The following history of miners Martin (Ab) Absolem Clark and Albert (Al) Weaver was submitted to Miners’ Memorial by great nephew James E. (Jay) and his wife Gala Clark.
My great grandfather William Clark was born in 1831 in Kentucky. He and his second wife Ellen moved first to Illinois and then to Kentucky, and finally settled in the Pittsburg area in about 1880, at the time of the birth of their seventh child. Six of the boys worked in the coal mines despite the dangers and eventual loss of their eldest brother, Martin, to a mining accident.
Martin (Ab) Absolem Clark was born in June 1871 in Coles County, Illinois. He married Nancy Ellen Harrison on Feb. 16, 1898 in Girard. Their children are William, Richard, Arthur M. and Floyd Clark.
Martin went to work at the new Western Coal and Mining Company in Mine No. 15 located in Franklin on Nov. 20, 1908. The mine was 210 feet deep. On Nov. 13, just one week before Ab went to work in Mine No. 15, an explosion occurred that badly burned two men, one of whom died a few days later. Since the spring of that year, five shot firers met death in this mine. According to an inspector’s report, it was the driest mine in the district. A recommendation had been made to keep the mine sprinkled with water.
On Nov. 30, 1908, just ten days after taking employment in Mine No. 15, Ab and another shot firer, George Barton age 25, had been at work about two hours when an explosion was heard above ground at 6:20 p.m. Black smoke issued from the shaft.
The explosion damaged the cages and blew the stairs out of the escapement shaft. A rope was swung over the shaft making a loop to lower rescuers and the inspector into the mine.
The two shot firers were found at 10 p.m. in the second north on the east side at the mouth of room five. It was determined that both men had inhaled the flames and were killed instantly.
The inspector found extensive wreckage of timber and debris in the mine. However, the roads had been sprinkled and were still damp. A test made with a safety lamp showed no signs of gas. The coal in room seven had blown out in big chunks, indicating there had not been a great excess of powder used in this shot. The shot firers had only been at work in the mine for two hours and had fired only two entries showing that they were not firing too rapidly.
The inspector concluded that the company’s steam pipes had not allowed enough warm air into the mine to create the much-needed moisture to avoid an explosion. The little warmth that was reaching the bottom of the mine actually added to the ventilating pressure and caused more cold air to enter the mine. The strong air current of cold air reaching these places where the shots were being fired, in the inspector’s opinion, was certainly a factor in the cause of this explosion.
Several recommendations in the accident report for the future safety of shot firers in Mine No. 15 were as follows: the roadways should be kept sprinkled with water, the air should be heated by steam, only one shot should be fired at a time to give the smoke time to clear away before another shot is fired, there should only be two shots in one place (room), only one room should be turned at a time, and there should be refuge holes for the men to go into for safety when the shots are fired.
After the above recommendations were made, the company put in the refuge or safety holes and made other improvements. There were no more explosions in this mine during the winter of 1908.
Ab Clark left a widow and four children. He is buried in the old Hobson section of the Pittsburg Highland Cemetery. George Barton left a young widow. Both men were members of the United Mine Workers of America.
In 1910, Albert (Al) Weaver Clark, who was born on Oct. 15, 1880 in Crawford County, married his late brother’s wife, Nancy Ellen Harrison. He cared for his brother’s four surviving children. Three more children were added to the family of Al and Nancy Clark. They are Clifford, Beulah, and Alvin.
He and his brothers, Charles Newton, George W. Francis (Frank), Marion, and Enoch Benton Clark, continued to mine coal in southeast Kansas.
Al died on June 17, 1966 and was buried in the Crocker Cemetery in Cherokee County. Nancy died in 1965.