The Washburn Street Cemetery
&
The Avondale Disaster

All photographs copyright 2004/2005
by Jeffrey L. Thomas

Follow this link for a detailed report of the Avondale Disaster

Below: general view of the Avondale burial rows in the Washburn Street cemetery, taken from the far end of the rows looking back towards the front of the cemetery, October 2004.

There are already several good pages on the Internet dedicated to recalling the Avondale Mine Disaster of September 6, 1869, some of which recount the story of the disaster through newspaper and eyewitness accounts, and others that concentrate on the victims of the disaster. This page does a little of both by providing a brief account of the disaster, and featuring high-quality digital photographs of most of the surviving grave markers of the Avondale victims found in the Washburn Street Cemetery in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Roughly half the victims of the Avondale Disaster are buried here, reportedly in three rows, located to towards the rear and to the left of the cemetery's main avenue. There were also several Avondale Disaster victims buried in family plots in Washburn Street, including Evan Hughes of Brynmawr, Wales, Inside Mine Boss at Avondale, and brother of Benjamin Hughes, and William Williams and his son William, whose graves lie in other sections of the cemetery. Photographs of these markers are included here as well.

I completed my initial survey of the Avondale graves in October of 2004, and immediately noticed that most of the the few surviving markers were in very bad condition. Fortunately, in 2005, thanks primarily to repair and restoration work done by Trevor Hastie, several of the Avondale markers have been cleaned and repaired, while others, thought to have long since disappeared, have been rediscovered buried just below the ground and have been re-erected. (Thanks Trevor!)

We begin by providing a brief synopsis of the disaster taken from an 1893 book titled, History of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, with Biographical Selections S. B. Nelson & Company, Chicago, 1893. This is followed by recent photographs of the surviving Avondale grave markers, along with certain biographical data for several of the victims, taken from disaster reports, family tradition, and my own research. The presentation is concluded with several photographs taken at special commemorative ceremonies held on September 11, 2005 at the Washburn Street cemetery in Scranton, in memory of the victims of the Avondale Disaster. On the previous day, similar ceremonies were held at the site of the Avondale mine in Plymouth.

I hope you enjoy this page, and will consider possibly donating some of your own time and effort towards the preservation of these historic monuments.


Avondale victims buried at Washburn Street

John Bowen, Edwin Bowen, William Bowen, John Burgh, John Burgh, Jr., Lewis Davies, Thomas Davies, William. J. Davies, Edward Edwards, John D. Evans, William R. Evans (father), William Evans (first son), Lewis Evans (second son), Methuselah Evans (third son), William Evans, William. J. Evans, William. Harding, John Harris, Thomas Hatton (father), Willie Hatton (son), Evan Hughes, John Hughes (same grave as Thomas Hughes), Thomas Hughes (same grave as John Hughes), John Jenkins, Daniel D. Jones (same grave as Thomas D. Jones), Rowland Jones, Thomas D. Jones (same grave as Daniel D. Jones), Thomas L. Jones, William. D. Jones, William Lewis, Rees Llewellyn, Thomas Llewellyn, Rees Lumley, Samuel R. Morgan, William. T. Morgan, Henry Morris, Joseph Morris, Thomas Morris, Richard Owen, James Phillips, Thomas Phillips (father), Willie Phillips (son), William Phorafit, James Powell, William Powell, David Rees (father), David J. Rees (son), Evan Rees, William Rees, William R. Rees, David Thomas, John E. Thomas, John J. Thomas, Morgan Watkin, James T. Williams, William L. Williams, William N. Williams, Richard Woolley.


