Avondale Mine Disaster
*Private Property- Get permission before going*
Avondale Mine Disaster Site
Background: The Avondale Colliery, built in the 1860’s was located on this property. A mine shaft was dug down 240 feet, to reach the anthracite coal, deep below ground. A two compartment shaft was located on the left side of the high stone block wall. Coal was mined and brought up the shaft on a hoist. Over time, the mining of coal created many passageways, called chambers and gangways. A large wooden construction coal processing building called a breaker was built directly over the mine shaft. The purpose of the breaker was to crush the mined coal into marketable sizes and to remove rock from the mined coal. The breaker extended over the stone block wall, down to near the current dirt road. At the time, the road was the main rail line of the Delaware Lackawanna & Western Rail Road. Coal was mined, brought up the shaft, processed through the breaker and then loaded into railroad cars and shipped by the DL&W RR.
The Disaster: At 7:00 am Monday morning, September 6, 1869, 108 men and boys descended down the Avondale Mine shaft and began working. At 10:00 am fire was reported shooting up out of the upcast portion of the mine shaft. The fire quickly spread to the wooden boards, timbers and coal reserves within the breaker. The raging fire, consumed air from the mines below and also sent poisonous carbon monoxide gas down the mine shaft. Here at Avondale, the shaft was the only entrance and exit from the mine. Because of this design, the miners below ground were trapped within the mine. The miners knew that finding and conserving fresh air meant life or death. They traveled to far portions within the mine and built barricades to create a pocket of fresh air. But, despite their heroic efforts, all 108 lives were lost to suffocation. During the rescue / recovery attempts, 2 more brave men were overcome by poisonous gas and perished.
Recovery: After the fire had been extinguished, and fresh air could be forced into the mine, work began to recover the bodies of the miners. For three days, crews of volunteers recovered all 108 men and boys. Their bodies were hoisted up the shaft and brought out through the old tunnel. The majority of the deceased, being of Welsh descent and employees of the DL&W Scranton Mines, were buried in Hyde Park / Washburn St. Cemetery in Scranton. Others were buried in Shupp’s Cemetery and various cemeteries throughout the Wyoming Valley.
Inquest: The official cause of the fire was found to be sparks emanating from the mine’s ventilation furnace, igniting wooden boards on the sides of the shaft. A second theory, of an arsonist slipping into the tunnel and igniting the fire, is also a possibility. Due to tensions during and after the summer long strike, in the anthracite coal region, arson was possible.
Aftermath: Because of the great loss of life at Avondale, mine safety legislation was passed requiring coal companies to provide at least two ways in and out of their mines. Also, newly built coal breakers were to be built a safe distance away from the shafts. The Great Disaster at Avondale was a turning point in the history of coal mining. Following disasters, accidents and unsafe conditions within the mines would forever be compared to Avondale.
Avondale Mine Time Line: Mining begins at Avondale in 1863, Avondale Breaker built 1867, breaker destroyed by fire September 6, 1869, 110 lives lost, new breaker opens April, 1870, breaker remodeled 1905, 707 employees in 1908, breaker razed February 1935, coal shipped to Nottingham, Lance, Woodward, Loree and Huber Breakers and the Nanticoke Power Plant, deep mining operations suspended 1960, stripping and culm bank processing ends in 1968. Between the recorded period of 1875 to 1968, over 13 million tons of anthracite coal were mined and shipped from the Avondale Colliery.
Steve Kondrad, President, Plymouth Historical Society
For more information on the Avondale Disaster, the Avondale Mine property and anthracite coal mining in Northeastern Pennsylvania
Contact the Plymouth Historical Society 115 Gaylord Ave. Plymouth, Pa. 18651 570-779-5840
Duration of Investigation:
Two digital recorders
samsung video camera
History/ Background Information:
No Evps at this locations
No video evidence at this location
No personal experience at this location