Monday, July 1, 2013

Samuel Thomas Carter and the Virginia Mines Disaster of 1905

Wedding Photo of Samuel Thomas Carter and Mary Alice Warnick

Samuel Thomas Carter was born July 13, 1877 in Georgia, son of Thomas Kendrell Carter and Artemesia "Artie" Elizabeth Wheat Carter. He was the third of five children. His siblings were Mary Agnes Frances who was born February 18, 1875, she married Walter Millwood; Lela Ann was born April 19, 1876. She married James Benjamin Blackwell. Augustus Felton was born November 7, 1878. He married Mary Ella Franklin. William Jackson "Jack" was born December 3, 1881, he married Elizabeth "Lizzie" Salter.

Samuel's father died when he was only four years old, just before the birth of his baby brother Jack. I don't know anything about his early years, but I can imagine they were hard. He became a coal miner, probably at a young age. Artie never remarried.

Artie moved the family to what would become Hueytown, in Jefferson County, Alabama. Her daughter Mary Agnes had already married Walter Millwood, and remained in Georgia. In the 1900 census, all the boys listed their occupation as coal miner. Artie and daughter Lela list no occupation. The boys all stated that they had been unemployed between 2 and 4 months the previous year.

December 22, 1901, Samuel married a neighbor, 18 year old Mary "Alice" Warnick. They were married at Bethlehem Methodist Church in Rutledge Springs. The church was organized in 1818, and is still in use today.
Bethlehem United Methodist from Hueytown Historical Society
A daughter Odessa was born in 1903, known as Dessie.

Tragedy struck February 20, 1905 at about 4:00pm. The coal mine where Samuel was at work, known as the Virginia mine,  had an explosion and cave in. The entrance to the mine was blocked. There are many accounts of the disaster in newspapers all over the country,  some with much more graphic details than we see today. Some headlines from local and national papers:
“More Than 100 Men Entombed in Mines Frightful Catastrophe at Virginia City”Birmingham Age-Herald 21 Feb 1905:  1.
“Every Home in Virginia City House of Sorrow: With Pick and Shovel Men Race with Death” Birmingham Age-Herald 21 Feb 1905: 7.
“Over Hundred Lives Probably Lost at Virginia Mines” Birmingham News 21 Feb 1905: 1.
“Little or No Hope Hold Out for Entombed Men but the Rescue Work Goes on Day and Night” Birmingham News 21 Feb 1905: 1.
“100 Miners Entombed; All Perhaps Killed: Explosion of Dust Causes Disaster in Alabama Pit” New York Times 21 Feb 1905: 1.
"Fifty Bodies Taken from Wrecked Mine: Hope for the Remaining Sixty-Six is Now Abandoned; 300 Children Destitute" New York Times 22 Feb 1905.
“One Miner was Found on Knees in Prayer” Birmingham Age-Herald 24 Feb 1905: 5.
“Two More Bodies are Brought Out” Birmingham Age-Herald 27 Feb 1905: 6.
"Charge Deaths to Operators: Coroner's Jury Blames Mine Men for the Explosion"Atlanta Constitution 8 Apr 1905: 1.

"Official List of Entombed Men: One Hundred and Seven in All” Birmingham News 21 Feb 1905: 1.

Special to The Birmingham News
Bessemer, Ala. Feb 21. - "Following is a complete list of coal diggers entombed in Virginia mine, as given by their check weighman, Tinning:

Sam Burchfield
John Gallegher
Fred Morgan, has wife and one child.
Charles McFalls
E. L. Cargo
Ross Stewart
D. Troulis
The Citizen, Berea, KY
James Meekin, has wife and several children.
J. H. Dammer
Pat Meekin, son of above
W. M. Dickinson
Will Meeks
Barney Kiker, has wife and two children
W. A. Meeks
Ernest Hopkins
Robert Beal, has wife only
James Brown, has wife and one child
Fred Smedley
M. L. Turner, has wife and three children
S. T. Carter
Lee Hardeman
E. H. Bryant, has wife and one child.
Charles Crawley, has wife and eight children
Steve Crawley
J.C. Weaver
O. M. Parsons, has wife only
H. Meekin
W. W. Shoemaker
J. H. Pool
Sandy Nelson, has wife and two children
Harry Hughes
N. R. Pool
W. M. Wright
W. H. Donaldson, has wife and child
Hopkinsville Kentuckian
____ Pendley (boy)
J.D. Wells, has wife and four children
Richard Tidmore, has wife and four children
John Cohely, has wife
Ben Chastine, has wife and family
Peter Smith
G. L. Pendley, has wife and three children
____ Lawrence, has wife and four children
Joe Scott
Dave Harris, has wife and one child
Jerry Keel, has wife and two children
Kirby Powell, has wife and one child
Roly Bennett
Ira Powell, has wife and one child
Sam Slogett, has wife
Bert Slogett
R. E. Hassell, has wife and two children
Fred Wyatt
P.M. Stucky, has wife and four children
____ McDonald
Andy Nicholson
Luke Bailey, has wife and one child
Jim Jordan, has wife and one child
Bob Pearson
Walter McCoy, has wife and son

