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Monday, September 1, 2014

The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster in Illinois

Dedication of the Cherry Mine Monument
I have been reading a book by Karen Tintori entitled Trapped, The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster.  Love it.

Karen tells the story of a tragic event in the fall of 1909.  Four hundred and eighty men went into the mine as was their usual jobs. Recent immigrants filled the employee roles....some from Italy, Germany, Sweden, etc.  But one afternoon a small fire began up top at one of the openings, and later burned out of control.  More than half of the mine workers would be burned to death or buried alive.

Officials had a very hard time containing the flames, and they had to cover the mine openings in hopes of smothering the flames down below.  When finally opened various attempts to save the lives of those that they hoped were still alive were made.  So many bodies were recovered, including the carcasses of the donkeys used to pull cart loads of coal on underground tracks.

Twenty men were finally rescued, against all odds.  They survived by sheer will, a few drops of water that came trickling down the shaft walls, and chewing on the leather of their shoes.

This was one of the worst coal mine disasters in United States history. Since this event, workers compensation laws were changed, as well as child labor practices in the coal business.

Karen used diaries, letters and hand-written accounts of people with firsthand knowledge of the terrible event to describe, in detail, the lives of those who lived through this horrific event.

Why did she write this story?  Her grandfather survived the Cherry Mine disaster.  She has a very personal tie to the event.  I am sure that her grandfather looks down on her with great pride and admiration.

If you are looking for a good historical read, I highly recommend this book.  Good job, Karen.

bringing the surviving men to the surface

historical marker for the Cherry Mine Disaster

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