Several hundred coal miners and mine workers lost their lives in Sangamon County mines through 1930, according to the website Wayne’s World of History and Genealogy, created by Wayne Hinton. The information, which is footnoted, is taken from annual Illinois coal reports and appears reliable, although some names may be misspelled (possibly due to errors in the original documents).
Hinton’s material also reports on four Sangamon County mine “disasters,” defined as any incident in which two or more men were killed. (The period covered in the “disaster” section is from 1880 to 1986; the first Sangamon County incident was in 1902 and the last in 1945.)
The worst Sangamon County disaster took place on Feb. 22, 1918, when four miners died in an explosion at the Citizens Coal Company’s Mine A, two miles south of the then-city limits of Springfield. Hinton includes the text of the 1918 Illinois Coal Report‘s coverage of the incident. The report suggests a variety of safety violations were to blame for the blast:
At the face of the 1st and 2d south entries was found a number of unlawful drill holes which had been fired by the regular shot firers.
All that section in 1st and 2d south off the main east is in an unlawful and dusty condition.
In room No. 3 off No. 1 south offset evidence showed that dust had been unloaded along the track, and it was in this room that the most violent results of the explosion were seen.
The explosion of dust caused by the windy shots, destroyed the slack and dirt stoppings in eight crosscuts, throwing the material to the west. These crosscuts had been built with unlawful material.
The direction of the force of the explosion was north and west.
The south entries were exceedingly dusty and no indications that the roadways had been sprinkled or cleaned for years; the dust and dirt had been placed on each side of the track, and in places it was but a few inches from the roof of the entry.
It is recommended that this company be required to place the mine in a safe and lawful condition by cleaning all the haulage roads of dust and spraying or sprinkling the same with water at once.
Killed were: Ernest Cox of Springfield, trackman, age 18, single; Ray Hiner of Springfield, foreman, age 24, single; Thomas Reilly, driver, age 40, married with eight children; and Walter Whelchel of Kalo, Iowa, trackman, age 28, married with two children.
See also: Coal mining.
Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.