Frontier No. 1 Mine and the Explosion that Rocked Kemmerer, Wyoming

Kemmerer, Wyoming has been a mining town for over a century. In 1923, an explosion from the Frontier No.1 mine rocked the town and killed 99 men. Not only did this event leave many fatherless and widowed, but it also represented the dangers of industrialism in the early 20th century.

The Kemmerer mine explosion is memorialized in a mural in the neighboring community of Diamondville. The mural is separated into several different sections and tells the history of mining in Lincoln County, Wyoming, ending with the tragic explosion in 1923. The city of Kemmerer decorates the miners’ graves every Memorial Day with  commemorative flowers. At the local museum, exhibits tell the stories of the many mines in the area, including Frontier No. 1.  

John Kemmerer and Patrick J. Quealy formed a partnership that grew into four companies, including the mine. The mine opened in 1887, a mile outside of Kemmerer. For nearly a decade, the mine had no name until 1897, when Kemmerer dubbed the mine Frontier,  the same name as their supply company. At the time of the explosion, the mine produced up to 700 tons of coal a day. It also contained 30 workable areas. 

On August 14, 1923, Frontier No. 1 exploded and killed 99 men, the second-worst mining disaster in Wyoming history. A fire boss had tried to relight the flame of a safety lamp and accidentally ignited some nearby gas. It exploded and trapped the workers as the exits filled with rock and other debris. If the miners didn’t die from the initial explosion, then smoke or suffocating gasses, known as black damp, soon overtook them. It took 48 hours for rescuers to find the first survivors. The explosion made newspapers all over the state and became a symbol of the dangers of industrialism. Most of the men that died in the accident were immigrants from places such as South America, Italy, Japan, Australia, and Mexico. The Rock Springs Rocket newspaper called the miners, "Martyrs to Industrialism."  The mine started back up after six months only to be shut down three or four years later. Today, the mine is buried to keep the public safe, but evidence of the explosion and the existence of the mine remains.

Images

A Brick of the Mine
A Brick of the Mine A melted brick was found around the explosion site. Source: Photo by Madison King. 
The Mine
The Mine This is the area where the mine sat. Go over the ridge and you will see many remnants of the mine. Source: Photo by Madison King.
The Water Tank
The Water Tank A part of the old water tank Source: Photo by Madison King.
Mask of the Miners
Mask of the Miners Lid of the mask the miners would have work if there was a gas leak. Source: Photo by Kristen King.

Location

Metadata

Madison D. King, Brigham Young University, “Frontier No. 1 Mine and the Explosion that Rocked Kemmerer, Wyoming,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 20, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/738.