HOLDEN, W.Va. — March 8 marked 57 years since a fire claimed 18 lives in the Holden 22 Mine Disaster.
The mine, which was operated by Island Creek Coal Company, still produces coal today; however, the community whose people worked and supported the mine, is now lost to time and redevelopment.
Blustering cold and a thick layer snow reportedly characterized the morning of March 8, 1960 when 20 miners started the morning shift at Holden 22.
Around 8:30 a.m, communication with the men was reportedly lost after a slate fall causes a coal seam fire which would spread throughout the mine.
The 20 miners were reportedly protected from the fire the slate fall.
On the surface, the cold temperatures and snow hampered rescue efforts.
While around a dozen fire hoses were used to pump water in to the mine to extinguish the fire, the lines would soon freeze in the cold temperatures on the surface.
Rescue teams were eventually able to begin searching for the men.
The 20 men were reportedly trapped in the same area.
In an attempt to find a way out, two of the men, Kyle Blair and Willis Carter reportedly volunteered to explore a narrow opening.
Blair and Carter would reportedly crawl around a mile through tight openings and over rock falls before finding the underground base of operations.
Blair and Carter would be eventually be found to be the only survivors of the disaster.
The remaining 18 men were reportedly overcome by carbon monoxide gas a short time after Blair and Carter set off to find safety.
It would take nine more days for rescue parties to find the bodies of the miners who remained underground.
The disaster left 72 children fatherless.
The names of the 18 lost that day:
Charles Adams, 46, wife, 7 children
Frank Ardis, 63, wife, 4 children
Ernest Bevins, 35, wife, 7 children
Okey Bryant, 49, widower, 5 children
James Carter, 30, wife, 6 children (brother of Willis Carter)
Josh Chafin, Jr. 37, wife, 4 children
Roy Lee Dempsey, 52, 9 children
William Donaldson, 53, wife, 1 child
Garfield Hensley, 43, wife, 5 children
Berti Horvath, 32, wife, 4 children
Flint Lock Jarrells, 39, wife 6 children
Albert Marcum, Jr., 34, wife. 5 children
Melvin Newsome, 46, wife, 1 child
Isom Ooten, 43, wife, 6 children
James V. Lundell, 26, wife, 2 children
Orville Sargent, 32, wife, 1 child
Clyde White, 39, wife, 3 children
Louis Workman, 32, wife, 1 child
Last year, the Holden 22 Miners Memorial Fund was able to erect a monument to the 18 fallen miners along 22 Mine Road near the West Virginia National Guard’s Logan—Mingo Readiness Center.
The memorial stands as a reminder the men lost in the disaster are, “Gone but not forgotten.”
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Kendra Mahon contributed to this article.
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 or by email at [email protected]