Coal mine fire at Franklin suffocates 37 miners on August 24, 1894.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2220
On August 24, 1894, 37 miners die fighting a fire in the Oregon Improvement Co. coal mine at Franklin. The following day, a coroner's jury rules that the fire was caused by "party or parties unknown" who "did willfully, knowingly and maliciously cause said fire with intent and purpose to do great injury and damage to the lives of the miners and property of the Oregon Improvement Company." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, "few can be found here who are not in hearty accord with it."

Mine officials would not comment on the matter, but the following exchange with a pit boss was noted:

"I have an idea who set the breast [the face being worked at the end of an excavation] on fire, but I won't say."
"Why?"
"Cause the man I suspect is dead. He was smothered in the level."

The fire itself might not have had a fatal effect except for the combination of two unrelated factors. A worker shut down a fan that supplied air to the different levels, and a gas tester, John K. Johns, searching for his miner son, opened a door from another area thinking it would drive the smoke out. This changed the air flow and trapped the miners between two walls of smoke, approximately 1,300 feet below the surface. Johns was found with his son in his arms. Both were dead. The miners were apparently building a "stopping" or bulkhead to seal themselves off from the fire and smoke when they were overcome.

Oregon Improvement Co. superintendent Theron B. Corey (1846-1909) traveled from Seattle by train to supervise the recovery of bodies. The firm paid for all the burials and contributed $4,000 to a fund for the support of widows and orphans. Approximately, $2,000 was raised in contributions from citizens in Seattle and from the mining communities.

The dead miners were identified as follows:

Name Age Nation-
ality
Married/
Single
Family Buried at
Frank Willis 27 Negro Married Wife
2 children
Franklin
Ed Maxwell 21 Negro Single None Franklin
R.W. Jones 23 Negro Single None Franklin
John Grantilli 19 Italian Single Mother,
6 brothers
& sisters
Black
Diamond
Joe Dawson 19 English Single Parents &
3 sisters
Black
Diamond
H.R. Roberts 22 Negro Single Unknown Franklin
John Irvine 23 Negro Single Unknown Franklin
Joe Cassell 19 Italian Single Parents Seattle
Jim Gibson 26 Negro Married Wife Franklin
Edward
Johnson
23 Swede Single None Seattle
Andy Engdahl 33 Swede Widower 3 children Black
Diamond
John T. Pugh 23 Welsh Married Wife &
6 children
Black
Diamond
John L.
Anderson
30 Swede Married Wife &
3 children
Seattle
William
Secor
26 American Married Wife &
1 child
Renton
Andy Greer 26 Negro Single None Franklin
Joe Bossio 26 Italian Single Parents
in Italy
Black
Diamond
Ike Clemmons 38 Negro Married Wife &
3 children
Franklin
Peter Perri 19 Italian Single Parents
in Italy
Brother here
Seattle
Robert
McCloskey
18 Pole Single Parents
in Newcastle
Newcastle
Evan D. Jones 18 Welsh Single Parents here Black
Diamond
Peter Hay 28 Scotch Married Wife &
6 children
Franklin
Louis Farri 30 Italian Single Parents
in Italy
Franklin
Joe Standridge 16 American Single Parents
here
Franklin
Phil Demari 25 Italian Married Wife in
Italy
Franklin
John E. John 49 Welsh Married Wife &
5 children
Franklin
John Morris ... Welsh Married Wife &
4 children
Cedar
Mountain
John Hall 20 English Single Parents Springbrook
Chris Dunkers 19 American Single Brother Black
Diamond
Charles Stevens ... Negro ... Franklin
Jacob Olson 27 Swede Married Wife &
1 child
Seattle
Frank Larson ... Swede ... Seattle
Evan Hughes ... Welsh ... Renton
Rosco Tutti 31 Italian Single Father in
Philadelphia
Franklin
David D. Jones 28 Welsh Married Wife &
4 children
Black
Diamond
Evan John 19 Welsh Single Mother,
5 brothers
& sisters
Franklin
A.J. Jones 29 Negro Married Wife Franklin
W.P. Jones ... Negro ... Franklin

Franklin was located in the Green River Gorge, approximately 1.6 miles east of Black Diamond.


Sources: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 25, 1894, p. 1; Ibid., August 26, 1894, pp. 1-2; Ibid., August 27, 1894, pp. 1-2; Ibid., August 30, 1894, p. 8.

Related Topics:   Calamities | Industry | Labor

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