Friday, March 17, 2017

Centralia, Illinois, Mine № 5 (in Wamac, Illinois) Disaster of March 25, 1947.

This story is in Honor of the 70th Anniversary of Mine № 5 disaster of March 25, 1947 in Centralia, Illinois.

“We Serve”  the official motto of the Lions Clubs International  was supremely exemplified by members of Centralia, Illinois' Lions Club, during the last week of March, 1947.

The City of Centralia, located in south central Illinois about midway between St. Louis and Indianapolis, was created in 1853 and given its name by the owners of the Illinois Central Railroad as the center of its rail empire.
Despite the dozens of trains that ran through the town several times a day, life in Centralia was hardscrabble for many of its 13,000 residents, prompting the name of the mascot of Centralia High School’s award-winning basketball team – The Orphans.
In the 1940s, the school made its way to the State Tournament but had no uniforms. They were forced to choose from a pile of red discards, prompting a Chicago sportswriter to comment, “The players looked like a bunch of orphans in their ragged and torn uniforms, but they sure can play basketball.” 
Centralia was a coal-mining town. Many of the families had worked the coalmines for generations. Wives, mothers, girlfriends, sisters, nieces, daughters and granddaughters all sent a silent prayer in the early morning hours as they packed the lunch pails of their men and boys.

They remembered too well the stories about the dozens of mine explosions that had killed thousands of miners in America’s long coal-mining history.
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The Dying Miner, Woody Guthrie

When the sirens blew at 3:26 pm on Tuesday, March 25th, the women knew. They grabbed the babies and ran through the cold March wind to the gate. Smoke was billowing out of Mine № 5 and the onlookers were ordered to stand back by the mine officials of the Centralia Coal Company.
Centralia Coal Company's Mine № 5 in Wamac, Illinois.  © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
An injured survivor is carried to the first-aid station. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Reality set in as bodies, body parts and personal effects began to be lifted out of the mass grave from 540 feet below. It began to rain.
Rescue workers prepare to enter Centralia Coal Company's Mine №.5 that evening. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Relatives and friends of miners waiting for word at the mine. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
By evening, the silent crowd had grown to 500. The rain turned to snow. The waiters clustered in groups of families and friends. Some waited at the gate; others sat on the benches in the wash-house where the men changed into their work clothes in the morning.
Wives of men unaccounted for in Centralia mine explosion wait beneath miners
clothing in the wash-house for word from rescue workers underground.
It was the place where the tired miners who emerged each evening returned to wash up and change back out of their grimy overalls. Each bystander watched as, one by one, the clean outfits that were hung on a chain that morning slowly disappeared with a tug on the pulley. There were 111 outfits remaining.
Families waited under the clothes of their loved ones. As the minutes turned into hours, they kept glancing to the corners of the wash-house where an Inspection Notice from Illinois Mine Inspector Driscoll O. Scanlan was posted.
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Scanlan on several occasions had warned his superiors – Robert Medill, Director of Mines and Minerals, and Robert Weir, Assistant Director, – that the mine had an excessive build-up of coal dust that could explode unless the dust was cleared.
Driscoll Scanlan, the state mine inspector who posted the March 18-19, 1947, notice as well as others citing poor conditions at the mine. Scanlan accused his bosses of ignoring dangerous conditions in Illinois mines. He said he tried to close № 5 but was overruled by Robert Medill, director of the state Department of Mines and Minerals. A week before the disaster, the Post-Dispatch had disclosed that Medill was soliciting mine operators for donations to the state Republican Party. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
His warnings were ignored both by of them as well as the Centralia Coal Company and its parent company, Bell and Zoller, owned by Homer F. McDonald. On March 3, 1946, four of the miners even wrote a letter to Illinois’ Governor Dwight Green, begging him to “Please Save Our Lives.”
 
Their letter was also ignored and three of those four men would soon be dead. Scanlan’s last warning was dated March 18th, exactly one week before the blast.

