THE CHERRY HILLS MINING DISASTER OF
1909 Cherry Bureau County, Illinois
List of Victims - Source - Illinois State Historical
Material; Additional Information Susan Cook
Images - LOC
Story from The World Magazine 1911
Eight Days In A Burning Mine
Told by Thomas White, and set down by Louis Murphy.
A List of Victims is located at the bottom of this page
The Cherry Mine disaster of November 13th, 1909, was
one of the most awful calamities in the history of American mining, nearly
three hundred men losing their lives. This remarkable narrative gives the
experiences of a man who, with nineteen others, was imprisoned in the bowels
of the burning mine for eight days and lived to tell the tale. Driven away
from the shaft by flame and smoke, the little band found the deadly "black-damp"
closing in about them and retreated to the farther recesses of the workings.
Here, by the advice of their heroic leader, they literally buried themselves
alive, hoping against hope that rescue would come before the fresh air gave
out. Finally, even their solitary lamp refused to burn in the foul atmosphere,
the men's brains began to give way from the awful strain, and death drew
very near. No such story as this has ever been, told before in the annals
There are few people in America who are not familiar with the chief details
of the Cherry Mine disaster of Saturday, November 13th, 1909; but for the
benefit of those readers of The Wide World Magazine, who may not have read
of this, the most terrible mining calamity in the history of the United
States, the following brief summary of the leading points of the death dealing
holocaust may be useful as a preface to the narrative of my experiences
on that fateful day and during the following never-to-be forgotten week.
The Cherry Mine, located at Cherry, in Bureau County, Illinois, was owned
and operated by the St. Paul Coal Company, Illinois, been in operation for
about four years, and was considered one of the best mines in the Central
Illinois Coalfield. There were two veins, or levels, being worked, and two
shafts descended to the upper one of these, which was known as the "Second
Vein." Only one shaft communicated with the lower or third vein, and this
fact was in large part responsible for the loss of life in the fire. The
latter shaft was called the escapement shaft, and the one which terminated
in the second vein was called the main shaft. The men, coal, and waste matter
were raised out of the mine on a cage operated by a hoisting-engine in the
main shaft, and from the third vein to the second vein on another cage in
the escapement shaft, similarly manipulated.
On the day of the calamity there were about four hundred men working in
the mine -- two hundred and fifty in the second vein, and the remainder in
the lower level. About half-past one o'clock in the afternoon a car of hay
that was being pushed along a track between the shafts in the second vein
took fire from a blazing oil torch stuck in the wall there. The men at work
near by, with the carelessness born of Iong experience with small fires, at
first regarded the conflagration without alarm. The car was run to the escapement
shaft, and dumped down it to the third vein, where it was thought it would
burn itself out on the bottom without igniting the timbers of the shaft.
Left thus unheeded, the fire gained a foothold in the shaft before any effort
was made to extinguish it. Then the officials and employees lost their heads,
and wasted much valuable time in a futile effort to put out the fire, instead
of warning the men and getting them out of the mine. Thus it happened that
many of the men did not learn of the outbreak until they finished work after
three o'clock and came to the shaft to be hoisted to the surface.
The fight with the fire was finally abandoned, and an effort was made to
rescue as many of the men as was possible. The cage, with a rescue party
of twelve men, made several trips to the second vein, bringing back numbers
of miners. At about half-past three, however, it made its last trip. After
it had been down for some time, confused signals came to the hoisting-engineer,
leaving him in doubt whether or not to hoist the cage. He temporized, and
when he finally raised the cage the rescue-party lay burned to death on
The mine was then sealed up, so that the fire would die out from lack of
oxygen, and all efforts to enter it failed until the following Saturday--one
week after the fire had broken out, when a rescue party went below and found
twenty men in the second vein who had managed to remain alive, and these
were saved. The rest of the miners in both veins, about three hundred in
number, were found dead.
I was one of the unfortunate men who were imprisoned in the mine on the
day of the fire, and also one of the fortunate twenty who managed to survive
the dangers and terrors of the fire and subsequent closing of the mine,
and who were rescued one week later. In the following narrative I have endeavoured
to give a truthful account of my experiences during that terrible week as
well as I can remember them. The horror and hopelessness of our situation
temporarily affected my mind, and the adventure takes a place in my memory
like some awful nightmare, of which only the salient details are clear.
