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Full text of "Memorial of the fiftieth anniversary of the Cherry Mine Disaster, November 13, 1909-1959"

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D39m Au^/v/ DEMICHELIS 


• 


MEMORIAL OF 


THE 


FIFTIETH 


ANNIVERSARY 


OF 


THE 


CHERRY 


MINE DISASTER. . 


• 










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LI B R.AFLY 

OF THE 

UN IVERS ITY 

Of ILLINOIS 



622. $ 
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Illinois Historical Survey 





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KUNUIS HISTORICAL SURVE 1 




LTJJ3 III THI WW 




EMORIAL 

of the 

Fiftieth Anniversary 

of the 
CHERRY MINE DISASTER 



L909 



November 13 



1959 



Papers and photos, etc. of the miners are in 
the Holy Trinity Church in Cherry. 







U^^ord God of Hosts, we dedicate this little booklet to 
the memory of those who gave their lives in the holocaust 
of a half century ago, asking You to look benignly upon 
their descendents and particularly upon all those who 
today honor their memory. May ice all ask of Thee the 
blessings of peace and contentment and the enlightment 
that will forever ensure that these men havi not given 
their lives in vain. May their memory, forever kept fresh, 
inspire us to keep our trust in Thee every moment of 
our lives in order to join these for eternity in praising 
Thy name. Amen. 



UNIVERSITY OF 

ILLINOIS LIBRARY 

AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN 



Preface 

TIic following story is writ- 
ten as a commemoration oj 
the Fiftieth Anniversary oj the 
Cherry Mine Disaster. To the 
victims and to their families 
this booklet is humbly and re- 
spectfully dedicated. 



The Cherry Mine Disaster 




"Fate had written one day, the day of days, in her ledger of the town of 
Cherry. That day was the thirteenth of November, 1909." 



The village of Cherry lies in eastern Bureau County about eleven miles 
north of the LaSalle-Peru area and approximately one hundred miles southwest 
of Chicago. In 1905, when a party of mining experts and laborers arrived in 
that part of Illinois to sink a coal shaft upon the prairie, they little realized 
that four years hence this mine would hecome the scene of one of the great- 
est mine disasters of all time. Officially, 259 men were to lay down their 
lives in the fiery inferno which probably could have been prevented by a 
little more precaution on the part of the men who were near the scene of 
of the fire when it began. Be that as it may, it does not alter the fact that 
death took no holiday in Cherry on November 13. 1909. 

The new mine was owned and operated by the St. Paul Coal Company, 
which had heen authorized to mine coal in Putnam, LaSalle, Bureau. Crunch. 
Marshall, and Stark counties in Illinois. After the Chicago, Milwaukee and 
St. Paul Railway Company built a spur track to Cherry from Ladd. a mining 
town three miles away, the new village began to develop. Miners Hocked 
in from every section of the state. One hundred and twenty-five h< uses were 
erected by the Coal Company for its employees. In addition, two hundred 
privatelv owned homes, several business houses, and a school were construc- 
ted. The town has heen described as being drab will all its overtones of black 
or dirty gray. The houses, made of wood, were seldom painted, and their 
simple architectural design bordered on the monotonous. The school, however, 
and most of the business houses wore brick boilings. Cinder paths, which 
were the village walks, converged on the colliery at the- north end ol town. 



The villagers were young and vigorous; many of them were immigrants 
with little or no knowledge of the English language. The nationalities repre- 
sented constituted a veritable league of nations. Italians and Slovenians were 
most numerous, but the population included as well many Americans, Ger- 
mans, Austrians, Greeks, French, Belgians, English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh. 
The thriving little town of 2500 people had 17 saloons, each of which paid 
an annual license fee of $500. Many laborers spent their money as fast as they 
earned it and in a manner which in no way contributed to attractive homes 
and community progress. A visitor might have concluded that the town had 
been built on a temporary basis, but, in reality, it did not differ greatly from 
the average small mining town of Central Illinois. 




The little mining town of Cherry was situated in the heart of the rich coal 
regions of Central Illinois. 

The village of Cherry depended for its support, for its very existence, 
on the mine, which came to have a good reputation among miners. The mine 
was dry and well equipped, the coal was easily mined, and there were few 
"shut-downs''. All of the coal produced was taken by the Chicago, Milwaukee, 
and St. Paul Railroad for use in its own engines, and as the engines were busy 
all the year around, the mine was not subject to the seasonal rush times and 
dull times which usually characterized coal mining operations. The Cherry mine 
was, in short, one of the best, and its management was liberal and consid- 
erate. Warren R. Roberts, consulting engineer and contractor who construc- 
ted the mine tipple, called it the "safest mine in the world". In reality, it 
was not the physical plant that was responsible for the disaster, but the 
questionable actions of human beings. 

