1908 EXPLOSION OF UNION PACIFIC COAL COMPANY'S
HANNA NUMBER ONE MINE
Documents to and from the governor concerning the Hanna disaster.
Documents provided by the Wyoming State Achieves, Cheyenne Wyoming.
The Honorable B. B. Brooks - Governor of the State of Wyoming
The Honorable Governor B.B. Brooks played an important role in the aftermath of the 1908 Union Pacific Coal Company's Hanna Mine No. 1 explosion.
March 30, 1908 Union Pacific Coal Company Mine No. 1 exploded.
June 26, 1908 (Letter 1 below) David Thomas - County and Prosecuting Attorney from Evanston, Wyoming, wrote to Governor B.B. Brooks. In his letter he wrote:
"I am requested by Mrs. Burton, a lady 78 years of age, whose son, Joe Burton, late foreman of that mine, and her grandson, F.G. Burton are dead in the mine, to ask you to urge the Inspectors to do all in their power to get the bodies out of the mine; she says she cannot sleep, and the thought of her dear ones in that fearful hole almost kills her."
"I do not know what kind of man Bird is when it comes to work or his character, but I do know that Young has no nerve in a mine where there has been a disaster. I have seen him tried and he didn't make good." "I would thank you to quietly intimate to Bird that you would regard it as a favor if he were to favor the idea of at least making a trial towards the recovery of the bodies, and not to discourage the idea at the meeting. I write you plainly and with full confidence on this subject, because I fear, from what I have heard, that Bird wants to see the mine sealed and a monument erected over it to commemorate the dead. This I regard as a bad move coming from the Inspector of the District and creates a hard feeling against him among the camps."
"Mrs. Elias is very restless so much so that we are having her come to Evanston for a few days, believing the change will be beneficial."
July 7, 1908 (Letter 2 printed below) Governor B.B. Brooks wrote a reply to D.H. Thomas.
July 12, 1908 State and Company officials unseal the Union Pacific Mine No. 1.
July 14, 1908 (Laramie Republican (No 210 April 16, 1908, page 3)
Legislature May Act.
Governor B. B. Brooks of Wyoming has written David Thomas, prosecuting attorney at Evanston, that he would like to see the legislature do something for the family of David Elias, the mine inspector who led the relief expedition into the mine. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Elias were boyhood friends. The mine inspector left five children. The governor in his letter says that the last report of Elias will have a place by itself in Wyoming's history as being a masterpiece. He comments upon the care with which it was prepared.
July 14, 1908 ( Newspaper Article 7 attached below) The headlines in the newspaper, The Cheyenne Leader, read "Corpse In Horrid Shape, One Body, Robert Armstrong Recovered At Hanna Mine. State Inspector Young Believes the Mine Should Be Abandoned as Tomb for Victims."
July 14, 1908 (Letter 3 printed below) Governor B.B. Brooks, one hundred and five days after the explosion, wrote a letter (letter not found, but reference made to the letter in Noah Young's reply to Governor Brooks) to Noah Young asking for a report concerning the Hanna mine disaster.
July 16, 1908 (Letter 4 printed below) Noah Young, State Mine Inspector for the northern district, wrote a reply to Governor B.B. Brooks asking for more time and to wait until after the coroner makes his report before filing a report.
July 17, 1908 (Letter 5 printed below) the Secretary to the Governor wrote a reply to Noah Young's letter.
July 25, 1908 (Letter 6 printed below) Governor B.B. Brooks wrote to Noah Young.
August 15, 1908 (Letter printed below) D.G. Thomas wrote to Governor B.B. Brooks seeking the Governor's assistance in writing a testimonial for Elias. Some interesting information was shared with the governor, "P.S. Hanna mine No.1 has exploded four times; the first time killed one man, the second time, 169 men, the third time Briggs et al, the fourth time, Elias, et al." A picture and a poem about David Elias was attached.
The following are letters to and from the governor concerning the Hanna disaster.
UINTA COUNTY, WYOMING,
DAVID G. THOMAS COUNTY AND PROSECUTING ATTORNEY Evanston, Wyoming, June 26th, 1908
Hon. B. B. Brooks, Governor
My dear Governor: -
Just a word or two to say that I am reliably informed that an effort will be made early next month to recover the bodies of D. M. Elias and those who died in the ill-fated mine at Hanna March 28th last; that is I am told that a meeting will be held of practical men and experts to advise and deliberate on the proposition of opening the mine.
I am requested by Mrs. Burton, a lady 78 years of age, whose son, Joe Burton, late foreman of that mine, and her grand-son, F. G. Burton are dead in the mine, to ask that you urge the Inspectors to do all in their power to get the bodies out of the mine; she says she cannot sleep, and the thought of her dear ones in that fearful hole almost kills her.
I told her I would write her message to you, and that I knew you would do every thing in your power towards the accomplishment of this end.
I do not know what kind of man Bird is when it comes to work or his character, but I do know that Young has no nerve in a mine where there has been a disaster, I have seen him tried and he didn’t make good.