On the day of the fire I was at work in the second vein, about a mile from
the main shaft in a southerly direction, with my partner, or " buddy," John
Lorimer. We were, I think, about the farthest away from the shaft of any
of the men working in the mine, and to this may be attributed the fact that
no hint that anything was wrong reached us until we stopped working as usual
shortly before half-past three o'clock, and set out for the shaft, to be
hoisted out. With us went an old man named Alexander Kroll and his fifteen-year-old
son, who worked near us.
After we had proceeded about half a mile towards the shaft we detected
a faint odour of smoke, which became more marked as we advanced, until it
was almost unendurable. Then we knew that the mine was on fire and that
there was danger ahead. We saw no men on our way -although many miners were
afterwards found dead in the places through which we passed -- and thought
that we might be the only ones remaining in the mine. We may have passed
near other men in the darkness and smoke without seeing them or revealing
our presence to them. Mr. Kroll, who was not as strong as the rest of us,
was almost overcome by the smoke, and would have fallen had we not helped
him along. It was pitiful to hear the boy exhorting us to save his father.
After what seemed an interminable time we finally reached the bottom of
the main shaft. Everything combustible in the large open space about the shaft
was enveloped in flames. Cars of coal, the mule-barn, the pump-house and
other buildings, and the timbers of the shaft were all in a blaze. The heat
was intolerable, and the smoke so dense that one could see only a few feet
before him. It made out eyes smart so that tears ran from them. Staggering
and choking, we groped our way to the shaft and looked for the cage, but
it was not there.
This, we thought, confirmed our theory that we had been overlooked when
the men were taken out, and were now left alone to die in the fire. Lorimer
found the crank which rang the bell in the engine-room above to signal the
hoisting-engineer, and frantically turned it several times. The iron handle
was almost red-hot from the heat, and burned his hand so that he had to desist.
The signal brought no result, and we looked in vain for the cage to appear
amid the flames in the shaft. Some who have heard our stories since we were
rescued think that the cage containing the rescue-party was even then in the
shaft, being hoisted after its last trip, and that our signals, confused with
those of the men in the cage, may have been responsible for its being lowered
back into the flames, and the consequent death of the twelve rescuers. This
may well have been the case, as our arrival there and the last trip of the
cage almost coincided in point of time.
At first we saw nobody, except the four of our own party, but in walking
about the shaft, I stumbled over the body of a man lying on the ground.
He had been overcome by the heat and was unconscious. All efforts to rouse
him failed, and when we departed we were compelled to leave him there, as
we had all we could do to take care of ourselves, weakened as we were by
smoke and poisonous gases.
After we had waited some time for the cage to appear we decided
to try to reach the escapement shaft, not knowing that the fire had first
become dangerous there and was at its worst phase in that part of the mine.
The distance between the two shafts was only about two hundred and fifty
feet, but before we had gone half that distance we were driven back by the
intensity of the heat and the dense smoke. We reached the bottom of the main
shaft again choking and gasping for breath, and almost exhausted by the dangers
and terrors of our journey.
In this attempt to reach safety we lost Kroll and his son, and although
we called repeatedly to them, so that they would know where we were and could
find us, we never saw or heard anything from them. They were found dead
in this passage to the escapement shaft after the mine was reopened, clasped
in each other's arms. The old man had probably been overcome by the smoke,
and the brave boy had preferred to die rather than leave his father to perish
It was now impossible for us to stand the heat and smoke about the shaft
any longer, and we accordingly plunged into another passage that would lead
us by a roundabout way almost to the escapement shaft. The smoke was not
so thick here and almost seemed like pure air to us, coming as we did from
the raging inferno about the main shaft. As we progressed the air cleared
still more, and we recovered in a measure from our weakness and exhaustion.
It was now that we discovered the first evidence of living people that
we had seen in the mine since leaving our working-places. As we hastened
along we heard voices calling to us from an entry branching off from the
road that we were pursuing, and entering it we found a large party of men,
some quietly seated or lying down as though nothing out of the ordinary
was going on in the mine, others standing in groups excitedly discussing
the situation. It was Mine Manager George Eddy, an old and experienced official,
who spoke to us and asked where we were going. We told him that we were trying
to reach the escapement shaft, and he then informed us of the conditions
existing there, and advised us to stop with their party and wait for the
fire to die out about the shaft, when the cage would start running again
and we should be rescued. We gratefully accepted the invitation and thenceforward
remained with the party, and it was the comfort and cheering effect of this
human companionship that greatly helped to enable us to bear up under the
sufferings and vicissitudes of the dreadful days that followed.