A group of men quietly sprang into action. Fred Wham, the Chairman of the Centralia Chapter of the American Red Cross appeared before the Centralia Lions Club. He informed the Lions that the Red Cross had been called in to assist by the owners of the mine. They were already providing a canteen and emergency services for the families.
Excerpt from Centralia Lions Club International. Two explosions, a month apart, brought into focus the ability of Lions to function in emergency situations. A mine disaster in Centralia, Illinois, March 25, killed 111 miners.  Identification was practically impossible except through articles of apparel or personal object found on or near the bodies, such as knives, pipes, cigarette cases, watches, etc. The Centralia Lions immediately volunteered to assist the Red Cross to determine the identity of the miners, and visited the homes of the deceased miners, obtained information from the family; and the morticians were able to compare the data assembled with the articles found on or near the bodies, and to establish identity. The work entailed day and night efforts on the part of the Centralia Lions until it was completed on Sunday, March 30th. Then the Lions returned to the homes to notify the families officially. The Chairman of the Red Cross was high in his praise of the Lions’ efforts in this emergency.
Wham explained that at the time of the explosion, 142 men were in the mine; 24 had escaped but one later died from the effects of breathing in the after-damp – the gases that remain after an explosion.
Red Cross workers served coffee, sandwiches and doughnuts to waiting relatives, newsmen, police and workers as well.
Sixty-five miners were now presumed dead from the blast or burns as well as 45 more from the gases if they had not sealed themselves off and could be rescued. The total number of possible dead was 111.

Would the Lions Club help with the identification of those did not make it?

The Lions worked day and night for 5 days. They began by visiting each family of the males who had not returned. They offered arms of support to the grief-stricken families and quietly went about their work. They started gathering and recording the delicate identifying information about personal effects for those men who had been victims at the area of the inferno.

Did their loved one wear glasses, or a ring, or maybe carry a watch?  Did they own a special cigarette case, perhaps, or a pipe? Were any of their teeth missing?

The Lions returned to give the sad news to the next of kin that a plausible identification had been made. Emma Niepoetter, now 85, remembers how her future husband, Bill, waited at the wash-house for news of his father Henry’s fate. He then peered through the window of the local newspaper, the Centralia Sentinel, where a list of the dead was hung.
The Latest News – Crowds of people flocked to the Centralia, Illinois, Sentinel in the days following the № 5 mine explosion to read the latest bulletins posted on the business office window. The Sentinel's coverage of the disaster was timely and complete, and there were many extra editions.
The Bulletin was updated as soon as a new identification was made. His father’s name soon appeared on the list.

The eyes of the world were now on Centralia. Besides the Centralia Sentinel, dozens of news agencies flocked to the city.



Reporters were joined by state troopers, company and mining officials, doctors, nurses, rescue workers, Red Cross volunteers, the National Guard and soldiers from Scott Air Force base. The soldiers helped carry the stretchers.
Soldiers from Scott Field, then an Army Air Force base, carry the body of one of the first victims who was recovered later that night. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
United Mine Workers Association President John L. Lewis also came down during that holiday week of Easter and engaged the union’s right to demand 6 memorial days.
The body of a victim is placed in an ambulance on March 27, two days after the explosion. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The time off would allow the bereaved families and townspeople to grieve and hold services. The days without work in the mines began on Saturday, March 29th as the remains of the last 31 of the dead were removed from the shaft.

The rescue workers found a message scrawled on the rocks above the victims that read:  “Look in everybody’s pockets. We all have notes. Give them to our wives.” It was later determined that it was written by Joe Bryant who was asphyxiated.

Sam Bryant has a copy of the notes that his father Joe wrote to his children and to his pregnant wife, Sam’s mother. He asked her to name their twelfth child Joe so she would always have a Joe.

"Name baby Joe so you will have a Joe." The baby was a girl given the name Jody.


Sammie D. Bryant gave me [Patricia Lofthouse] a verbal release to allow Neil Gale to post
the notes from his late father, Joe Bryant, that were found in the pocket of his coat.