I would thank you to quietly intimate to Bird that you would regard it as a favor if he were to favor the idea of at least making a trial towards the recovery of the bodies, and not to discourage the idea at the meeting. I write you plainly and with full confidence on this subject, because I fear, from what I heard, that Bird wants to see the mine sealed and a monument erected over it to commemorate the dead. This I regard as a bad move coming from the Inspector of the District and creates a hard feeling against him among the camps.
Mrs. Elias is very restless so much so that we are having her come to Evanston for a few days, believing the change will be beneficial.
I shall try to be at Hanna, if they decide to open the mine, because I am very anxious to see the bodies out and buried properly.
Last Decoration Day had a very discouraging effect on the poor widows and orphans; they had no grave to decorate, and their grief was keenly felt when they saw the town deserted for the cemetery.
Hoping you will regard this letter purely in the light of one friend writing to another, I am.
(Signed) D. G. Thomas
July 7, 1908
Mr. D. H. Thomas,
Dear Mr. Thomas,
Returning yesterday from the North, I find your letter of June 26th relative to conditions at the Hanna Mine here on my desk.
Some two weeks ago, Ed. Brooks went up there to look the matter over. I understand that there is considerable water in the mine and it is necessary to pump this water out in order to reach the bodies of the ill-fated miners, it will take some time and be a very difficult proposition. If the remains are above the water level, I am told that an attempt will be made to open the mine this month and secure the bodies. Every effort will be made to reach them if possible. I wish to thank you for the information contained in your letter and it is hardly necessary for me to assure you of my hearty sympathy for the bereaved widows and relatives of the gallant miners who lost their lives in that terrible disaster.
July 16, 1908.
Hon. B. B. Brooks,
Governor of Wyoming,
My dear Governor:--
Your letter of July 14th, came to hand and note what you say about making report on the Hanna mine disaster.
I have some data that I wanted confirmed at inquest and also expect more information which will be brought out at the coroner’s inquest. I was only waiting of this as a matter of protection to my report, and it is not only necessary but essential that I have all the data possible to make such a report or rather the data I had confirmed as I have above stated at said inquest. I can assure you it will give me great pleasure to make a report on the disaster that occurred at Hanna on March 28th.
I shall be fair and conservative in making this report, but will deal with the defects and etc. and will try in my feeble way to throw some light on the cause of said explosion. I only wish you could wait until the inquest was held as it will bring some very important points out that will be of great value to me in making this report. However, I shall be guided absolutely by your wishes and if you still insist on report I will proceed with same, and can assure you that I will do my best to show the cause and how to protect a re-occurrence of the same. Trusting you will extend the time until inquest is held which will be in a short time.
I requested the coroner to wire me when he would hold said inquest which he will do.
In regards to Mr. Bird’s appointment, I am only too glad to say that you are in possession of one of the best mining men in Wyo. And I am sure he will do his duty up to every letter of the law which will be a credit to you as well as to himself.
Kindly let me know if I shall proceed at once with report without waiting to get more information at inquest which is certainly necessary, but will comply with your request.
I am just getting ready to leave on my regular visit to the Sheridan mines and others in the vicinity of Sheridan, but will wait until I hear from you in regards to making report at once.
Yours very respectfully,
(Signed) Noah Young
July 17, 1908
Mr. Noah Young,
Coal Mine Inspector, Dist. #2
Your letter of July 16th received. Governor Brooks left for Casper yesterday and as he does not expect to return to Cheyenne for a few days, I am forwarding your letter to him. The letter that he wrote you on the 14th seems quite clear as to what he wishes you to do.
Secretary to the Governor
July 25th, 1908
Mr. Noah Young,
Your esteemed favor of July 16th has been forwarded to me here at the ranch from Cheyenne. I have been very busy stacking hay and this is the first opportunity I have had to answer same.
I note by your letter that in order to confirm some of the data you have already prepared, you deem it necessary and essential to delay completing your report until after the inquest. As you mention two very important points, which you expect to cover, in making your report, first to throw some light on the cause of the explosion and second to make important recommendations towards preventing a recurrence of these disasters, and believing as you say, that you will be more certain of your ground after the inquest is heard, I will not look for same until after the inquest and will write the Government officials, who are anxious for this report to the effect that the report is delayed, pending an inquest.
Since writing you, I have been informed that a dozen or more bodies have been recovered and that work at opening the mine is proceeding steadily.
UINTA COUNTY, WYOMING
DAVID G. THOMAS
COUNTY AND PROSECUTING ATTORNEY
Evanston, Wyoming, Aug. 15th, 1908
Hon. B. B. Brooks,
My dear Governor:
I am not coming at you with a kick nor with any official business, but simply as a friend to my dead friend and as a friend to myself I wish to submit the enclosed lines for your inspection and candid consideration.
Since the death of Dave Elias I have wanted to write something that would be worthy and a testimonial of my life-long love for him as a boy and man; the enclosed is my effort in this direction, and although it may be rough, and strictly speaking not poetry, still it is written out of love for the only real and true friend I had on earth.
Read it over to yourself, read it feelingly, and thoughtfully then return it to me with your approval or disapproval, or with such suggestions as in your opinion would improve it.
(Signed) D. G. Thomas
P.S. Hanna mine No. 1 has exploded four times; the first time killed one man, the second time, 169 men, the third time Briggs et al, the fourth time, Elias, et al.