Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Last Sleep of the Miners

We have already published the particulars of the terrible accident in England from the stoppage of the shaft of the Hartley Pit, by which two hundred and fifteen miners lost their lives.  Additional details reveal some of the most heart-breaking incidents recorded in any age.  Up to Jan. 25th, the workmen had succeeded in getting up 199 bodies.  As they were received the bodies were wrapped in cotton sheets and placed in coffins, and if identified, the name was inscribed on the coffin.  Widows and children, parents, brothers and sisters, were present to recognize and receive their dead.  The scene was indescribably touching:

“As soon as the men got into the yard seam they came upon a body, that of a fine, stout fellow, who was sitting apparently sleeping, on a seat mad into the side of the coal, only a few feet from the shaft.  His name was Galligar.  His flannel trousers were doubled up, and he just looked as if he was resting after a hard day’s toil.  Five or ten yards within the seam were found a large number of bodies – men and lads – lying in rows.  They were lying in three rows on each side, all quiet and placid, as if sleeping of a heavy day’s work.  Boys were lying with their heads on the shoulders of their fathers, and one poor fellow had his arm tenderly clasped around the neck of his brother; brothers were lying locked in each other’s arms; but all lay as if death had crept quietly upon them, [and stole away their lives while they might have been dreaming of home and liberty.  None appeared to have died in mortal agony, and most, if not all, death appeared to have come as a relief.  Beyond this company of sleepers a man lay propping] open a door, as if he had resisted the insidious poison of the mine longer than the rest, and had risen to open one of the doors in the hope of obtaining fresh air.”

The following entry [read] in the time book of one of the men speaks of a prayer meeting held by the suffocating miners, and is the only memorial left by the dead men:

“Friday afternoon, half past two o’clock, Edward Armstrong, Thos. Gledstone, John Hardy, Thos. Bell, and others took seriously ill.  We all had a prayer meeting at a quarter to two o’clock, when Tibbs, Henry Sharp, H. Gibson, and W. Palmer (here is a blank) exhorted us again, and Sharp also.”

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Wednesday Morning, March 12, 1862, p. 2

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