Three months after his death, Lydian Bryant named their baby girl Joedy. Joedy treasures the original note that her brothers and sisters felt she should have when their mother died.

The Lions did not come to Sam’s home because his father had died of the gases so his body was intact. Joe and six others had sealed themselves off from the explosion and fire, including Sam’s uncle, Jack. They were identified underground by the rescuers who reached them one day after they expired.
Centralia Underground Mine car.
But Sam is not surprised by the Lions’ actions. “The whole area was in mourning,” he explained. “Everyone was so kind. Everyone pulled together.” 
Cars Upset by Mine Blast – Roy Capps, safety instructor for the U.S. Bureau of Mines, inspects one of four heavy coal cars upset by the blast in the № 5 mine. The photo was taken about 1½ miles from the main shaft by Ralph Walters, a Chicago Times photographer. Walters' name was drawn by lot to represent the Sentinel, the picture syndicates and other newspapers. This was the first view the had of the incredible strength of the explosion.
A.J. Ballantini’s family also lost two brothers  his grandfather Pete and his great uncle Joe. They were Italian immigrants who had stowed away on a ship in order to come to America. They had worked hard in the mines since they were 16 and 14 years old. Joe only stopped for a short time to fight in WWI. The work was steady, especially during WWII when there was such a high demand for coal, the mine owners never slowed the mines down to clean them.

“Pete was the type of man who washed the coal dust off his body each night and then got dressed in a 3-piece suit,” recalls his granddaughter, Nira Ballantini.” He died, we were told, after being struck by a trap door when he turned around to search for his brother.” Pete had been in the first group of sixteen dead miners who was identified. The family was not able to bury him for 10 days because the cemetery was so backed up. His body lay in an open coffin in the family home as they waited for space both at the cemetery and at a funeral parlor.

Hugh Moran is the current owner of the Moran-Queen Boggs Funeral Home in Centralia. He is also the Secretary of the Central City Lions Club. In October of 1965, the Centralia Club merged with Central City, taking its name. “They had 33 to 35 funerals here in the two weeks after the disaster,” Hugh explains. “We keep a photo of the memorial in the front of the parlor.”
The memorial to which Hugh refers is the one that was dedicated in the neighboring town of Wamac, immediately to the south of Centralia.
On March 25, 2009, exactly 65 years later, the town held a special ceremony where it unveiled the monument dedicated to those who died in the disaster. It lists all 111 names. There is also an outdoor shelter in Centralia with a similar plaque.

Charles Woolbright, the “Lion Tamer” of Central City Lions Club, was only 12 when the tragedy occurred. His father, Clarence “Tib” Woolbright, was the Marion County Sheriff, one of the four counties that encompass Centralia. He was at the site before any of the dead were brought up and he transported many of the victims to the morgue.

Like most of those in Centralia, the blast became a personal tragedy for Charlie’s family. His uncle, John Pick, Jr. was in the mine and survived, but John’s father did not. Charlie’s wife’s uncle also was not lucky.

Celso Biagi, was another Italian immigrant who went to work in Mine № 5 when he arrived in the States. His nephew, John Pawlisa, who had not been out of the Navy very long, was the youngest victim.

“We attended funerals, back to back, all week, one after the other,” Charles recalls.

Common services were held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Centralia Township High School.

“There were also individual funerals at the churches and funeral homes all across town,” he explains.
Pall bearers carry the casket of miner Edward Bude, 54, from Trinity Lutheran Church in Centralia after a funeral service on March 31, 1947. Following in black is his widow. Bude had been a veteran of World War I. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Most businesses shut down as a sign of respect while the funeral cars followed each other through the streets. “All the church bells rang,” Charlie remembers.

A.J. Ballantini’s late aunt, Elaine Ballantini Ziegler, was interviewed by Journalist Robert Hartley, co-author with David Kenny of the book, Death Underground:  The Centralia and West Frankfort Mine Disasters. When Hartley sat with Elaine she told him that she remembered the work of the Lions. “Her father Joe wore a special ring,” she explained. “Someone from the Lions Club came by as a part of the rescue effort and asked if I could identify the ring. I looked at it and said it belonged to my Dad. They had taken it off his body; that was the only way they could identify the body.”