The Avondale Mine Disaster
History of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania,
with Biographical Selections
S. B. Nelson & Company, Chicago, 1893

"Avondale Disaster--Monday morning, September 6, 1869, the civilized world was startled by the news of the disaster at the Avondale mine, situated one mile below Plymouth in this county, where 108 people perished. Fire broke out in the shaft at 10 a.m. and soon passed up to the headhouse, and this and the coal breaker and all the other buildings near the shaft were quickly wrapped in flames, that first seemed to come up the shaft roaring like a storm. This explosion was the first notice the engineer, Alexander Weir, had of the fire, and so rapidly did it spread in the buildings, that he barely had time to arrange the machinery to prevent explosion of the boilers and escape without his hat. The buildings extended 300 feet to the track of the Bloomsburg railroad. At one time the rows of miners' houses were threatened, but the wind fortunately carried the flames toward the mountain. The families of the men down in the mine instantly realized the horror that came so suddenly, and the people for miles of the surrounding country hurried to the spot. The telegraph called the fire companies from every surrounding town to Scranton and these, too, hurried by special trains to stay, if possible, the holocaust."

"By the middle of the afternoon the combined fire companies had control of the fire and a stream of water was poured into the shaft through a tunnel and the mouth of the shaft cleared and soon preparations made to descend. A small dog and a lighted lamp were first sent down at 6 o'clock and both came up all right. Loud throng of thousands, excited and strung to utmost tension, imagined they heard a feeble response and the heart-broken wails turned momentarily to expressions of joy and hope. A volunteer to descend was now called for, and Charles Vartue stepped forth, took his place in the bucket, and no man probably were was followed with more prayers and hopes than was this brave fellow as he descended. He had only gone half way down when he met obstructions in the shaft. Two fresh men were now sent down. They found a closed door and pounded upon it but received no answer; returned and reported, and now hope was gone from the coolest-headed of the crowd; but the families of the imprisoned were wild with fear and hope still. Two other men were sent down---Thomas W. Williams and David Jones---a voyage of death to the poor fellows. The deadly gas was rapidly gathering and had struck them down and they were brought up dead---the first of the many victims whose bodies were recovered. Air was not pumped into the mine. Parties of two were now sent down at frequent intervals and after a few minutes were hoisted up suffering greatly and many were resuscitated with difficulty. The first bodies were found the Wednesday following at the stables. At 6:30 o'clock a.m. that day, R. Williams, D.W. Evans, John Williams and William Thomas descended and made an extended search, and came to a closed brattice in the east gangway and breaking this down, found the dead, sixty-seven, together, all grouped in every position in this place where they had shut themselves in; the others were found in groups and singly in other places of the mine, having fled as far as possible from the burning shaft."

"A relief fund for the families was set on foot and the willing charity of the people in all parts of the country soon reached the figures of $155, 825.10, and the distribution committee met and agreed upon a plan of distribution. This meeting was held September 13, following, and the first payment was made October 1, according to the regulations of the respective payment as formulated by the executive committee, Hendrick B. Wright, George Coray and Draper Smith. "

"This shocking disaster called the attention of the country to the necessities of putting up every possible protection for the miners. It was made evident by the testimony before the coroner's jury that had there been a second outlet to the mine the men might have been saved. And laws were passed to that effect, as well as providing mine inspectors much as the laws are now. Still disasters follow, and at this writing, December, 1891, but a few weeks ago, a quiet Sunday morning thirteen lives, of the fourteen in the mine were sacrificed by a gas explosion in a mine. "


Detailed Account of the Avondale Mine Disaster


Avondale Burials at the Washburn Street Cemetery

The Washburn Street Cemetery is located in the Hyde Park section of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and is the final resting place of many of that community's early Welsh settlers, including several of my own ancestors. As you enter through the main gate, the area of the cemetery generally referred to as "the old Welsh" section comprises most of the ground to the left of the cemetery's main avenue.

Begin your Avondale survey of Washburn Street by entering through the main gate off Washburn Street. Stop, turn around and face the main gate. On your left you will see a plaque atop a pole standing close to the fencing at the front of the cemetery. This is the cemetery's Avondale memorial, that, unfortunately is nowhere near the actual graves. The memorial was dedicated in 1994 and reads as follows: (photograph below)

AVONDALE MINE DISASTER

Here in the Washburn Street Cemetery lie the
remains of 61 of the 110 Victims of the
September 6, 1869 Avondale Mine
disaster in Plymouth Township, Luzerne
County. The miners, most of whom were
of Welsh descent, were interred on
September 9, 1869.

