Cherry Mine Disaster - November 13, 1909

The fire in the coal mine at Cherry Illinois started when burning kerosene from a lamp fastened to a wall dripped onto a cartload of hay that had been parked beneath it. The mine, owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad had state of the art features for the time, including electric lighting. However a flood some weeks before ha knocked out the electricity forcing the miners to resort to the conventional kerosene lanterns.

 

Another modern for the time feature of the St. Paul mine was a large fanhouse, built to circulate fresh air into the mine. The fan was reversed in an effort to smother the fire, but this had the unanticipated effect of spreading the fire to the fanhouse and to the only remaining exit, trapping the miners.

 

Some of the miners who had already escaped and some men from the village formed a rescue party. Led by John Bundy the used the cargo hoisting cage to descend into the mine in an attempt to locate and rescue trapped miners. The song "Cherry Mine" tells the story of the disaster and the rescue effort:

 

Cherry Mine - Jon Waterman

Five hundred men and boys went down in Cherry Mine
On a cold November morning in 1909
Down beneath the ground where there was no light of day
So torches burning kerosene were used to light the way

Every day the cage was lowered with the miners and their tools
And some carts loaded with hay, enough to feed a dozen mules
Mules to haul the coal that had been worked out of the veins
Coal to fire the engines of the Chicago-St. Paul trains

Down in Cherry Mine, they went down in the cage
Six days a week the miners tried to earn a living wage
The seventh day was a day of rest for the body and the soul
Then Monday morning the cage was lowered back down into the hole

Down in Cherry Mine where there was no light of day
A burning torch spilled fire onto a cart loaded with hay
And the women in the Town of Cherry heard the whistle blow
And they learned that a fire had trapped their sons and husbands down below

Some men from Cherry heard the news and hurried to the mine
And together with some miners who had made it out on time
Formed a rescue party, and in the hope of doing good
Went down into the mine to try to save those that they could

Down in Cherry mine, they went down in the cage
Six times they brought back miners from where the fire raged
A seventh time the cage was lowered down into the hole
But all that came back up were bodies burned as black as coal

Five hundred men and boys went down in Cherry Mine
And the number of those that perished was two hundred & fifty nine.
�2008 Jon Waterman

Recording Info:
Jon Waterman- Vocal, Acoustic and Electric Guitar
Chris Paglia- Bass
Henry Churbuck- Drums

 


For an excellent site with a lot more information on the Cherry Mine tragedy, visit the Cherry Coal Mine Disaster website of Ray Tutaj Jr.

 

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