A. J., recalls his father telling him how this catastrophe affected his family. There were now 8 kids without a father. Their mother had never worked outside of the home. They all had to pitch in to get by.

Sam Bryant also remembers the hard times. His mother received $94 a month from his father’s Social Security, a new program started by President Roosevelt in 1944, plus $90 a month from her husband’s life insurance policy. “She always wondered where our next meal was coming from,” he relates with a lump in his throat, “but I was able to supply all of the meat for our family through my hunting and trapping.”

Even if they were not direct relatives, most of the families who worked at Mine № 5 were close. They lived mainly in the same neighborhoods in Centralia and in the surrounding towns of Wamac, Carlyle, Beckemeyer and Glen Ridge. They went to the same churches and schools, most especially Centralia High, and shopped in the same stores. The kids played alley baseball together and the young people danced in the parking lot of the White City Music Hall in Herrin. Each loss was shared personally by hundreds.

There were now 99 widows and 78 children who now had no fathers. The mayor of Centralia started a fund and $20,000 was raised that was divided among the families with just enough to help bury their dead. The union’s new welfare fund that had just passed after a miners’ strike the previous year did not have enough money in it yet to provide anything.
NO BENEFITS - Families of the victims of the explosion Tuesday in the Centralia Coal Company's № 5 mine will not get immediate aid from the United Mine Workers health and welfare royalty fund, UMW headquarters said, but a state district UMW official said, they are eligible for state industrial compensation. Hugh White, president of the UMW Illinois district, said the families would be eligible for $4,800 to $6,600 under the state act, depending upon the number in each family. 
In Washington, the union said there was a delay in placing the welfare and retirement fund in operation, and that there was approximately $15,000,000 in the fund through collection on a nickel a ton on bituminous coal mined since settlement of last spring's 55-day strike.
The money for the miners' welfare and retirement benefits is to be handled by a three-man board. Secretary of Interior, J.A. Krug has not yet appointed the operators' representative. After appointment of the three trustees the board will have to set up standards and regulations governing payment of benefits.
The Lions completed their identification and notification on Sunday, March 30th. On April 4, just 5 days later, Red Cross Chairman Wham offered his thanks by writing to the Centralia Lions Club. In his letter he praised the members’ efforts:
...“the Lion’s Club is the type of organization and made up of the kind of men who are both eager to perform any possible service to mankind and also fully capable of performing that service. Since that time I have stated to you that I am sure that the service that you have performed will be to the everlasting credit of the Club.”
Songwriter Woody Guthrie later wrote and performed his famous ballad about the disaster called “The Dying Miner."
Dear sisters and brothers goodbye. Dear mother and father, goodbye. My fingers are weak and I cannot write. Goodbye Centralia, goodbye.
In the verses he sings the individual names of some of the victims including Joe Ballantini and Joe Bryant. Guthrie followed this with a song based on the point-of-view of a miner’s son’s who waited and watched called “Waiting at the Gate.”

in 1947 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage. 

That same year artist Georges Schreiber of the American Regionalist Movement created a lithograph to commemorate the Centralia Mine № 5 Disaster. It depicts the sad children and widows reaching towards a list of names nailed on to a tree. It's aptly titled “The List.”
The List by Georges Schreiber.
The official investigations into the blast revealed that the explosion was caused when a spark of unknown origin somehow ignited the built-up coal dust, just as Inspector Scanlan had predicted.
Mine rescue workers wear signs in support of state inspector Driscoll Scanlan, who objected to plans to restore electricity deep in the mine four days after the explosion. Scanlan's boss, state mines director Robert Medill, had recommended turning on "to speed the work." The power stayed off. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Sadly, the investigators also learned that the miners’ shift had already ended and they were headed to the elevators to take them up when the blast occurred.