Dedicated October 1, 1994

NATIONAL WELSH-AMERICAN FOUNDATION
SEFYDLIAD CENEDLAETHOL CYMRU-AMERICA

To find the three rows of Avondale victims in cemetery, simply enter through the main gate and turn left at the first intersection. About half way between the intersection and the next avenue crossroad, on the right-hand side you will see the large, reddish upright stone marked HATTON. This is the grave of Avondale victims Thomas and William Hatton. The Hatton plot represents the middle of three rows of Avondale burials, the other two rows being on the immediate right and left of the Hatton row. It should be noted that most of the few surviving Avondale markers in Washburn Street are found in the left and middle rows.

In addition to the Avondale graves, I have included other general photographs of the cemetery, and there are several surveys of the Washburn Street cemetery available at the Lackawanna County GenWeb site (address below) for those who wish to learn more about the burials here. Please feel free to e-mail your comments regarding this page to my e-mail address below.

Jeffrey L. Thomas
October 2004
jltbalt1@verizon.net

 

Below: General view of the cemetery from near the main entrance gate.

 

Below: Looking back towards the entrance. Avondale memorial is to the left behind the blue office.

 

Below: The Avondale Memorial at Washburn Street Cemetery.

 

Below: Continue down the main avenue and turn left at the first intersection.

 

Below: Look for the reddish HATTON stone on the right next to the avenue.

 

Below: General view of the site of the Avondale burial rows from the avenue.

 

The Avondale Graves

In the table below, simply click on the individual's name to view a full-sized digital photograph of the grave marker.