A. Lazarre
Tussel Last
L. Antonia
Roda Raffael
____ Tussey
Lonzi Eiro

Total Whites - sixty-five

Levy Steale
W. M. Howard
Ike Cole
Jake Hooks
J. A. Starling
Jim Burton
Jim Huffman
The Red Cloud Chief, Webster County, NE

General Hooks
John Grigsby
Isaac Hooks
John Dudley
Elisha Hale
Loyd Davis
Charles Burton
J. E. Durden
A. J. Jackson
Amos Brown
Wade Johnson
Sam Simpson
Primus Wyatt
W. Goings
Homer Dawson
Ivy Walker, has wife and two children
Dave Smith, has wife and two children
Steve turner, has wife and two children
Henry Turner
James Simpson

Total Negroes - twenty-seven

Following is a list of company men, that is, those employed by the company by the day, including drivers, pumpers, trappers, etc.

John Brown, a driver boss, has wife and one child, a son who was in the mine with him.
Neil Brown, trapper
Charles Moreland
Tom Caldwell, has wife and family
Steve Hawkins
Will Green, pumper
Charles Pickett, chainer
M. J. Vance, has wife
The Brisbane Courier, Australia

John Nelson, driver

Ike Benner
P. Toles
Bob Hall
Bess McCarthy
Dave Hall
Jackson Bowen

Up to 12 o'clock today many bodies had been brought to this city and had been prepared for burial by Kennedy Bros. undertakers, who were given the contract to take care of and register the entire list of the dead. They have been assisted by Moore Bros., Vermillion & Adams, and by the Z. R. Steen,undertakers, but the entire list of bodies brought to Bessemer have passed through Kennedy Bros hands, who will have a complete record of the disposition of every body. 

Below will be found a list of all bodies received here, together with the place of burial, where instructions have been received.

John Coheley, unknown 
Fred Morgan, Adger
Tom Grigsby 
Tolsey Veresto, Blocton
J. G. Tidmore, Pratt City 
Henry Meachim, Pratt City
James Meachim, Pratt City 
Charles A. Crawley, Pratt City
Steve Crawley, Pratt City 
J. M. Brown, Ensley
The San Francisco Call
Jerry Keel, Pratt City 
Tom Caldwell, Pratt City
W. H. Donaldson, Valley Creek 
Luke Bailey
Robert Pierson, Johns 
Jesse Weaver
Walker Shumaker 
J. E. Jordan, Gentry's Gap
Ed Bryant, McDonough, Ga 
Will Dickson, Dolomite
Will Green, Sumter (Masonic) 
J. M. Lawrence, Bibbville (Masonic)
Steve Hawkins, Blossburg 
Sam Slogett, Adger
Bert Slogett, Adger 
N. R. Pool, Valley Creek
J. H. Danner, Adger 
John Pendley, Jr., Adger
Roda Raffael, Blocton 
M. L. Turner, Tuskaloosa (Masonic)
George Pendley,Sr., Adger (Masonic) 
J. L. Nelson, Pratt City
Ollin Pool, Valley Creek 
Lanzi Ciro, Blocton
W. Alonza Meeks, Blockton 
Will Meeks, Blockton
Fred Smedley, Whitwell, Tenn 
Sandy Nelson, Pratt City
B. M. Chastine, Adger (Masonic) 
A. Lancy, Blocton
Roland Bennett, Blocton 
Thomas Cody, Adger
Charles Moreland, Adger 
Robert Beals, Adger
Charles McFalls, Valley Creek 
W. B. Wright
Sam Burchfield, Valley Creek 
Pat McCoy, Pratt City
Walter McCoy 
Lancy Antonio
Daily Press, Newport News, VA

Pearl Toles, Ravine, Ala 
Ike Hooks, Pratt City
Sylvester McCarthy, Ravine
Dave Hall, Bessemer
Bob Hall, Bessemer 
General Hooks, Pratt City
J. A. Sterling, Pratt City 
unknown, Pratt City
Will Howard, Pratt City 
John Dudley, Bessemer
Ira Walker, Cedar Hill 
Sam Thorn, Cedar Hill
Oliver Houston, Cedar Hill 
Amos Brown, Cedar Hill 
A. J. Jackson, Cedar Hill
H. R. Johnson, Cedar Hill 
Sam Simpson, Cedar Hill
Wade Jonson, Marion Junction 
Jim Burton, Vances
Homer Dawson, Vances 
Henry Stevenson, Vances
George Huffman, Sumter 
Elisha Hale, Pratt City
Jim Huffman, Sumter

Alice may not have even known at the time, but she was pregnant with another daughter. That daughter was my grandmother, Flora Jane, born August 13, 1905.

Samuel Carter was buried in the cemetery adjoining Bethlehem Methodist, where he was married only a few years before.