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Year of Graduation
Harry B. Stevens
In December of 1907, nearly 400 men and boys died in a fire and explosion in Monongah, WV. The exact number was not known as many of the men working the mines took their sons along to help with the work. The boys weren’t officially employed so no record was kept of their names. The explosion was set off by a spark. The official death toll was set at 362, 171 of whom were Italian immigrants. The mine was sealed and considered too dangerous to reenter. The belief is that most of the men were killed instantly. This incident was one of the leading reasons the federal government developed the United States Bureau of Mines. To this day, the Monongah explosion is the worst mining disaster in American history, although there were disasters in Europe and Asia that claimed over 1,000 men. The countries in which these disasters happened didn’t enact the safety measures put forth by the unions and the Bureau of Mines. While the story here is fictious, it is based on many true stories and encounters as well as people who lived in the mining camps. I have heard these stories repeatedly over my life from my grandparents, family members, and others in my community. Their stories stuck with me.
Bayless, Arden, "The Mountain Speaks To You" (2021). Liberal Studies (MA) Final Essays, Hollins University. 52.