Fatalities in West Virginia Coal Mines 1883-1925 (2023)

West Virginia Todesrate Coal Mine 1883-1925

Extract from the reports of the inspector of mines

Compiled and indexed by Helen S. Stinson, 1985

Microfilmed by LDS Family History Library
Last names beginning with "A"Last names beginning with "B"Last names beginning with "P"Last names beginning with "Q"

This publication is available atLDS Family History Library.The phone number is US/CAN 975.4 V2s.

Copies of the reports of these deaths are included in this publication. The report form lists: No., Company name, My company name, Deceased person's name, Date of injury, Date of death, Nationality, Years of experience, Age, Occupation, Widow, Number of children , Number of dependents, As dead when the query is executed, inner or outer.

If anyone would like to prioritize a specific name, please email me.

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In some cases, the typographer omitted a letter from a person's name. The name appears in the index with a hyphen or space to indicate the missing letter.

The original printed records are over 60 years old. Photocopies may have misrepresented some names. A clearer copy may be available from the West Virginia Department of Archives and History, Charleston WV 25305, indicating the YEAR of the report, COUNTY of fatality, and NAME of decedent. Where margin space allowed, the original page numbers have been retained on the pages for easy identification.


MINE INSPECTORS' REPORTS, printed in Charleston, West Virginia, were printed in 1883. They were not printed annually until 1900. After 1925, deaths were no longer mentioned in statistical reports.

Copies of these original REPORTS exist today in hardcover editions. They can be found at the West Virginia Department of Archives and History, Capitol Complex, Charleston, West Virginia 25305, or at the West Virginia University Colson Hall Library in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Because the original REPORTS were distributed in several volumes and no primary index was provided to assist those who did not know the year of death or county, the contained materials were photocopied and indexed entirely by last name. This was done with the permission of the West Virginia Department of Mines.

The value of these reports is that they provide a source of identification where civil status records do not exist. Although the Virginia Legislature in 1853 mandated that all births and deaths be reported to the appropriate county clerk, compliance was often erratic. Records of miners' headstones often do not exist until recent years. Temporary or handmade bookmarks often don't work.

After the Civil War, many foreign workers came to West Virginia to work in the coal mines. In most of the attached REPORTS the nationality and age of the deceased, marital status, number of dependents and cause of death are indicated. Since the community and the name of the mine are listed, this gives you a clue as to the possible whereabouts of the miner.

The format of the REPORTS will vary from time to time and has become more detailed in recent years.

A major mining disaster may have been widely reported in local (county or larger city) newspapers to "build" people's backgrounds. Many newspapers since the 1900s have been preserved on microfilm for the benefit of research. Check with any branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Genealogical Library for procedures for ordering these films, or watch news films at West Virginia University's Colson Hall Library and some at the Department of Archives and History of the WVA. Some genealogical and historical societies have kept scrapbooks of important local events. (Marion County in particular has an excellent scrapbook collection at the Fairmont Public Library.)


The existence of coal deposits in "West Virginia," as it was commonly called before it became a separate state on June 20, 1863, was well known to early explorers and residents, but there were problems with transportation, somewhat common in hilly terrain with back roads. they are, which were often little more than roads.

The development of any industry requires a significant investment of capital, and those who can invest capital are busy bringing a product to market. Until after the Civil War, coal was mined primarily for domestic purposes, as a source of heat for boiling brine in the salt industry in Kanawha County.

Construction of the railroad began before the Civil War and reached what is now the West Virginia border. All railroad construction activity had to stop until the end of hostilities in 1865, after which construction resumed until the railroads reached the Ohio River. Now investors from the east were prepared to develop the dormant coal industry.

They sent representatives to buy the "rights" to the country's timber and minerals for an average of $25, or $3 per acre. After the hard financial difficulties of the Civil War, this seemed like a great windfall for the landowners. Their experience has not prepared them to appreciate the great wealth that lies within their natural resources.

From their point of view, investors have made a solid investment at a fair price. They were the ones who risked capital to develop resources that were practically useless until they were developed.

A comparison of miners' surnames (excluding the foreign-born) with the land records of early settlers shows that it was only a few generations before those who once owned the land were now employed by outsiders. to mine coal and earn a living. Accommodation provided by the coal company.

