On December 6, 1907, a massive explosion ripped through the Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and 8 mines at Monongah in Marion County. The powerful blast killed at least 361 men, and that number is likely low due to poor record keeping. It was the worst mine disaster in U.S. history.
Many victims were recent immigrants, particularly Italians, Hungarians, and Russians. There were no trained rescue workers at the time. So, miners from surrounding states rushed to the scene. The rescuers—many of them fellow immigrants—pulled the mutilated bodies of men and boys—some as young as eight—from the carnage.
In the following weeks, three other major mine disasters occurred nationally. In 1907, more than 3,200 American miners were killed on the job—the deadliest year for miners in our nation’s history. In spite of such horrific accidents, many mining operations, including Monongah, continued to ignore proper safety precautions related to lighting, explosives, and methane gas—practices that were already being used in Europe.
Due to the national outcry after Monongah and other disasters, the U.S. Bureau of Mines was formed two years later.