I found this letter last summer at the Eastern Coal Archives in Bluefield. I thought several might be interested in it. Does anyone have additional information about these disasters? The letter is dated 24 Feb 1909 from the Lick Branch Mine Relief Committee/ the Subscription Committee.
On Tuesday, December 29th, 1908, at Switchback, West Virginia, seventeen miles west of Bluefield, an explosion occurred in the Lick Branch Mine of the Pocahontas Consolidated Collieries Company, Inc., resulting in the death of fifty-one employees. Operations were resumed in the mine on January 7, 1909, by permission of the State Mine Department, and on Tuesday, January 12th, another explosion occurred, causing the destruction of sixty-six more lives, making a total of one hundred and seventeen lost in the two accidents, only two weeks apart.
Switchback has, normally, a population of 1,000 and is a typical mining village, consisting of a store and houses, all owned by the Company. the employees of the Lick Branch Mine, and those of other mines of the same Company, located nearby, rent these houses, and live in them with their families, or as boarders.
From the statistics furnished by the company, it is shown that fifty-three widows, and seventy-six children under 16 years, are left without means of support; that fifty-seven of the victims were unmarried, but how many of these contributed to the support of parents or other relatives in unknown and must be developed; and that there were seven bodies that were unidentified, about whose relatives, consequently, nothing is now known, but about whom information is hoped to be obtained later.
The company has paid the traveling expenses of relatives from their homes to Switchback, and return, and for the transportation and burial of the victims and has thus far provided for the maintenance of the bereaved families residing in and near Switchback. Thus has the temporary relief situation been met.
The Lick Branch Mine Relief Committee has been organized in an endeavor to make some provision for the future of the sufferers from these disasters -- the help them to re-establish themselves. The Company has contributed $5,000 to the fund, and subscriptions from other sources, aggregating about $3,000 have been received to date. The Relief Committee has recently been reorganized, and its plans and scope broadened, and now proposes to make a vigorous effort to collect a fund of at least $50,000, which it feels, after careful investigation, is most urgently needed to adequately provide for the destitute despondents.
The Committee begs to express its profound gratitude for the contributions already so generously made and to earnestly appeal for the further assistance that it believes is necessary to prevent suffering, promising an honest systematic pro-rata distribution of the fund, and a full accounting to the public, certified by a disinterested auditing concern.
West Virginia cannot cope with this situation unaided. It commands wide-spread attention, and the Committee feels assured that its appeal will be hear and will receive a general and generous response.
All checks should be made payable to the Lick Branch Mine Relief Committee, R.E. Bolling, treasurer, Bluefield, W.Va."
Lick Branch Mine Relief Committee Members Headquarters: Kelly & Moyer Building, Bluefield, W.Va. Hon. W.E. Glasscock, Governor-Elect of West Virginia, Honorary President Hon. F.M. Peters, Mayor of Bluefield, W.Va., Honorary Vice-President Col. L.E. Tierney, President Flat Top National Bank, Bluefield Chairman Jno. J. Lincoln, Superintendant, Crozer Land Association, Vice Chairman. L.G. Toney, President First National Bank, Northfork, W.Va., Secretary R.E. Bolling, Cashier Flat Top National Bank, Bluefield, W.Va., Treasurer. Wm. J. Buery, General Manager, Algoma coal and Coke co., Algoma, W.Va. J.W. Biglow, of Jewet, Biglow & Brooks, Marytown, W.Va. D.H. Barger, President and General Manager Wenonah, Hiawatha, and Smokeless Coal & Coke Companies. W.W. Coe, General Manager Pocahontas Coal & Coke Co., Roanoke, Va. F.D. Clifford, United States Coal & Coke Co., Gary, W.Va. Edward Cooper, General manager, Mill Creek, Coaldale, and McDowell Coal & Coke Companies, Bramwell, W.Va. Rt. Rev. P.J. Donahue, Bishop of Wheeling Diocese Catholic Church J.W. Edwards, Postmaster, Welch, W.Va. N.H. Franklin, Treasurer, Thacker Coal & Coke Co., Elkhorn, W.Va. Phillip Goodwill, President, Pocahontas Company Dr. H.D. Hatfield, Physician, State Senator, Eckman, W.Va. Hon. B.F. Keller, Judge United States Circuit Court, Southern District, West Virginia N.D. Maher, Vice President and General Manager Norfolk & Western Railway, Roanoke, Va. W.D. Ord, Vice President and General Manager Empire Coal & Coke Co. R.B. Parrish, First National Bank of Northfork, Northfork, W.Va. R.T. Geo. W. Peterkin. Bishop of the West Virginia Diocese Protestant Episcopal Church, Parkersburg, W.va. W.A. Phillips, General Manager, Ashland coal & Coke Co., Ashland, W.Va. Chas. B. Reed, Assistant Secretary, Bluefield, W.Va. Geo. A. Shirey, Agent Castner, Curran & Bullitt, Bluefield, W.Va. J.K.F. Steele, Manager, Keystone Coal & Coke Co., Keystone, W.Va. Hon. E.T. Sprinkle, Sheriff McDowell County, Welch, W.Va. Hugh Ike Shott, Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W.Va. W.H. Thomas, General Manager Thomas, and Crystal Coal Companies, Godfrey, W.Va. Geroge Wolfe, Superintendent, Berwind-White Coal Mining Co., Berwind, W.Va. Rev. J.W. Ward. Minister Methodist Episcopal Church, Abingdon, Va.