October 22

This Day in History

Disaster

Oct 22, 1913:

Coal mine explodes in New Mexico

A coal mine explosion in Dawson, New Mexico, kills more than 250 workers on this day in 1913. A heroic rescue effort saved 23 others, but also cost two more people their lives.

The coal mine, where 284 workers were on duty on October 22, was owned by Phelps, Dodge and Company. At exactly 3 p.m., a tremendous explosion ripped through the Stag Canyon Fuel Company’s number-two mine. The entire town could feel a jolt from the explosion and many immediately rushed to the scene. The cause of the explosion was typical of many early coal-mine disasters—a pocket of methane gas had been ignited by a miner’s lamp.

The explosion blocked the mouth of the mine shaft with rocks, timber and other debris so effectively that it took rescuers eight hours to move 100 feet into the shaft. The rescue effort was further complicated when the fans that were bringing fresh air down the shaft broke and took hours to repair. Still, the emergency crews worked feverishly for two days, digging through the coal and debris and finding scores of bodies. Two rescuers died from gas inhalation during the operation.

Finally, the rescue team found a group of 23 miners who had managed to survive. Many had broken bones and some suffered from illnesses related to gas exposure, but they were pulled out alive before a cheering crowd. Two hundred and sixty-one workers were not so fortunate.

Thousands of early miners died around the world in similar disasters before battery-powered lamps greatly reduced the number of methane-gas explosions in mines.

A coal mine explosion in Dawson, New Mexico, kills more than 250 workers on this day in 1913. A heroic rescue effort saved 23 others, but also cost two more people their lives.

The coal mine, where 284 workers were on duty on October 22, was owned by Phelps, Dodge and Company. At exactly 3 p.m., a tremendous explosion ripped through the Stag Canyon Fuel Company’s number-two mine. The entire town could feel a jolt from the explosion and many immediately rushed to the scene. The cause of the explosion was typical of many early coal-mine disasters—a pocket of methane gas had been ignited by a miner’s lamp.

The explosion blocked the mouth of the mine shaft with rocks, timber and other debris so effectively that it took rescuers eight hours to move 100 feet into the shaft. The rescue effort was further complicated when the fans that were bringing fresh air down the shaft broke and took hours to repair. Still, the emergency crews worked feverishly for two days, digging through the coal and debris and finding scores of bodies. Two rescuers died from gas inhalation during the operation.

Finally, the rescue team found a group of 23 miners who had managed to survive. Many had broken bones and some suffered from illnesses related to gas exposure, but they were pulled out alive before a cheering crowd. Two hundred and sixty-one workers were not so fortunate.

Thousands of early miners died around the world in similar disasters before battery-powered lamps greatly reduced the number of methane-gas explosions in mines.

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