Tell her we done the best we could,
but the cards were against us.
-J. D. Moore
Hellraisers Journal, Monday June 11, 1917
Butte, Montana – Grim News from Mine Fire Continues
From The Wichita Sunday Eagle of June 10, 1917:
Butte, Mont., June 9.- […..]
Two station tenders were burned almost to a crisp, when caught in the Granite Mountain shaft, 200 feet above the origin of the fire…
An appalling sight for a number of spectators was the cremation of two men, Mike Conway and Pete Sheridan who were trapped in a double decked cage, about twenty feet above the collar of the shaft, with the flames flying from the shaft like a giant torch around them.
These men had just been lowered when the engineer received hurried signals to hoist and the lifting of the cage was speeded up with the flames chasing it. The flames overtook the cage and when it reached the surface and sped past the collar, the bodies of the men were in sight. Leaping tongues of fire prevent their recovery….
From The Daily Missoulian of June 10, 1917:
Butte, June 9.-All hope that any of the unaccounted for miners, believed to number in excess of 175, had escaped at the North Butte mines, was abandoned tonight when the helmet men penetrated to the 2,200 foot level of the Speculator mine from adjoining mines, waded through water up to the arm pits, encountered strong gas and saw many bodies which they were unable to recover. Forty-eight dead had been recovered up to tonight. It had been planned to attempt to hoist 11 bodies through the high ore mine of the Anaconda company, but a shifting of the air drove out the helmet men, and to prevent the high ore mine from filling with gas, bulk heading was started early tonight and the bodies will be walled in with concrete until some future day when the extinguishment of the fire will permit their recovery.
The entire mine rescue organization of Butte is engaged in rescue work, but the efforts tonight have taken on a forlorn aspect, as the situation found underground precludes any hope that any of the entrapped men may have escaped.
Helmetmen, when the 2,200 foot level was reached, rang the danger signal to the surface, which caused the wildest excitement, it being believed that the signal had come from entrapped men who were still alive. Ambulances were called. The return of the helmetmen to the surface with news that it was impossible for any human to live in the dense gas filling the lower workings of the North Butte spread gloom.
The Granite Mountain shaft, the deepest in Butte, was a roaring chimney, and with the destruction of its supporting timbers the ground is caving, compelling all work to be directed from the levels connecting with adjoining mines, and the situation tonight is developing into a fight to prevent these properties from filling with gas and preventing further spread of the fire, it is thought it will become necessary immediately to wall in the tomb of the miners until the fire can be brought under control. Other wise there is danger of the fire spreading along the course of the air currents.
The Granite Mountain shaft has a depth of 3,600 feet and was completed to its present depth only two years ago. The North Butte company has one other shaft the Speculator, about 800 feet distant, connecting with the Granite Mountain on the different levels. Tonight that shaft also was in danger, as water from the levels was running into it and had caved a portion. There was no fire in this shaft, however. Tons of water are being poured into the Granite Mountain shaft and from points on connecting levels with adjoining mines as near as it is possible to get to the scene of the fire……
[Note: the above list of major mine disasters neglects to name the Hastings, Colorado, Mine Disaster of just a few weeks ago.]
SOURCES & IMAGES
The Wichita Sunday Eagle
-June 10, 1917
The Daily Missoulian
-June 10, 1917
Hellraisers Journal, Sunday June 10, 1917
Butte, Montana – Fire Claims Lives at Speculator Mine
Rescue Efforts Under Way as Hope Fades for Missing
Granite Mountain/Speculator Copper Mine Fire of 1917
Hastings Mine Explosion of 1917
Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917
-by Michael Punke
Hachette Books, Feb 5, 2013
Utah Phillips Reads Letters
See also: Final Letters
Miner’s Lullaby – Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin