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Bartley Mine Disaster


On January 10, 1940, the Pond Creek No. 1 mine, at Bartley, McDowell County, exploded. The blast killed 91 miners, with another 47 escaping. Rescue teams worked five days to retrieve the bodies, but found no additional miners alive.

Pond Creek No. 1 was a deep shaft mine, operating in the Pocahontas No. 4 coal seam at a depth of nearly 600 feet. The mine was owned by the Pond Creek Pocahontas Coal Company, an Island Creek Coal Company affiliate. Investigators blamed methane gas for the fatal explosion, finding that the normally explosive coal dust, having been treated with rock dust or crushed lime, did not contribute to the blast. Most of the victims died instantly, though some asphyxiated following the explosion; two left farewell letters.

The mine disaster came only three months after a local school bus wreck cost the community six children. The Mullins family, whose daughter died in the bus wreck, lost a father and son in the mine. A monument erected by the United Mine Workers of America memorializes the dead miners.