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 Post subject: Avondale Disaster Recalled
PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:26 pm 
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Location: Anthracite Region of PA
Avondale disaster recalled
By Erin Moody (Staff Writer)
The Citizens' Voice

A light, cool draft wafts up the mine shaft at the abandoned, crumbling remains of the Avondale Colliery in Plymouth Township, and as two dozen people gathered around Sunday evening, the draft seemed to carry the 140-year-old story of how a fire killed 110 men in the mines.

The fires were out by this time of day, Robert Wolensky said as the group gathered at about 6:30 p.m. at the colliery's remains to honor the anniversary of the most lethal single anthracite disaster. The fire and deaths spurred the creation and enforcement of several safety features, and became a cautionary tale advocating for emergency preparedness and precautions, he said.

Wolensky, and Joseph M. Keating, who died in 2006, coauthored "Tragedy at Avondale: The Causes, Consequences, and Legacy of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal Industry's Most Deadly Mining Disaster, September 6, 1869."

"It was the 9/11 of its day," he said. "There was no doubt about it. And so school kids and orphans were always doing drills, lest we have another Avondale."

The Avondale Mine Disaster Site Preservation Committee, headed by Bob Hughes, has been cleaning up the site, and plans to install benches, create trails and do landscaping to create a quiet area for people to visit and remember the tragedy.

"For us, it's more about teaching some of these kids about the local history, that it's not just a coal mine tour in Lackawanna County, it's what's in your backyard," Hughes said.

Sunday included a series of events in honor of the anniversary, starting at the Washburn Street Cemetery in Scranton where 61 of the victims were buried. Steve Kondrad, of Plymouth, was publicly thanked for mowing the cemetery, which was not being kept up by the property owner. Wolensky did a signing and reading of the book during the afternoon.

Mary Grochowski laid a bouquet of flowers at the entrance to the mine shaft in honor of her great-grandfather, Peter Conlin, who was killed in the disaster. Despite years of searching, Grochowski doesn't know what cemetery Conlin was buried in, and so she appreciates how much work is being put into the site's preservation.

"I like the idea of it. We were here the last time they had this," she said. "That's why we came down here, because we wanted to be here for this memorial."

emoody@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2051

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:36 pm 
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Location: Anthracite Region of PA
Mine disaster recalled
Future improvements to Avondale Mine site announced at 140th anniversary event.
By Steve Mocarsky smocarsky@timesleader.com
Staff Writer

PLYMOUTH TWP. – A strong breeze blowing from a hole in the earth’s surface tickled the petals of a bouquet of daisies placed there to honor one of the 108 men who was killed on the other side of that hole – in the deep, dark pit known as the Avondale Mine.

Their oxygen supply was sucked away by a fire at the breaker that stood directly above the mine shaft.

The hole, only a few inches in diameter, is all that remains of the entrance to the Avondale Mine, since excavators filled it in many years ago for safety reasons.

Mary Grochowski placed the flowers there in memory of her great-grandfather, Peter Conlin – an Irish immigrant who came to the United States seeking a better life. That life ended when the Avondale breaker caught fire and burned to the ground on Sept. 6, 1869.

Grochowski, of Wilkes-Barre, was among about two dozen people who gathered at the shaft entrance Sunday evening to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the disaster.

“Two rescuers also died, bringing the total death toll to 110 and making Avondale the most lethal of all anthracite disasters. Fifty thousand men have died in the mines in Northeastern Pennsylvania over the course of the history of the industry, but never more at one time than at Avondale,â€

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