A $1,000 fine was levied against the parent company, Bell & Zoller. After paying the fine it sold the Centralia Coal Company to the Peabody Coal Company and Mine № 5 was given a new name  Peabody Mine № 21. 60 men went back to work there on July 21st and mined for a year during the time that the investigations of the tragedy were ongoing in Congress.

Illinois Assistant Director Robert resigned shortly after of the blast. Director Robert Medill resigned from his post one week after the disaster. Scanlan later resigned due to harassment within the department.
Robert Medill, who resigned from his post as director of the Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals one week after the disaster, sits at far left as he is questioned by U.S. senators during the special hearing April 4,1947 in Centralia. Medill was asked about his solicitation of political contributions from mine operators. © St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The survivors and the families of the victims had always backed Scanlan’s actions and regretted his departure. Peabody closed the mine a year later blaming “the high cost of mining coal in an old mine.” Governor Green lost his bid for reelection.

No charges against the company ever stood and no new federal laws about mine safety were enacted. An explosion in West Frankfort, Illinois, occurring 4½ years later on December 21, 1951, killed 119 miners. That tragedy finally prompted the passing of the Federal Mine Safety Act on July 6, 1952. The Act mandated yearly inspections, ventilation systems and thorough cleaning of the coal dust. Union President Lewis, who had spoken eloquently to the Congress about the failure of Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug to inspect the mines, stood by as President Harry Truman officially signed the bill into law.
President Truman signing the bill with John L. Lewis watching.
Charlie Woolbright reminds us that the Centralia Mine Disaster is still fresh in the minds and hearts of everyone in the area. “We will re-dedicate the memorial in 2017, 70 years after the blast. It seems like it happened yesterday, though.” He adds philosophically, “It was a bad tragedy but it brought out the good in people.” He is proud of the history of the Lions and that they always try to serve where there is a need.


Centralia Coal Mine № 5 Disaster
March 25, 1947 ~ Woody Guthrie
Video created by Dakota Wheeler (rockinwheel), 
Pietro (Pete) Ballantini's great great grandson.


THE VICTIMS OF THE CENTRALIA MINE DISASTER:

