The Avondale Mine Disaster
September 6, 1869

Part IV: The Funerals, Widows
and Orphaned Children


Below you will find a transcription of a research paper written by James M. Corrigary regarding the Avondale Mine Disaster (Plymouth, Luzerne Co., Pa.) of 6 Sept 1869, an accident that claimed the lives of 110 men and boys, miners and mine laborers. The report is found at the Mine Safety and Health Administration Library in Denver, Colorado, and provides fascinating eyewitness accounts of the accident and its aftermath, along with testimony from the official inquest. At times the eyewitness accounts are heart-wrenching and gruesome, particularly when the corner describes the condition of the bodies as they were recovered from the mine. The testimony at the official inquest into the accident makes for compelling reading as well, as witness made varying statements regarding the safety of the mine, and the precautions taken to prevent just such a disaster. Due to its length, I have broken the paper into five parts contained on five separate pages. There is a sixth page featuring illustrations of the Avondale Disaster and it's aftermath, from the September 24, 1869 issue of Harper's Weekly. I have also used these drawings throughout the other five pages to better illustrate the story of the disaster.

  • Part I:
  • Physical description of the mine and details of the accident
  • Part II:
  • Initial recovery efforts
  • Part III:
  • Recovery of the miner's bodies
  • Part IV:
  • The funerals, widows and orphaned children
  • Part V:
  • The official inquest into the accident
  • Part VI:
  • Harper's Weekly illustrations of the Avondale Disaster

    In the days when miners had few rights, and mine owners were rarely held accountable for injuries suffered by their workers, it is probable that most contemporary commentators assigned little blame for the disaster to the mining company itself. Nevertheless, the Avondale Disaster caused new mining regulations to be enacted, including the mandating of double-shaft mines, and the prohibition against collieries being built directly over the mine shaft. It is unfortunate, however, that such measures were taken only after a disaster of this magnitude.

    Jeffrey L. Thomas
    jltbalt1@verizon.net


    Part IV: The Funerals, Widows and Orphaned Children

    THE FUNERALS OF THE DEAD

    The bodies of the dead had all been delivered to the family and friends, who had prepared them for burial, and during the next day a number of them had been taken by ..... train to Plymouth and Scranton. At four p.m. the bodies ..... with 4,000 people, went ..... toward Scranton, the last train carrying eleven coffins containing the remains of none of those to be buried in that place.

    A large proportion of the unfortunate victims were buried at three different hours, in Scranton, Sept 9th, in the Washburn cemetery, in the presence of a large concourse of people. The exercises were exceeding(ly) solemn and impressive Rev. William Robert, D. D., of Bellevue, delivered the following touching address:

    This is a sad calamity! A dreadful catastrophe! The most suffering and pain I ever witnessed in the whole course of my life. Caused by the most terrible event! Death, lurking in fire, marking our neighbors, suffocating and extinguishing the spark of life ..... Death like a destroying angel, passing through the ..... Death, plunging beloved wives into the state of widowhood, crushing the tender and affectionate children into the gulf of parental bereavement. Death, unemotionally snatching children from the warm braces and the concern of their tenderly beloved parents. Death, forcibly separating with its grasp brothers and sisters from the sweet and delightful bond of the family. Death, like a clap of rolling thunder, extending its horrible voice over the valley and entertaining with the fearful authority of the Eternal to every one of its victims, "Prepare to meet thy God." Death, taking and hurling hundreds of our fellow men since the beginning of time into the dark vestiges of eternity ..... Thou art lurking everywhere and in everything. Death is terrible. It is the king of Violence We see its effects through our beloved loved ones. The lungs no longer heave, breathing stops, the eye closes in darkness, the heart becomes silent, the whole body becomes motionless and ghostly, and the angels takes it flight-like escort; like the wings of a goose. But here we see death in one of its greatest and most dreadful forms, taking men of sound health ..... in the midst of their lives and crushing them under its free foot without allowing them time to reflect, pray, or escape. Think not within yourselves that these were greater men than all the men in this valley; but, less ye repent, ye shall all likewise parish. There were some good men of vital piety of pure and mindful religion, to whom I say "To live was Christ, and to die was sin." I understand that one Christian Church in the neighborhood has been depopulated of its male members by this sad calamity, with very few exceptions.