George Eddy, the leader of our party, was a man well versed in mining in
all its phases and conditions and without his intimate knowledge of what
to do in a case such as ours we should have perished, like our unfortunate
fellow-workers, before we had been in the mine a day. The heroic official
had not been at work when the fire broke out, but had come from his home
to the mine directly he heard of the disaster and joined in the work of rescue.
Going down with the rescue-party he had travelled through the second vein,
warning the men and starting them on their way to safety. When he returned
to the main shaft himself he saw that no more miners could be rescued at
that time, and, knowing that the safest place was deep in the mine, he had
started for the interior and stopped all whom he met in their mad rush towards
the seething inferno about the shaft and persuaded them to go with him. In
this way he had collected a party of eighteen before we joined them. So well
did he direct us that nearly the whole of the lives thus entrusted to his
intelligence and strength were saved, and Eddy well deserved the medal awarded
him by the Carnegie Commission last year.
The rest of my companions, besides Lorimer and Eddy, were, with four exceptions,
men of foreign extraction, many of whom could speak only their native tongue.
Some of them I knew personally or by name, while others were strangers to
me. They were of all ages from eighteen to sixty, although most of them
were young men between twenty-five and forty. I was at that time thirty-one
years old, and my partner Lorimer was one year my senior.
The names of the men whom I have not mentioned before were Walter Waite,
Frank Waite, John Brown, William Cleland, John Barnoski, John Semich, George
Semich, George Stimez, Frank Samerania, Quartaroli Antenore, Fred Lauzi,
Salvatore Piggatti, John Piggatti, Fred Prohaska, Frank Prohaska, Daniel
Holafczak, and Bonfiglio Ruggeri. There was one other man whose name I never
learned; he who died on Sunday, the second day of our imprisonment, from
injuries received in trying, to get out of the mine, and was left by us in
the passage when we retreated deeper into the mine. All the foreigners, with
one or two exceptions, bore up as well under the sufferings and terrors of
the situation as any of us.
The place where we were now was known as the main west roadway. The smoke
had not yet permeated that vicinity to any marked degree, and we experienced
no difficulty in breathing. The smoke near the shaft, however had dried
and parched our throats, and we were already beginning to feel the pangs
of thirst. With the exception of Eddy, who must have known the full extent
of the disaster, I think that most of the men believed with me that there
had not been much loss of life, and that few men besides ourselves remained
below in the mine. We thought that all the men in the third vein had made
their escape, and did not learn the real horror of the fire until we were
rescued from the mine. Eddy would not enlighten us, as it would have served
to cast down our spirits and discourage us from keeping up our fight for
life, and every man had need of all the fortitude he could muster for the
We remained there during all Saturday night. Some of the men slept, but
for the most part anxiety and fear banished all thought of slumber from our
minds. We talked much, speculating on our chances of rescue and as to what
scenes were now taking place above ground. The long hours wore away slowly,
and but for the evidence of our watches we would have thought that days passed
before we knew that it was morning. Twice Eddy and Walter Waite ventured
forth towards the shaft to see if the flames had died down, but each time
they were driven back by dense volumes of smoke.
On Sunday morning they started off on another of these trips, which was
still more fruitless than before, as this time they were driven back by contact
with black-damp, that terrible, deadly gas which forms in mines where air
is not continually entering, from the mixture of air with the fumes given
off by the constantly metamorphizing coal-beds. Eddy told us that the fact
that this gas had formed meant that the surface openings of the shafts had
been sealed up so as to put out the fire, which could not burn without air,
and that we had probably been given up for dead by those above.
We now had a far more deadly enemy to fight than smoke and fire. All of
us had heard of the workings of the destroying black-damp, and we could
see no way by which we could escape death from it, locked as we were underground,
with no means of exit. For a time a grim despair settled down upon us and
we awaited the time when death would overtake us, with a determination to
meet it bravely and not to show weakness before our fellow men. This was
the first of the periods of despair which alternated with those of hope at
irregular intervals during the following days. When Eddy directed us to follow
him farther down the passage to obtain a respite from the approaching black-damp
we went as men walking in a dream, our senses numbed by the realization
of the power of the terrible thing pursuing like a living destroyer.
