Marion County

Mine Disaster 25 Mar 1947

Centralia, Ill., March 26 (UP) - a poisonous blanket of carbon monoxide gas let loose by an explosion rolled through the tunnels of the Centralia Coal Company's mine today, threatening 114 entombed miners.

Fear 114 Miners Dead

Centralia, Ill., March 26 (UP) - a poisonous blanket of carbon monoxide gas let loose by an explosion rolled through the tunnels of the Centralia Coal Company's mine today, threatening 114 entombed miners.

Mine officials and police feared all the men still in the mine were dead.

"I Remembered I Had Been Mean to a Dog Once When I Was a Kid"
By John Pick, Jr.
Survivor of Mine Explosion

I looked at my watch and saw it was pretty near quitting time. That was around 3:30 yesterday afternoon. We started up, laughing like we always do, and thinking of that fresh air we would be getting in a few minutes. We were about 500 feet underground when all of a sudden there was a rumbling explosion that rocked everything. I was knocked cold for a minute and when I came to, I could feel the earth still trembling. There was so much dirt and coal dust it was almost impossible to breathe. You could just feel old man death rolling through the tunnels and corridors. There was terrible confusion, enough to make a man crazy. I felt sick all over. I could smell death, too. It was that awful coal gas, the stuff we're scared of all day and have nightmares about all night. You smell it and then if there's enough of it around it just rolls over you like a blanket, and traps you in a hole and snuffs out your life.

It's true about your whole life unfolding before you when you think you're a goner. It's just like a movie. I remembered I had been mean to a dog once when I was a kid, and I remembered the first time I went to church.

I thought of dad right away, too (John Pick, Sr. 54), who had gone down into the shaft with me this morning lugging his lunch box and yelling, "So long, Jack. See you at quitting time." We separated right after that. So far as I know, he's still down there, fighting for a breath of air with the others. I called out for some of the men who had started up with me--Joe Bancil, Harry Greathouse, Eddie Dunn and a couple of others. I called them by name and they all answered. It seemed like an eternity before we got ourselves straightened out and finally made it up to the top (through an air shaft). I must have passed out again, because the next thing I remember a Red Cross nurse was washing my face with a wet cloth in the Community Center basement and there were a lot of people around. I asked about dad, but nobody had any news.

Boston Evening Globe


Nurses aide, Freda Smith, makes John E. Pick, Jr., comfortable on one of the cots set up in the basement of the Community Center in Centralia, Illinois, after the mine blast.

March 25, 1947 was a very dark day in the Centralia area. Around 3:30 pm a massive explosion claimed 111 lives in the No. 5 Mine. Only 31 escaped. One of the 31 was my Uncle, John (Jack) E. Pick. Uncle Jack was one of the first men rescued that dreadful day. The hospitals were so incapable and overcrowded that cots were put up in the Community Center. Many many families suffered loss. That day will never be forgotten to so many left behind who were there.....and to some who were not.

The information above was given to me by my Aunt, Betty Bundy Pick, the wife of John E. Pick, Jr.

IN MEMORIAM ...

TO THE 111 MEN WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE NO. 5 MINE DISASTER
~ March 25, 1947 ~

Joe Altadonna
Rodrigo Alvarez
Joe Ballantini
Pietro Ballantini
Alvin M. Barnes
Martin Basola
Nick Basola
Domenick Beneventi
Harry A. Berger
Celso Biagi
Harold Jack Bryant
Joe Bryant
Edward Bude
Otto Buehne
Raymond C. Buehne
Tom Bush
John Busse
Charles Cagle
Theodore V. Carriaux
Arthur H. Carter
Joseph Cerutti
Domenic Cervi
Anton Chiarottino
Paul Comper
Clifford Copple
Frank Copple
Leo R. Dehn
Eugene Erwin
George Evans
Frank Famera
Andrew Farley
Walter H. Fetgatter
John Figiellk
William F. Fortmeyer
Ray Fouts
Odia Lee Francis
Luther Frazier

Martin Freeman, Sr.
Martin P. Freeman, Jr.
Albert Friend
Bruno Gaertner
Angelo Gallassini
Tony Giovanini
John Grotti
Louis Grotti
Adolph Gutzler
Fred W. Gutzler
John H. Gutzler
John W. Gutzler
Henry Hoeinghaus
Edward Hofstetter
Gustave Hohman
Ned L. Jackson
Warrie L. Jackson
Henry Knicker
Phillip Knight
Joseph Koch, Sr.
Charles Kraus
Fred Laughhunn
Domenico Lenzini
Pete Lenzini
Miles McCollum
Charles McGreavey
Clarence McGreavey
John Mazeka
William Mentler
Fred Moore
Elmer G. Moss
Henry W. Niepoetter
Charles Oestreich
George Panceroff
Frank Paulauskis
John Pawlisa
Charles L. Peart

Joseph H. Peiler
Alva F. Petrea
Walter Pelker
Peter Piasse
Julius Piazzi
Louis Piazzi
John Pick, Sr.
John Placek
Alfredo Pollacci
George Powell
Richard Privette
Glenn Purcell
Nick Reggo
Jacob W. Rethard
Forrest Rhodes
Carl Rohde
Daniel C. Sanders
Jacob Schmidt
Archie Schofield
Lee Gerard Shaw
Anton Skrobul
Clarence Smith
Ray O. Smith
Andrew Spinner
Joseph Spinner
Alfred Stevens
H.W. Sundermeyer
James Tabor
Anthony Tickus
Stanley Tickus
Anton Tillman
Emmett Uhls
Dude Vancil, Sr.
Joe Vancil, Sr.
Mark L. Watson
Joe Zinkus
Max Zonarini

Mine Disaster Inspired Songwriter Woody Guthrie

Letters from the trapped miners

The Dying Miner, one of three songs by Woody Guthrie published in the May, 1947 issue of People's Songs, memlorializing the 1947 mine disaster at Centralia, Illinois.

One man had scrawled: "It looks like the end for me. I love you honey more than life itself. You are the sweetest wife in the world. Goodbye, Honey and Dickey."

Another note was addressed to two boys: "Be good boys. Please your father. O Lord help me."

Some had been jotted down at intervals: "I am fine at 5:30____is in bad shape, going on and moaning. Tell ___I forgive her. Everyone going."

Another read: "My dear wife: Goodbye. Name the baby Joe so you will hae a Joe. Love, all. Dad."


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