June 7, 1926: Explosion Kills Six at Berkeley Glass Sand Company

Drilling to blast

On June 7, 1926, a crew mining for sand in Morgan County was preparing an explosion when a spark set off what the Berkeley Glass Sand Company maintained was dynamite. Others, though, claimed it was more dangerous black powder. Six men were killed.

Their deaths inspired John Unger, a local blind singer, to write the ballad “The Miner’s Doom,” which was recorded in 1927 by early country music star Vernon Dalhart.

Sand mining first became a major industry in Morgan County after the Civil War due to the purity of the region’s silica sand, which was used to manufacture glass. In 1893, Henry Harrison Hunter of Berkeley Springs won a blue ribbon at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago for the quality of his sand.

The industry’s modern era began in 1929, when the Pennsylvania Glass Sand Corporation built the largest and most advanced silica facility of its time.

Today, the Berkeley Springs plant is the core of the U.S. Silica Corporation, which has 21 locations across the country and employs about 200 at the Berkeley Springs mine, processing plant, and laboratory.