When our leader finally halted he made a short, cheering speech,
stating that, although our chances of ever getting out of the mine alive were
very small, we would fight to the end; and who could tell but that some miracle
might yet spare us and allow us to return to our homes and families? Walter
Waite suggested that each of us should write a letter to our wives, children,
or friends and keep it on our persons, so that it would be found with our
bodies if we failed to escape. This plan was welcomed as a diversion and
afforded us a brief respite from the haunting fear of the deadly gas following
us down the passage. Some of the men had note-books or other scraps of paper,
but there was not enough to go around, and sometimes two of the letters were
written on the same sheet of paper. Even as we wrote, the "black-damp" overtook
us and we were compelled to plunge deeper into the cave that we expected
to be our grave. The gas was odourless, but caused a suffocating feeling,
as though a weight was crushing the chest, and a weakening sensation throughout
the body. Our one thought at that time was to get as far into the mine as
possible, and thus avoid contact with the gas until we could retreat no farther.
We talked and laughed in wild hilarity to pass the time before death should
overtake us. A conversation about the terrible responsibitity which must
be felt by the cagers and men who had been working about the bottoms of the
shafts when the fire broke out led Walter Waite to write on the back of George
Eddy's farewell letter to his wife the following words, at the bottom of
which he signed the names of all of us: " We, the undersigned, do not blame
anyone for the accident that has happened to pen us in here, and we believe
that everybody has done all in their power to relieve us. With best wishes
to all concerned, we are" -- then followed our names.
Prayers, led by Walter Waite, were held, in which all the men joined,
and after that, the same service took place every day at two different times
until our rescue. These services never failed to cheer us and strengthen
our nerve to meet the death which we felt sure was in store for us.
Time after time the black-damp overtook us and drove us farther
down the passage. As Sunday night approached we came to the end of the gallery
through which we were fleeing to a place known as the second north entry,
off the main west roadway. The gas had now permeated the entire mine, and
was exerting its sickening and weakening power on all the men of our party.
Then it was that Eddy said "Well, boys, we will tell our lives as nearly
as possible. Fall to here and build a wall to keep out the black-damp. There
will be enough air in this entry to keep us alive for several days." Gladly
we welcomed the suggestion, for, although it seemed a forlorn hope, it would
keep us employed for a time and save us from absolute despair.
Securing picks and shovels, we started to build the structure which was
to be the means of our preservation. Rocks broken from the wall and floor,
and clay to fill the cracks, formed the materials for the work, and it rose
gradually until only a small space remained to be filled at the top. We worked
feverishly, inspired by the thought that we were fighting for our lives, although
few of us expected the wall to avail against the deadly gas. Like drowning
men clinging to a straw we worked at it for an hour. Some of the men, exhausted
and overcome by the gas forming around us, fell fainting to the ground. It
seemed for a while that we would be too weak to finish the work, but we kept
at it doggedly and finally the last niche was closed and a solid mass stood
between us and the black-damp. Already the air about us seemed purer and
we became imbued with a feeling that the wall would save us.
The space which we had thus walled in, literally burying ourselves alive
as it seemed to us, was about three hundred feet long and twelve feet wide.
The air in here had not yet been greatly contaminated and was comparatively
pure. We had nothing to eat or drink, and were already suffering extremely
from thirst, but we had several lamps and oil enough to last for days, so
that we thought there was no danger of being left in darkness. Eddy instructed
us to put out all the lamps except one, not because we needed to be sparing
of oil, but to keep the lights from consuming the small amount of air. Thus
we passed Sunday night, sitting or lying about in different parts of the
passage, waiting for we knew not what. I may have slept, and must have done
so during that and the succeeding nights and days, but I do not remember
ever closing my eyes. My remembrance of those days from Sunday to Saturday
is of one long period of suffering from thirst and bad air, without sleep
or other relief, now sitting down, now moving about, in never-ending monotony.
The atmosphere was cold and damp, and one could not rest Iong on the ground
without being chilled through and through. By walking about I kept my blood
in circulation, and so managed to be quite warm.
Some time after we had walled ourselves in (it must have been on Monday
morning) Eddy directed the men to search about the passage and see if they
could find a wet place where, by tearing up the ground, we might make a reservoir
in which the trickling moisture would collect, and so give us a small amount
of water, which, if used sparingly, might relieve all of us a little. There
are many such places in the floors of mines, and we were fortunate enough
to find one in our passage. The water was stinted in quantity and of a bad
taste, but it had to serve. It took an hour for a small swallow of water
to collect in the hole which we hollowed out, and we took turns at drinking
it, so that each man got only one small taste of water per day. Another method
resorted to to relieve thirst was to chew the "Sunshine," a preparation
for our lamps, which, after being chewed awhile, would become like gum and
clear away the slimy, caked substance which collected on the roofs and sides
of our mouths and on our tongues for lack of water. Some of the men chewed
tobacco for the same purpose, but this only rendered the thirst more acute
after the weed was gone.
