John Hunter’s headstone caught my eye because just above the date of his death it says “killed in explosion at Almy.”
Located three miles northwest of Evanston, Wyoming, Almy was a small coal mining town operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. The bustling railroad industry in the late 1800’s depended on coal for the engines, and Wyoming had plenty of coal.
John Hunter lived in Riverdale, Utah and the 1880 census lists his occupation as farmer. He was married and three small children at the time of his death.
On the evening of Tuesday, January 12th, 1886 John, and approximately twelve other miners were working inside Mine No. 4 at Almy. Two foremen who were charged with examining the mine each night for firedamp (methane gas) before the vast majority of the miners arrive for work the following morning had just entered an area of the mine with an unexpected large pocket of gas. Apparently, the foreman carried lamps with open flames.1)http://usminedisasters.miningquiz.com/saxsewell/almy_1886_news_only.htm
It’s suspected the men entered an area of the mine with an unexpected large pocket of firedamp. The resulting explosion was tremendous. Two men who were in a mine cart heading into the mine at the time were shot out of the mine as if from a cannon. Their mangled bodies were found approximately 700 feet from the mine entrance. Houses in town lost their roofs, large rocks were shot through the walls and windows were blown out. Surprisingly, no one in town was killed from the debris.
Shortly after the explosion, men tried going into the mine to see if anyone had survived the blast, but the deadly gas was still too strong. The men were taken from the mine unconscious. By Friday, January 15th the bodies of all of the men were finally recovered from Mine No. 4. One article I read stated the funeral for the victims was held at the Almy schoolhouse with all the coffins lined up at the front of the room.
John Hunter’s body arrived in Ogden on the evening of January 15th and was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery on January 16th, 1886. Within a couple of weeks, the company operating the mine was found guilty of gross negligence. There was no mention of any penalties applied.
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