The Scofield Mine Disaster

On May 1, 1900, an explosion at the Winter Quarters mine killed at least 200 men. At the time, it was the worst mining accident to occur in the United States, and it devastated the families left behind in the mining town of Scofield.

Scofield is a small mining town located in Carbon County, located next to the Winter Quarters mine. On May 1, 1900, there was an accidental explosion in the Winter Quarters mine. While many men rushed to rescue miners caught in the blast, many were killed in the initial explosion, struck by falling debris, or killed by afterdamp, a toxic gas. Miners from other mines in the area, such as Castle Gate, Clear Creek, and Sunnyside, helped retrieve bodies the next day. A total of 200 - 246 men were killed in the accident. There were not enough coffins to bury all of the miners, so some coffins had to be ordered from Denver, Colorado and taken to Scofield on a train.

The Winter Quarters mine explosion had devastating effects on the town of Scofield. Nearly every family lost someone in the accident, with some families losing several family members. In a tragic example, the Louma family lost six sons and three grandsons, all in the same day. However, some incredible stories came from the disaster as well. One such story is that of John Wilson, who was blown 820 feet from the entrance of the mine into the surrounding canyon and miraculously survived. Another well-known story is that of Thomas Pugh, a 15-year-old boy who put his cap in his teeth, used it to plug his nose, and ran a mile and a half through toxic gas back to the mine entrance in the dark.

Although the exact cause of the explosion was never discovered, many believe that the accident could have been prevented if the Pleasant Valley Coal Company had implemented safety procedures and taken better precautions. Unsurprisingly, many families blamed the company for the accident. Labor unrest from this event no doubt contributed to later strikes in the region, such as the 1901 Pleasant Valley strike. The Winter Quarters mine puts into perspective how dangerous an occupation mining was, and how much miners were asked to sacrifice for their livelihood. Today, many remember the Scofield mining disaster as a horrible event that showcases the brutal treatment of working-class individuals in the 20th century.