|2020 COMMEMORATION IS VIRTUAL|
2019 - On Sunday friends, family, union workers, and others gathered for the 51st commemoration of the Farmington Mine Disaster that killed 78 miners.
Around 5:30 a.m on November 20, 1968, there was an explosion and fire in the Consolidation Coal Company’s No.9 mine. Of the 78 miners who died that day, 19 remain entombed in the mine. They are all memorialized at a site in Marion Co., where their names engraved in stone.
Cecil Roberts, the president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), was in attendance and spoke with vigor about the sadness of the tragedy that changed the lives of the families for the worse. He described the site of the monument as a holy place for him and said in all his years of attending the commemoration the crowd size had seemed to increase and not diminished with the passing of time.
“This is such a wonderful tribute to those miners who died,” Roberts said. “Those widows who woke up–as I said, to bed as a wife woke up as widows not only that they woke up as the head of the household. And then 12, 14-year-old boys being told ’you’re the man of the house now.’ People having to figure out ’how do we pay the bills, how do we eat, how do we get through this?”
Roberts said he has a lot of admiration and respect for the families because they did not give up. Instead, they persevered for themselves and also for other coal miners by becoming activists for mine safety. He said the disaster and pressure from families changed the rules and regulations for the coal industry.
A year later, in the wake of the tragedy, Congress passed the nation’s first comprehensive mine safety and health legislation called the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969.
Mary Lou Butt, 91, of Mt. Zion is recognized by Sen. Joe
Manchin, who also lost family members in the disaster
The Butt Family in front of memorial plaque, left to right, Bill,
Rick, Mrs. Butt and George at memorial service, not pictured Denise
By Bob Weaver 2018
It was a solemn ceremony at the 50th anniversary of the Farmington No. 9 Mine. with about 300 people attending, including three of the last remaining windows of the 78 victims, including Mary Lou Butt, 91, of Mt. Zion, the widow of victim Harold Butt.
Also attending the ceremony were their children Rick, George, William and Denise
Famously, this disaster is inextricably linked to the passage of a sweeping series of reforms that empowered mine safety regulators and significantly improved mine safety. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 was passed in response.
21 of the 99 miners escaped — and only one survivor, Ralph Starkey, remains alive today. Meanwhile, remains of 19 of the 78 victims were never recovered — all part of a scar that may never truly heal.
Following the disaster, the families were able to come together under the most difficult of circumstances and save thousands of future lives.
According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), since 1900, more than 104,000 miners have died from coal fatalities. More than 95 percent of those deaths occurred before 1968.