Coal Mine Disaster

Farmington No. 9: The West Virginia Disaster that Changed Coal Mining Forever

Nov 20, 2018
Jesse Wright / WVPB

In 1969, the world’s attention turned upward to the Moon, as Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first momentous step off Earth onto another world.

But that year also saw momentous federal legislation spurred by a disaster that riveted the nation’s attention downward, hundreds of feet below the Earth and the hills of West Virginia.

May 12, 1942: Mine Explosion Kills 56 in Osage

May 12, 2016
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On May 12, 1942, a worker in the Christopher No. 3 mine at Osage—just outside Morgantown—left a ventilation door open, and methane accumulated in a dusty area of the mine. At 2:25 in the afternoon, an electric arc from machinery set off an explosion that coursed through three sections of the mine, killing 53 men, destroying ventilation equipment, and causing roof falls. Three others later suffocated in the noxious ‘‘afterdamp’’ gasses. Several miners managed to reach safety through a return airway.

April 28, 1913: Peace Back to West Virginia Coalfields

Apr 28, 2016
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

On April 28, 1913, coal operators and United Mine Workers of America accepted a new contract ending the yearlong Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike in Kanawha County. It was the bloodiest strike of the West Virginia Mine Wars. The settlement was known as the “Hatfield Contract” because it was practically dictated to both sides by new governor Henry Hatfield.

Join West Virginia Public Broadcasting for an exclusive preview of The Mine Wars from PBS's American Experience series, with special guest, Executive Producer Mark Samels.

The event will be held Thursday, January 21 at 6:30 pm in Beckley, WV in the Hulett C. Smith theater at Tamarack.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Nov. 20 marks the anniversary of the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster, which killed 78 men. It was the worst U.S. mine disaster in 50 years. On Sunday, a crowd of about 150 people gathered at the memorial of the Farmington Mine Disaster.