Slave labor was used in the mines before the Civil War, but slaves did not willingly work underground. After that, for a long time, coal miners were almost always white men. In 1913, of the more than 70,000 garimpeiros in the state, only 14,506 were black. (REPORTS OF THE INSPECTORS OF MINES, 1913, p. 15). Of the more than 70,000 miners, 32,612 were white Americans.

Their wages in 1913 were 48 cents per ton of coal. The annual salary for a pickaxe miner was $737.62, an increase of $119.10 over the prior year's earnings.

The feudal system (the coal companies were the "lord barons" and the miners the serfs) allowed the miner to live in rough-hewn wooden houses with no indoor plumbing and to relieve himself in the company store, where he could buy on credit. . He was paid with "play money" called "Scrip", which could only be exchanged at the company store. He had to provide his own tools and gunpowder, which he bought at the company store.

When he was married, the needs of a growing family often exceeded his ability to support them on earned wages, leaving most of them constantly in debt to the company shop. Most of the married miners had a small garden to provide some of their food needs. If the woman needed obstetric care or there were illnesses in the family, the company doctor was called and the miner had these costs deducted from his salary. More than one miner took an empty pay envelope at the end of a pay period because his debts had used up everything he had earned.

A miner's sons used to follow him into the mines. The children grew up mining and that was all they knew. It is not uncommon that in these MINE REPORTS not only parents and children were killed in a mine explosion, but many siblings were also killed.

The everyday circumstances of the miners "before the union" are so well known that historians need only consult older family members for details. Mister. The late William O. Williams worked for 40 years in Logan, Boone and Kanawha Counties, also in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, speaking of coal mining as he knew it as "The Worst Life in the World." He talked about bad air, miners trapped behind smoke and unable to get out, pins not holding causing shale to fall, water seeping into mine shafts making working conditions harsh. wet and cold, and the sheer physical agony of working hunched over. in a narrow coal seam or working the entire shift on their knees in a puddle of water.

The deadly odorless methane gas was a silent killer "of many miners," but many more miners died of black lung, a disease in which the air sacs in the lungs are destroyed by inhaling coal dust. Williams said the coal companies had caught it. up for many years refused to recognize black lung as a valid medical disability caused by working conditions, until some changes were forced by legislation. Many of the company's doctors diagnosed respiratory illnesses as almost anything but black lung. A coal company doctor told Mr. Inhale coal dust! It's good for you!" At the time of his death in 1983, he was receiving black lung benefits.

In many cases, miners were tied by economic conditions to this particular profession, and once in it, few managed to leave it. Mouths had to be fed, bodies clothed and housed, and the hireling had to do whatever it took to achieve it.

As the reader will discover in these REPORTS, many miners who perished left widows and orphans. It was a rare miner who had or could afford life insurance.

Harsh working conditions and the inability of miners and coal companies to bargain and make change gave rise to militant union efforts that were eventually endorsed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Before the unions were "acceptable", there were many bitter skirmishes between opposing factions. To this day, bunkers can still be found in Kanawha County, where fires were exchanged in this deadly fight to improve working conditions for miners.

Even though working conditions improved, mining was still a dangerous job. Experienced miners learned to be careful, and MINE INSPECTORS' REPORTS showed that experienced miners were much less likely to be killed in an accident than inexperienced miners. Not surprisingly, more mining accidents occurred on Monday than any other day of the week. These statistics and many other interesting facts are not included in the accompanying materials, but the reader is advised to refer to the original books for more information.

Each death reported here is a story unto itself, whether it be the story of a former landowner's son who becomes a serf or the story of an immigrant who came to the United States in search of a better life, only to find death expensive. to face to meet the bowels. from the earth.

Many miners trapped underground during the explosions were not recovered. The mine shaft was sometimes permanently sealed, and somewhere inside another "stat" it sleeps until resurrection. An in-depth analysis of these REPORTS reveals that some miners were not even known by name. “Italian #14, for example, died in a coal mine in Kanawha County, and only those who spoke his native language could know who he was.

The history of coal mining in the early days of this century is a solemn story in many ways, but the relentless desire of miners for a better way of life has paid off as we see safety measures enforced. rigorously in the mines and the children of the miners receive a university education, and the miner himself receives a living wage in order to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.

For more information on coal mining, seeThe West Virginia Mine.

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