    Now let us all acknowledge the hand of Divine Providence in permitting such an awful event - and let us take warning from it to be ready, for in such an hour as we think, and the beast of man cometh. Let us seek the forgiveness of sin, it is sin which has brought death into our world and all of our woe. Let us seek a personal interest in Christ who is the Lord of Life, and of eternity. If melded by faith to him, we will be comforted and may be happy even under the cold grasp of death, and will be withered by it, and the messenger of Christ will deliver us into everlasting life. I hope and pray that the Great Spirit will sedate and comfort the bereaved relatives of the deceased. May the Lord, in their case, prove himself to be the Provider for the widow and the Father of the fatherless. Amen.

    In addition to those buried at Scranton on the 9th and 10th, a number were buried at Shupp's cemetery, Plymouth, and in the Catholic cemetery, Wilkes-Barre. Several were buried at Pittston, two at Forty Port, one at Harvey's and one at Pottsville. In each of these cases, there was a large attendance, and exhibitions of strong feeling on the part of the immediate friends and of those witnessing the ceremonies.

    THE WIDOWS AND ORPHAN CHILDREN

    Name Wife of Age Children
    Allen William 26 2
    Alabaugh Madison 21 6
    Bowen John   1
    Bowen William B. 20 2
    Burch John 35 4
    Bryant Elijah S. 22 2
    Clark John 36 6
    Coulen Peter   4
    Davies Thomas   10
    Davis William    
    Daly Michael   5
    Evans Wm. J. 52 2
    Evans Wm. R. 45 1
    Evans William 58  
    Evans William (Wales)    
    Evans John D. 27 6
    Edwards Edward 25 1
    Edwards Daniel 28 1
    Frothingham Andrew 19  
    Gilroy Hugh    
    Guyten Dennis 30  
    Harris John 26 4
    Harkins James 28 2
    Hatton Thomas 40 9
    Hardon William    
    Howell Shem 37 4
    Hughes Evan   2
    Hughes John 26 1
    Humphrey Edward    
    James David   1
    James James(?)    
    Jones Thomas D. 26  
    Jones Thomas L. 33 2
    Jones K. D. 26  
    Jones David   1
    Jones William (Wales)    
    Jones Rowland 55 2
    Johnson David   4
    Johnson Peter J.    
    Johns Wm. D. (Wales)   4
    Lewis William 19  
    Lumley Reese 26 8
    Morris Joseph 22  
    Morris Thomas 45  
    Maher John   1
    McGursh Patrick   8
    Murray James 29 8
    Morgan W(atkin) S. 46 4
    Morgan Samuel 45 2
    Matler Jacob 36 4
    Orum Richard 49  
    Pharfit William 34 2
    Phillips James    
    Pryor Daniel P. 24 2
    Powell John 22 1
    Rease (Reese) Evan (Wales)    
    Rease (Reese) William (Wales)   4
    Rease (Reese) David R. 45 2
    Ruth O. F.   1
    Speigul William 28 2
    Sleur Palmer 81 5
    Smith Harry 29 4
    Taylor Edward   1
    Thomas John 80 1
    Wood Daniel 29 2
    Williams Wm. N. 88 8
    Williams W. L. 28  
    Williams James 45  
    Williams Wm. S. 30 4
    Williams T. D. 55 5
    Williams Wm. T. 35 1
    Wildrich Wm. L. 35 2

    Recapitulation - Widows, 72; Orphan children, 158.

    The complete census of Avondale orphans in the old countries will, when received, add considerably to the above number.


    Continue with Part V: The official inquest into the accident
    Return to Part III: Recovery of the miner's bodies
    Harper's Weekly illustrations of the Avondale Disaster
    Learn more about the Avondale Disaster victims buried in the Washburn Street cemetery.
    View a survey of the Washburn Street cemetery, Hyde Park/Scranton
    Read more about the history of Hyde Park with an emphasis on mining
    Read more about Benjamin Hughes, brother of Avondale Mine Boss Evan Hughes
    Return to the main page at the Thomas family web site

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