Monday passed and Tuesday came, with the air becoming more impure and our
thirst more acute every hour. At times one of the men would make a small
opening in the wall leading to the outer passage and put his nose to the
aperture to find out if the black-damp still lurked beyond the barrier. Sometimes
he would stagger back from contact with the gas and the hole would be hastily
closed up, but at other times fresh air would greet him, which showed us
that the mine had been opened and the fan was in operation. This put new
hope into our hearts, which, however, gave place to deeper gloom when the
awful gas again began to pour through the opening.
As Tuesday night approached we noticed that the light of the lamp which
we had burning was becoming dim. It was a "carbine" lamp, and a new charge
was placed in it but failed to remedy the fault. Smaller and smaller burned
the tiny flame, until it finally began to sputter as though coal-dust were
being thrown upon it. An oil-lamp was lighted, but behaved in the same manner.
Then we knew that light would soon refuse to live in the impure air about
us, that our large supply of oil would avail us nothing, and that we should
be left in darkness despite our precautions.
If lights would not burn, could men live there? This was the question
which each man asked himself, and answered in the negative. With awful fascination
we watched the tiny sputtering flame as it burned lower and lower, looking
forward with varied emotions to the time when it would die out altogether.
At last it flared up suddenly and then disappeared. A match was lighted,
only to go out before it could be applied to the wick. Although the loss
of the light, showing us as it did the state of the air in our passage, led
us to believe that death by suffocation was not far away, the darkness added
to the terrors of our situation a hundredfold. One of the men suggested that
all the matches should be given to one man, who should be delegated to keep
time, and this was done, although the passage of time was of little interest
to us now.
Such inky darkness as now enveloped us I have never before seen or hope
to know again. A sense of solitude and loneliness took the place of the comfort
of companionship which we had had when we could see each other by means
of the light, and gloom and despair reigned supreme in that underground
chamber of misery.
Thus it seemed that days passed. Save for the occasional drink of water
vouchsafed us from the meagre well which we had made, the flash of a match
as the timekeeper stole a hasty glance at his watch before the flame was killed
by the bad air, the prayers and hymns in which we all joined at intervals,
and the numerous experiments at tapping the wall to see if the blackdamp had
disappeared, nothing happened to break the monotony of our dreary imprisonment.
One of the foreigners, his mind affected by the horrors of our ordeal, began
to chatter unintelligibly in his own language, keeping up the practice for
hours at a time. I asked one of his countrymen what he was saying, but he
said that he could not understand the talk himself.
Somehow we lost a day's reckoning in our time, and so, when we thought
it was Friday, although it must have been Thursday, men began to report
that water no longer collected in the hole that helped to preserve our lives.
The news failed to cause even a depressing effect, so far had we given up
hope of surviving more than a few hours longer, but nevertheless Eddy placed
a guard at the place to see that no man was taking more than his share while
another was waiting for the precious fluid to collect in the hole. After
that the pool formed as usual at regular intervals, and each man took his
turn at tasting the life-giving moisture. Whether some poor wretch, racked
by the pains of a deadly thirst, had been stealing the shares of the water
that belonged to his comrades, or whether the water had indeed ceased to
flow for a brief period, or its disappearance was in our imaginations alone,
I cannot say. All of us were reduced to such a state of distraction that
we did not know which was the real explanation of the incident, and cared
On Friday Bonfiglio Ruggeri, an eighteen-year-old Italian youth, broke
down under the strain of his sufferings and raved and groaned for hours.
His insane utterances, added to those of the man whom I have mentioned before,
produced a depressing effect on all of us. Finally he sank into a stupor,
from which he roused himself occasionally for another incoherent outbreak,
and continued so until our rescue.
Time passed, and our sufferings, from continuity, became less. Hopeless
and too weak to get about except by crawling most of us lay waiting and longing
for death as a deliverer. We thought it was Sunday morning, but it was really
Saturday. A hole was broken in the wall which we had built, and we learned
from the condition of the atmosphere beyond it that the mine was open again
and the fan in operation. This failed to inspire more than a glimmer of
hope, because it had happened so many times before, only to have the black-damp
gather again and rush in upon us and the fresh air to melt away, leaving
a keener sense of abandonment in its stead.
