartridge on the floor, indicating that the men had not gotten that far with their "shooting" before the explosion occurred. They then returned along 2nd East. At rooms 9 and 10 they found a car bottom stripped of its sides, and close by the hub of a wheel stripped of its rim. At rooms 7 or 8 was a car blown off the track and near by a T-rail twelve feet long bent like an S. On the whole, track was intact. The force of the explosion was to the north and as is always the case, toward the face and against the air current. They found the men on 3d East entry, STONE in 5th and CARLTON in 4th room. There were no falls on cross entry to 3d East, and none were found to where the men were discovered at 11 o'clock that night.

Both men were killed instantly by the force of the explosion. STONE's body was badly burned and his shoulder crushed by the violence with which he had been thrown against the face of the room. CARLTON's body was not so badly bruised.

They were both married men, STONE having just joined the Knights of Honor, from which society his wife will receive $2,000 insurance. CARLTON had no insurance and leaves a wife and two children in destitute circumstance. Their dead bodies were recovered as quickly as would their living bodies had they survived. There was courage here, dauntless, resolute courage.

There need be no further search for strong men with deepest human sympathy, with the readiest hands and most willing hearts, than among those heroes of the mines whose lives have been spent in braving the dangers of the dark caverns they create--those old heroes of the coal mine who brave death and destruction to rescue a fellowman in distress, without a question, and without a moment's faltering. There must be a realization of danger but no hesitancy, no shrinking from duty.

"The brave man is not he who feels no fear,
But he whose noble mind its fear subdues"

(Source: Earlington Bee, Thur., Apr. 22, 1897)

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