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 Post subject: W-B Mine Disaster Site Earns Historical Marker
PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 9:32 pm 
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Location: Anthracite Region of PA
W-B mine disaster site earns historical marker

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)

Published: April 3, 2013
The site of the 1919 Baltimore Mine Tunnel Disaster in Wilkes-Barre, the second-worst industrial disaster in Pennsylvania history, will be highlighted with a new state historical marker, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission said Tuesday. An explosion of blasting powder killed 92 miners. Courtesy of the Luzerne County Historical Society.

Catherine Lavery never got to meet her two uncles, who died in one of Pennsylvania's worst industrial disasters 10 years before she was born, but their memory stayed with her all her life.

Although largely forgotten in recent years, the deadly June 5, 1919 explosion at the Baltimore No. 2 tunnel of the Delaware and Hudson Coal Co. in Wilkes-Barre's East End in which 92 miners lost their lives made banner headlines at the time. Now, the disaster will be forgotten no more: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission announced Tuesday that a marker will commemorate the site.

The news filled Lavery with joy. "I'm just so glad that it's come true," she said. Lavery tried for at least 10 years, along with her sister Rosemary Mulcahy, to get recognition of the Baltimore disaster. It was not memorialized like the Avondale mine disaster in Plymouth Township, in which 110 men and boys died on Sept. 6, 1869, or Jenkins Township's Jan. 22, 1959 Knox mine disaster, in which 12 men were killed and the deep mining industry effectively ended. "That's what was killing me. Not that I wasn't sorry for those people. … But why not the tunnel disaster?" Lavery said. "Oh, my God, to have so many men killed, and the catastrophe of the whole thing."

Around 6:30 in the morning of June 5, 1919, a train containing about 150 miners and a cargo of blasting powder exploded and burned in the Baltimore No. 2 tunnel of the Delaware and Hudson Coal Co. Altogether, 92 miners died from burns and inhalation of gases.

Two of the victims were Lavery's uncles, 24-year-old Michael Harris and 21-year-old Victor Harris. Michael Harris left a wife and two daughters, with one more on the way. Lavery's mother Rose Harris was only 11 years old, and the death of her two older brothers traumatized her. "She never fully recovered from the horrors she saw that day," Lavery said. Lavery's persistence was rewarded when she connected with Wilkes-Barre spokesman Drew McLaughlin, a King's College alumnus who brought the matter to the attention of his alma mater's history department.

A consortium from King's, headed by history professors Thomas Mackaman and Daniel Clasby, put together the application for PHMC approval. The project was one of 12 out of 47 applicants selected for a historical marker. Luzerne County Historical Society Executive Director Anthony T.P. Brooks, who served on the PHMC advisory board in the past but was not on it at the time of the decision, noted, "From my experience, it's very difficult to get a marker." Mackaman was aware the odds were against getting one on the first try, but opted to give it a go anyway. "We decided to build a class around researching this mine tunnel disaster and this year in Wilkes-Barre's history - 1919," he said.

The marker will be placed at 41 Spring St., which is near the site but not on it; "otherwise it would be blocked by the Home Depot and nobody would ever see it," PHMC Spokesman Howard Pollman said. He said markers commemorate achievements of lasting significance, not just what's important to the local community. "It did lead to reforms, and that was one of the things that was factored in," Pollman said of the decision to include the disaster.

In the aftermath of the explosion, teams of experts performed a thorough investigation that led to improvements in the enforcement of mining regulations. National leaders of the United Mine Workers intervened to advocate for reforms and provide relief to victims' families, according to the PHMC. One of the changes was the prohibition of transporting miners on the same trains with explosive powder.

Jen Momenzadeh of Nuangola, a junior who is majoring in history at King's, was one of the students who worked on the research. "It was incredibly frustrating and fun at the same time," she said. "If King's ever has a chance to do something again, especially for history majors that are thinking about graduate schools, this was a fantastic opportunity." One of the things that sticks with Momenzadeh was a photo one of the students found. It showed a picture of the Baltimore tunnel when the bodies of the miners were being removed, with a sign, "Safety First, Avoid Accidents" painted above it. It was a striking juxtaposition, Momenzadeh said. Mackaman pointed out another irony: "A lot of these guys had just come back from World War I and survived the trenches, only to be killed in a disaster in their own home town."

eskrapits@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2072

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 Post subject: Re: W-B Mine Disaster Site Earns Historical Marker
PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:01 pm 
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Location: Binghamton, NY
Ever been up there? Anything at all left of the site?

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 Post subject: Re: W-B Mine Disaster Site Earns Historical Marker
PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:04 pm 
That is sad that it took so long for the victims to get the recognition that they deserve.


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 Post subject: Re: W-B Mine Disaster Site Earns Historical Marker
PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:59 am 
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Location: Binghamton, NY
Ya, it really is. But it is also great to see a new generation stepping up and doing it just when you think it's lost to history forever. The victims are in an unmarked mass grave, along side a mass grave for victims of the Spanish Flu which claimed relatives of mine at the same time. On the list of mine victims is a name of someone who may be a relative on my grandmother's side. She spoke of someone besides her father who was killed in a mine explosion before she was born in the same area. Could be the one, I have to ask her if she can remember.

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 Post subject: Re: W-B Mine Disaster Site Earns Historical Marker
PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:41 am 
Why would they be in a mass grave? that is sad that it is unmarked.


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 Post subject: Re: W-B Mine Disaster Site Earns Historical Marker
PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 6:08 pm 
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
http://wnep.com/2013/04/04/coal-mining- ... -its-mark/

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 Post subject: Re: W-B Mine Disaster Site Earns Historical Marker
PostPosted: Thu May 25, 2017 3:16 am 
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Years ago, I think in 2004 or 5 I wrote a letter to the editor in the Citizens Voice calling for this marker. I got a call back from the paper saying someone wanted to talk to me about my editorial. The person who called was actually a woman in her mid 80s and she told me her uncle was killed there. Really sad stuff she said, talked about how she always thought about him even though she never met him. She and I tried to brainstorm how to get this memorial marker because no matter what I did it fell on deaf ears. I think she somehow was the one who got in contact with Kings. It was about time they memorialized these men. Only in the Valley would something like this take 90 years to memorialize.


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 Post subject: Re: W-B Mine Disaster Site Earns Historical Marker
PostPosted: Thu May 25, 2017 3:23 am 
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After posting this, I scrolled up and actually read the full story. That was the woman I mentioned,6 hah, a very nice woman. Glad she got to see the memorial dedication, she wrote me a letter I think after the commemoration. My father remembers storing beer to stay cool in the summer at the tunnel face entrance in the early to mid 1960s. It's long backfilled, but you know those workings are wide open all under Wal-Mart, Kost, Wegmans, etc.


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