Name Inscription Comments & Notes
William N. Williams
Wm N. Williams
Born Oct 1 1829
Died Avondale PA
Sept 6 1869
Rachel
Dau of Wm & M. Williams
1867-1869
William N. Williams was from Plymouth and was survived by a wife and three children. His is one of only two Avondale markers at Washburn Street that are still entirely legible.
William Harding &
William L. Williams
  William Harding was from Plymouth and was survived by his wife. The official accident report also notes that William was the "uncle of Isaac Williams," and "came from Hyde Park." This marker was standing in 2000 but today is lying on the ground and is practically unreadable.
William and James Powell   Father and son killed at Avondale who were living in Plymouth at the time of the disaster. Until just recently this marker was leaning forward at a precarious angle, however the marker has since been uprighted. William was survived by a wife and several children.
Morgan Watkin
Morgan Watkins
Born
Jan 1 1842
Died
Sept 6 1869
Morgan Watkin lived in Plymouth and was unmarried at the time of his death. The marker is badly deteriorated, however some of the inscription is still legible. Update: the Morgan Watkin marker has recently been uprighted. Click here for a new photo.
Thomas and Willie Hatton
Thomas Hatton
1828-1869
Gwendolyn His Wife
1828-1895
William Hatton
1859-1869
The only large marker in the Avondale section is that of Thomas Hatton and his son Willie. The Hatton family was from Plymouth. Willie was one of several children killed at Avondale and was only 10 years old at the time of his death. The official report on the accident commented on Willie by noting that, "this poor little fellow did not work in the mine, but that his father took him in with him the fatal morning; according to a promise made by him some time earlier." Thomas was survived by a wife and two children. Thomas Hatton's widow Gwendolyn (Gwenny) appears with her children Sarah and Henry in the 1870 census of Scranton (1st Ward, Providence).
Lewis Davies   Lewis Davis was a single man who boarded with Evan Hughes, inside boss of the Plymouth mine, who was also a victim of the Avondale Disaster.
Rees Lumley   Lumley lived in Turkey Hill and was survived by a wife and three children. He is referred to as "Rouse Lunley" in the official accident report.
View of the Lewis Davies and Rees Lumley markers    
William Evans   William Evans was the husband of of Margrate Evans.
William Lewis   William Lewis lived in Plymouth and left a wife and one child.
John J. Thomas   John J. Thomas lived in Plymouth. Although this marker is very difficult to read, it clearly indicates a date of death of September 6, 1869. This marker is next to the one for William Evans.
General view of the markers for John J. Thomas and William Evans    
John D. Evans   John D. Evans lived in Plymouth and left a wife and five children. This marker has only recently been dug from the ground and the top portion of the stone is missing. There is other information on the marker that will hopefully be deciphered soon.
Thomas L. Jones   Jones lived in Plymouth and left behind a wife and children. This marker was broken in two and therefore in danger of being lost, however it has recently been repaired and reinforced, the Welsh inscription being revealed for the first time in years.
Thomas and Reese Llewelyn   Thomas and Reese Llewelyn were two brothers who lived in Plymouth that were killed at Avondale. Although the top portion of their marker is missing, historians have been able to identify this marker as that of the Llewelyn brothers.
John Harris   According to descendant Shawn Presser, John was born in Cornwall, England about 1843, and was living in Monmouthshire at the time of the 1851 census. John's wife Mary was pregnant with their last child, Margaret, at the time of the Avondale Disaster. Mary Harris remarried John Y. Morgan in 1879 and for many years the family lived at 338 North Hyde Park Avenue. Mary Harris Morgan died 3 Jan 1927. Her obituary appeared in the Scranton Times the day of her death, and her funeral notice mentions that "Mrs. Morgan is the last of the women widowed as a result of the Avondale disaster which killed 110 men."
Evan Hughes Born March 21 1838
Died Sept 6 1869
Evan Hughes was the inside mine boss at Avondale on that fateful day, and was the brother of Benjamin Hughes, an official with the D.L.& W. railroad who eventually became superintendent of all the company's underground mine operations. Benjamin and Evan were from Brynmawr, Wales. During the investigation into the accident, although there was conflicting testimony as to whether Evan Hughes believed the Avondale mine to be safe, most parties agreed that he was a careful and professional boss.
William Williams and
his son William Williams
In Memory of
William Williams
Died
Sept 6, 1869
In the Avondale Disaster
Aged 39 Yrs.
William Williams
Son
Born Sept ?
1835
Died Sept 6
1869
The Avondale accident report names a "William T. Williams, Hyde Park, age 39, who boarded with William Evans, Plymouth; son (also William) brought out this morning. Wife and one child." William Williams and son, like Evan Hughes, are buried in a family plot close to the Avondale rows. Other family members buried in the plot include an Ann Jones, and William's children Mary Ann and David W. Williams. Like many of the Avondale graves, the Williams marker is today difficult to read.
Unidentified marker 1   This unidentified marker was buried beneath the ground on the Avondale rows, however it was "dug out" in September of 2005. The marker lies on the far end of the rows and is broken in two pieces. It is hoped that further research will reveal the name of the individual interred here.

On September 11th, 2005 special services were held in the Washburn Street Cemetery to honor the memory of the Avondale Disaster victims. Click on the links below to view photographs of the day's ceremonies.

 

Below: General view of the Washburn Street cemetery looking from the area of the Avondale rows towards Washburn Street, part of the "old Welsh section" of the cemetery, October 2005.


Follow this link for a detailed report of the Avondale Disaster
View a report & photos of the ceremonies held at the Avondale mine Sept 10, 2005
Other Washburn Street burials
Read more about the history of Hyde Park with an emphasis on mining
Read more about Benjamin Hughes, brother of Avondale Victim Evan Hughes
Return to the main page at the Thomas family web site

Web site copyright 2005-2014 by Jeffrey L. Thomas, with all rights reserved
e-mail: jltbalt1@verizon.net