January 10, 1940: Bartley Mine Explosion

United Mine Workers monument at the site of the Bartley mine disaster

On January 10, 1940, the Pond Creek Number 1 mine exploded at Bartley in McDowell County. The blast killed 91 miners; 47 men escaped. Most of the men who perished died instantly. Although, some asphyxiated following the explosion, and two left farewell letters.

Pond Creek Number 1 was a deep-shaft mine owned by an affiliate of Island Creek Coal. Investigators blamed methane gas for the fatal explosion since the mine’s coal dust had been treated properly.

The mine disaster occurred only three months after a local school bus wreck had claimed the lives of six children in Bartley. The Mullins family, whose daughter had died in the bus wreck, lost a father and son in the mine.

The 91 deaths make Bartley the sixth deadliest mine disaster in West Virginia history, eclipsed only by the disasters at Monongah in 1906, Eccles in 1914, Benwood in 1924, Layland in 1915, and Everettville in 1927. And it remains the state’s worst mine disaster since the 1920s. A memorial placed by the United Mine Workers of America commemorates the miners who died at Bartley in 1940.