Hellraisers Journal: Butte Mine Fire: Young Hero Missing and Feared Dead; Manus Duggan Saved Lives of 25 Men

Now is the time, Boys…
We can make it if you muster
all the strength you have left.
-Manus Duggan


Hellraisers Journal, Tuesday June 12, 1917
Butte, Montana – Hope Fades for Life of Manus Duggan

From The Anaconda Standard of June 11, 1917:

Speculator MnDs, Manus Duggan, Anaconda Standard, June 11, 1917


Manus Duggan who is responsible for saving the lives of 25 men who were brought to the surface at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon, has undoubtedly perished. Extra forces of helmet men went in to the Speculator mine in an endeavor to explore workings where the hero might have wandered after he got his men to safety, and at midnight miners who had worked for hours in the search said he probably was dead.

Duggan, after leading the imprisoned men from the bulkheaded drift, evidently became delirious. He was as strong physically as any of the men who suffered through the 38 hours, but the strain of holding them in check evidently unnerved him so that when his task was completed he collapsed. He was last seen near the shaft on the 2,400-foot level and he was talking incoherently about getting water for “his men.” He also spoke of the good air in the Rainbow drift and favored that as an avenue of escape for his followers. He, with Joseph H. McAdams and another man whose name is not know, started back from the shaft. McAdams’ body was found four hours later, 2,000 feet north of where Duggan delivered the men and about 1,300 feet farther in from the spot where the bulkhead had been built. McAdams had retraced the trail of the rescued men from the bulkhead.

Where Duggan and another miner went is a mystery. Duggan knew every foot of the ground and especially that of the Rainbow drift. To reach this, he would have to climb 200 feet to a connecting level and in his weakened condition he could not do this.

Miners said if Duggan is dead he would probably be found between these two levels. They believe he wandered off in a delirious moment and staggered through the workings until he fell dead, a victim of the mine gas.

McAdams had been dead about half an hour when found. First-aid men and doctors went to the station and worked on the body, and when it was brought to the surface another attempt was made to resuscitate him.

The question on every lip at the mine and among miners who knew of Duggan’s heroism was:

“Is Duggan safe?” His failure to get to the surface was on to the most unhappy circumstances of the calamity.


From the Spokane Spokesman-Review of June 11, 1917:

MnDs, Hero Duggan, Spk-Rv, June 11, 1917

(By The Associated Press.)

BUTTE, Mont., June 10.-Twenty-five of 29 miners imprisoned on the 2400-foot level of the Speculator mine of the North Butte Mining company since last Friday night, 26 of whom were brought to the surface alive today, owe their lives to Manus Duggan, a nipper boy, 20 years old, one of their crew on that level.

Of 415 in the mine workings, 97 are missing, 5 unidentified bodies are at undertaking rooms and 7 at the mine, while 51 dead have been identified.

The total of dead is estimated at 160.

Twenty-eight men were brought to the surface today from the 2400 level, two dead.

Speculator MnDs, Men save by Duggan, Spk-Rv, June 11, 1917


Use Their Clothing as Bulkhead.

Directed by Duggan, who is not among the list of those rescued and for whom fears are expressed and prayers for his safety being said, the rescued men constructed a bulkhead in what is known as 71 “X” crosscut on the 2400 level, stripped naked and stuffed the bulkhead with their clothing and bits of canvas, lagging and dirt, at 1 o’clock Saturday morning. They made a second bulkhead with dirt a short distance from the original one at the crosscut opening. This kept the gas out and for a time they were in comparative safety.

Until they were taken out of the mine this afternoon the men remained in this blockaded drift. The men, without clothing, food or drink, stuck in the drift until the gas became so foul Duggan directed them to get ready to break out and make a try for the shaft. Breaking down the bulkhead with the assistance of three others, Duggan went through first, the others following. At the shaft the men rang for the cage, it is understood, and it was sent to the 2400 level immediately although the men on the surface understood the call to have come from the 2600 level.

Duggan, after his heroic work of 36 hours, went ahead to test the gas and became lost. Officials of the company express the fear that he has been lost, although the men he saved from death think he made an attempt to reach the 2000 level and gain the Rainbow shaft of the company from there.

Owe Their Lives to Duggan.

“We owe our lives to Manus Duggan,” Nyrja Johnson, the first man to reach the surface, said, “He was the one who directed all the work. None of us would be here today if it were not for him.”

Johnson was given a drink of brandy before he continued his story.

Duggan told us all to go into the drift and after we got in there he got a piece of canvas. Then we took off our clothes and choked out the gas. He directed the work and when some of the men got weak he did the work of 10 men. I hope they save Duggan.

LaMontague Tells of Feat.

Wilfred LaMontague, another of the rescued men, said:

When we found the air getting foul Duggan told us it was time for us to get out of there and try for the shaft. He broke down the bulkhead and he with three others went through first while the rest of us made the shaft and were taken up. I don’t know where Duggan went as he got out first, but we think he must have tried to reach the 2000 level and make the Rainbow from there. If it hadn’t been for him we never would have got the bulkhead built and probably all would have been dead.

More Bodies on 2400 Level.

There are 12 bodies known to be still on the 2400 level. It is believed there are several alive on the 2600 level.

One of the men rescued was Josiah James. He rushed to his home, where mourning was turned into rejoicing. Some one had identified one of the bodies recovered earlier in the day as that of James.

Because of the rescue today of 27 men alive, the safety-first men at the Speculator mine have renewed their efforts. The opinions of a number of the men rescued that others are alive in the lower levels also has increased the efforts of the safety-first crews. Physicians are kept at the mine day and night and ambulances from every hospital in the city are kept in readiness. The men rescued today were in good condition with the one exception and all were able to proceed to their homes after a cup of hot coffee.

“This is a hell of a mine; now I’ve lost two shifts,” said one to the rescued men, as he puffed a cigar and went to the dry room to change his clothing. “No, I’ve been walking home for years and I’ll walk now,” he continued, when he was offered the use of a half dozen automobiles to carry him home.

From The Butte Daily Post of June 11, 1917:

Helmet Men-

Speculator MnDs, Helmet Men, Btt Dly Pst, June 11, 1917

Awaiting Reports-

Speculator MnDs, Awaiting Reports, Btt Dly Pst, June 11, 1917



The Anaconda Standard
(Anaconda, Montana)
-June 11, 1917
(Scroll down to source.)
Note: Many more great stories of heroism at this source!

The Spokesman-Review
(Spokane, Washington)
-June 11, 1917
(Scroll down to link.)

The Butte Daily Post
(Butte, Montana)
-June 11, 1917

See also:

Body of “Young Hero” Recovered; Memory will be Revered
From Butte Daily Post of June 14, 1917

Find a Grave: Manus Duggan

According to the Montana Standard, his wife of two years gave birth to their daughter four weeks after his death.

Quote: “Now is the time boys…”

Tag: Granite Mountain-Speculator Mine Fire of 1917


Greater Love:

100 Year Memorial Tribute-Letters of Manus Duggan