  • Joe Altadonna, of Sandoval, timberman, aged 60 years, married, He leaves a widow. 
  • Rodrigo Alvarex, of Beckmeyer, timberman, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Joe Ballatini, of Centralia, driller, aged 58 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Pietro Ballantini, of Centralia, driller, aged 69 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Alvin M. Barnes, of Centralia, foreman, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Nick Basola, of Sandoval, clean-up man, aged 43 years, married, He leaves a widow and five children.
  • Harry A. Berger, of Centralia, foreman, aged 54 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Celso Biagi, of Centralia, tracklayer, aged 62 years, single.
  • Dominick Beneventi, of Centralia, machine helper, aged 64 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Joe Bryant, of Sandoval, motorman, aged 65 years, married, He leaves a widow and six children.
  • Edward Bude, of Centralia, repairman, aged 54 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Otto Buehne, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 62 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Raymond C. Buehne, of Centrtalia, machine helper, aged 30 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
  • Thomas M. Bush, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 56 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • John Busse, of Centralia, machine operator, aged 59 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Charlie Cagle, of Centralia, timberman, aged 54 years, married, He leaves a widow and four children.
  • Theo. V. Carriaux, of Centralia, foreman, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Arthur H. Carter, of Centralia, tracklayer, aged 54 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Anton Chirrottino, of Sandoval, tracklayer, aged 65 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Paul Comper, of Centralia, machine man, aged 53 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Clifford Copple, of Centralia, motorman, aged 42 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Frank Copple, of Centralia, brattice man, aged 38 years, single.
  • Leo R. Dehn, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 53 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Eugene Erwin, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 45 years, married, He leaves a widow and two children.
  • George Evans, of Sandoval, clean-up man, aged 43 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Frank Famera, of Centralia, machine man, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Andrew Farley, of Beckemeyer, clean-up man, aged 58 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Walter Fetgatter, of Centralia, machine man, aged 55 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • John Figielek, of Centralia, machine man, aged 48 years, single with one child dependent.
  • Wm. F. Fortmeyer, of Irvington, buggy operator, aged 25 years, married, He leaves a widow and two children.
  • Ray W. Fouts, of Centralia, triprider, aged 47 years, married, He leaves a widow and two children.
  • Odia Lee Francis, of Centralia, brattice man, aged 70 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Luther J. Frazier, of Beckemeyer, driller, aged 41 years, married, He leaves a widow and two children.
  • Martin Freeman, Jr., of Sandoval, tracklayer, aged 20 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Martin Freeman, Sr., of Centralia, machine man, aged 39 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Albert J. Friend, of Richview, triprider, aged 36 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Brund Gaertner, of Centralia, machine operator, aged 47 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Angelo Galassini, of Centralia, driller, aged 61 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Dominick Gervi, of Sandoval, timberman, aged 65 years, married, He leaves a widow and two children.
  • Tony Giovanini, of Sandoval, timberman, aged 65 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Joseph Gerotti, of Centralia, triprider, aged 36 years, single.
  • John O. Grotti, of Mt. Vernon, tracklayer, aged 32 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Louis Grotti, of Centralia, driller, aged 45 years, single.
  • Adolph Gutzler, of Centralia, machine helper, aged 48 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Fred W. Gutzler, of Centralia, driller, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • John H. Gutzler, of Centralia, machine man, aged 63 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • John W. Gutzler, of Centralia, foreman, aged 54 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Henry Hoeinghaus, of Woodlawn, motorman, aged 56 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Ed. Hofstetter, of Centralia, tracklayer, aged 68 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Gustave Hohman, of Centralia, motorman, aged 54 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Ned L. Jackson, of Odin, buggy operator, aged 34 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Warrie L. Jackson, of Centralia, motorman, aged 55 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Henry Knicker, of Centralia, trackman, aged 59 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Philip Knight, of Centralia, machine helper, aged 46 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Joseph Koch, Sr., of Beckemeyer, clean-up man, aged 65 years, married, He leaves a widow and two children.
  • Charles Kraus, of Centralia, recovery man, aged 52 years, single.
  • Fred Laughaunn, of Centralia, machine man, aged 49 years, married, He leaves a widow and three children.
  • Domenico Lenzini, of Centralia, timberman, aged 59 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Pete Lenzini, of Centralia, driller, aged 62 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • John Mazeka, of Beckemeyer, driller, aged 46 years, single.
  • Miles McCullum, of Centralia, driller, aged 65 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Chas. McGreavey, of Centralia, machine man, aged 57 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Clarence McHenry, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • William Mentler, of Centralia, tracklayer, aged 61 years, single.
  • Fred Moore, of Centralia, timberman, aged 49 years, married, He leaves a widow and three children.
  • Elmer G. Moss, of Sandoval, machine helper, aged 33 years, married, He leaves a widow and four children.
  • H. W. Niepoetter, of Centralia, machine man, aged 42 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Chas. Oestreich, of Centralia, driller, aged 61 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • George Panceroff, of Centralia, triprider, aged 24 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Martin Pasola, of Sandoval, foreman, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Frank Paulauskis, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 62 years, single.
  • John T. Pawlisa, of Centralia, tracklayer, aged 22 years, single
  • Charles L. Peart, of Sandoval, tracklayer, aged 60 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Jos. H. Peiler, of Beckemeyer, machine helper, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow and one other dependent.
  • Walter Pelker, of Dubois, timberman, aged 31 years, married, He leaves a widow and two children.
  • Alva Petrea, of Centralia, generator operator, aged 56 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Peter Piasse, of Sandoval, machine operator, aged 46 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Julius Piazzi, of Centralia, rock man, aged 27 years, single.
  • Louis Piazzi, of Centralia, machine man, aged 63 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • John Pick, of Centralia, machine operator, aged 56 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • John Placek, of Beckemeyer, machine operator, aged 45 years, married, He leaves a widow and three children.
  • Alfred O. Pollacci, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 69 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • George Powell, of Odin, trackman, aged 40 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Richard Privette, of DuBois, timberman, aged 65 years, married, He leaves a widow and two children.
  • Glen Purcell, of Centralia, motorman, aged 34 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Nick Reggo, of Centralia, timberman, aged 57 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Jacob Rethard, of Centralia, machine operator, aged 60 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Forest Rhodes, of Sandoval, repairman, aged 45 years, married, He leaves a widow and five children.
  • Carl Rohde, of Centralia, machine man, aged 46 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Daniel C. Sanders, of Irvington, driller, aged 66 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • H. W. Saundermeyer, of Centralia, timberman, aged 47 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Jacob Schmidt, of Centralia, driller, aged 56 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Archie Schofield, of Centralia, machine man, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • L. G. Shaw, of Centralia, buggy operator, aged 44 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Anton Skrobul, of Beckemeyer, machine man, aged 63 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Clarence Smith, of Centralia, foreman, aged 56 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Ray O. Smith, of Centralia, foreman, aged 56 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Andrew Spinner, of Sandoval, trackman, aged 51 years, single.
  • Joseph Spinner, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 57 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Alfred Stevens, of Beckemeyer, machine operator, aged 53 years, married. He leaves a widow.
  • James Tabor, of Centralia, driller, aged 42 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Stanley Teckus, of Centralia, timberman, aged 54 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Anthony Tickus, of Centralia, recovery man, aged 24 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Anton Tillmkan, of Centralia, clean-up man, aged 67 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Emmett Uhls, of Sandoval, machine helper, aged 49 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Dude Vancil, of Centralia, motorman, aged 46 years, married, He leaves a widow and one child.
  • Joe Vancil, of Centralia, foreman, aged 50 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Mark L. Watson, of Centralia, pumper, aged 71 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Joe Zinkus, of Centralia, timberman, aged 54 years, married, He leaves a widow.
  • Max Zonarinis, of Centralia, timberman, aged 65 years, married, He leaves a widow., of Centralia, trackman, aged 59 years, married, He leaves a widow.

Written and emailed to me by Patricia Lofthouse, M.L.S., Freelance documentary film producer, researcher and writer.
Edits (for online media) and additions by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

6 comments:

  1. My Grandfather Alva Petrea was killed in this disaster. My Mom, the youngest of 6 children, told me he went back in to rescue his men. I was born in 1951, in Centralia, IL so he never knew me, or me him. My Mom is still alive and will never forget that day. This article will be shared with her and my other family members. Thank you so much for sharing this article.

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    1. Oh my goodness....Alva Petrea was my great great grandfather. We have to be cousins! My grandfather is Billy Petrea and Alva was his father's father. He was 3 when this happened.

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    2. Dear Gail and Chelsea: How your messages warm my heart, albeit bitter sweetly. I am so deeply sorry for your loss and I am, at the same time, grateful that I was able to renew the memory of this terrible tragedy and ultimately bring you two cousins together.
      With warm regard, Pat Lofthouse

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    3. Chelsea.. I would be your third cousin. My sister was 4 months old and my mom was walking her when she heard the sirens that went on and on. She will never forget that horrible day. Billy was older than Jan and Tressa was younger. Not sure if you ever heard of Janice and Gail Deadmond... Keep in touch. gailkoss@comcast.net

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  2. Thank You Neil, for memorializing the fallen, from the trails and tribulations of the coal mine. Each life lost, is a life lost because they wanted to provide for their families. Many times, these same miners, understanding the dangers, went to work daily with this mindset; hoping that they could better the lives of their children so that they would not have to endure such dangerous working conditions. It is tragic that even with the advancement of technology and skill set, lives are still lost from this occupation. Typically, as a result of violations of the corporate entity that is operating the mine. Profits will never overshadow life! D. Jent aka Jackson Avid.

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  3. My grandfather warrie jackson and uncle ned jackson were both gone that horrible day.. God bless them all

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