We knew that we could not live in that place another day. Already some
of the men lay in a stupor, too weak to move, and in what seemed to us the
last stages of dissolution. Resolving that it would be better to die in
the outer passage, where our bodies would soon be found, than in the secluded
gallery which we had walled in, we decided to let four men who felt strong
enough to get about venture forth into the mine in search of water. Other
parties were to follow them at intervals until we had all left. The four
men were selected, an opening large enough for them to get out through was
made in the wall, and, led by Frank Waite, they set forth. It was arranged
that when they reached a certain point designated by Eddy they were to whistle
to let us know if the air was good and they were still able to go on. After
their departure an interminable length of time seemed to elapse as we waited
there in expectant silence before we heard the sound of the whistle, cheering
us and putting new hope into our hearts.
The second party, led by William Cleland, set out after the first four,
with instructions that if they found water they were to bring some back to
us, so that we might be relieved if the first party failed to return After
that it seems to me that hours and even days passed as I lay on the floor
of our prison, too weak to lift a hand, with my lips and tongue swollen and
caked from thirst, waiting either for the return of the men we had sent for
water, or for death to end my misery - I scarcely cared which. My remaining
companions I could hear about me in the darkness, some groaning in their sufferings,
some moving about to keep warm, and others watching for the return of those
who had gone to look for water, and speculating on their chances of success
in finding it.
I emerged from a kind of half-stupor, into which I had fallen from
exhaustion and suffering to find lights and many people in the place, and
my fellow-sufferers getting to their feet with looks of joy and relief on
their faces, imbued with new strength by the realization that rescue was
at last at hand. A small swallow of water was given me by a man in a fireman's
uniform, who refused to let me have more, saying that too much of it after
so long a fast would do me more harm than good. All my strength seemed to
return when I received that invigorating draught and I was able to get to
my feet and walk to the bottom of the shaft without aid.
early all my companions seemed to be similarly affected, but a few had
to be carried out unconscious and hardly alive after their terrible experience.
One of these latter was old Daniel Holafczak, the oldest man of the twenty,
who died before being hoisted to the surface, too weak to stand longer the
sufferings which he had endured for a whole week, only to succumb at the
moment of rescue.
When we reached the bottom of the shaft the reaction set in among those
of us who had been strong enough to get there without help. Even as the black-damp
had affected us when first we came in touch with it, so now the fresh air
acted upon us, and we fell down weak and fainting, and remained so for hours
after being hoisted out. I think the poisonous gas had slowly seeped through
the wall into our enclosed space so that we had gradually become used to
When I thus collapsed at the bottom of the shaft I was wrapped in a blanket
by kindly hands and given small drinks of water at brief intervals. At first
chilled and weak from my contact with the fresh air I soon became used to
it again, and a delicious feeling of warmth and repose came over me. After
a short while, one by one, completely swathed in blankets, we were hoisted
to the surface and conveyed to a hospital car that had been prepared for
the emergency of finding live people in the mine. As I was taken from the
cage I could hear the mad cheering of a tremendous crowd that had gathered
at the top of the shaft on learning that men had been found alive. I was
completely covered up, so that I could not see them, but the noise they made
showed me that their number was large.
At the car we were attended by doctors and nurses and every kindness was
shown us. I recovered my strength very slowly, but before night, at my own
request, I was allowed to be taken to my own home. It was now I learned
of the awful toll of life that the fire had exacted, and realized what a
miracle had happened, in that we had survived and been brought back safe
to our homes and families. Our rescue had been effected after all hope of
finding live men in the mine had been abandoned by those working to save
us or get our bodies out from below. Time after time during the week the
mine had been unsealed and men had gone down to the bottom of the shaft,
but each time the fire, enlivened by the air, burst forth anew, even as it
did for weeks after our rescue. Finally tons upon tons of water had been
thrown down the shaft and the fire had thus been extinguished for a considerable
distance. Then the party which rescued us had set forth on an inspection
of the mine, had met with our two searching parties in succession, and so
had been guided to us.
In a few months I was quite recovered from the immediate effects of my
week underground, but a pasty, whitish colour of the skin, sore eyes, a
prematurely-aged appearance, and a sharp pain in my lungs at times while
I am at work underground, with a lack of my previous energy and vitality,
remain to remind me of those eight days of suffering and terror, over three
hundred feet below the surface of the earth, imprisoned in the burning Cherry