Shortly after the Cherry mine was sunk, the coal in the first vein 
was found to be of no commercial value; therefore, the company sank the 
main shaft and the escape shaft to the second vein. In 1908 the company 
opened the third vein which was about 485 feet below the surface and ap- 
proximately 165 feet below the second vein. It was the third vein which, 
undamaged by the fire, was mined by the company when it resumed opera- 
tions after the disaster. The coal in the third vein was not so easily reached 
as that in the second vein, but it was of better quality. 

In 1909 the Cherry mine was operating 7217 acres of land, 360 acres 
of which had been worked out. About 300,000 tons of coal were being mined 



annually under the direction of the following men: \\ . W. Taylor, general 
manager and superintendent; H. (.'. Maxwell, mine examiner; fames Steele, 

mine superintendent; John Bundy, mine manager; Alex Norberg, pit boss; 
John Crowley, engineer, main shaft; John Raisbeek, engineer, eseape shaft; 
George Eddy, mine examiner or lire boss. The third level was still relativrh 
new, and there was no way to ascend directly from the third vein to the 
second. A small cage under construction was to be attached to the main 
cage, but work on this detail had not been completed. Meanwhile, coal from 
the third level was being hoisted to the second level via the eseape shaft 
and then transported to the main shaft to be hoisted to the surface. Wooden 
ladders and steps provided the only exit— and the only means of escape— for 
those men working in the third vein. 

Between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 13, 1909. 
484 men entered the mine. Cage runs at mid-forenoon, at noon, and at one- 
thirty in the afternoon brought to the surface miners who had discontinued 
work at those hours. On that particular Saturday, a number of men had 
quit work in time to catch the 1:30 cage; they were fortunate, for within 
a matter of hours, 259 of their fellow workers were to have lost their lives 
in the Cherry Mine Disaster. 

Between twelve and one o'clock on that fatal day, six bales of hay 
had been placed in a coal car which was left at the escape-shaft entrance 
to the third vein in order that the hay might be taken down to the mule 
stables on the third level. Directly above the pit car was a blazing, open, 
kerosene torch so placed as to provide light for the cagers, two men and 
a boy. Ironically enough, there should have been no need for torches. 




n(*^ / 



The sudden news of Cherry's misfortune brought swarms of people to the 
vicinity as well as the urgent need for food and supplies from adjacent towns. 



The bottom of the mine had been wired for electric lights, but a short 
circuit had put them out of commission. According to testimony given at 
the inquest following the disaster, about three weeks had elapsed and the 
faulty wiring had net been repaired. Suddenly the hay was on fire; per- 
haps burning oil dripping from the torch had ignited it. Whatever the 
cause, the car containing the burning hay was shoved and pushed into 
the third-vein shaft opening from where it fell into the "slump" at the 
bottom and was quickly extinguished, but not until the overhead timbers 
of pine had been thoroughly ignited. Not realizing the danger of the si- 
tuation, Alex Rosenjack and Robert Dean, cagers at the main and air shafts 
respectively, continued to hoist coal for several minutes after they knew 
the fire was in existence. Evidently the men believed that it would be put 
out easily. When the serious nature of the fire became apparent, several 
of the drivers and company men endeavored to warn the diggers, but the 
fire had burned for at least forty-five minutes before any such information 
was systematically given. Heat and smoke prevented the men from get- 
ting into the mule barns to attach a hose which had been sent down from 
the surface; an attempt to attach the hose to a nozzle or piece of water 
pipe near the main cage was no more successful because the pipe was too 
small, the water was hot, and the hose could not be held around or against 
the opening of the pipe. 




Sunday morning crowds, comprising men, women and children who were 
present at the focal point of the disaster being enacted, came with the varied 
motives of curiosity, anxiety, hope and fear. 

The fire spread quickly, and from then on, Rosenjack, Bundy, and 
Alex Norberg tried to save as many miners as possible. Many men were 
so fortunate as to reach the main cage from the side opposite the fire be- 
fore the smoke and heat prevented that mode of escape. Others reached 
safety via the air shaft until that, too, was blocked. 



6 




Fire departments from the neighboring towns and Chicago fought despar- 
ately to quell the raging flames in the main shaft. 

Norberg, the boss, gave the order to stop the huge ventilating fan to 
prevent the spreading of the flames, but this measure reacted unfavorably 
on the miners, in that it reduced their supply of oxygen. Then the order 
was given to reverse the fan and thus draw the fire away from the main 
shaft, but that action was to no avail because the heat reached the fan 
and fan house and slowly consumed them, cutting off all escape from that 
shaft. 

Meanwhile, men were dying. Cries and shrieks rang through the dark- 
ened mine corridors; futile cries for help and cries for mercy curses and 

prayers added to the general chaos as men fought desperately for survival. 

Death had a field day. 

But there were heroes twelve heroes whose story will rival any saga 

of heroism in the world. Rosen jack had come to the surface and had asked 
for volunteers to descend the main shaf> to help in the rescue attempts 
The following men volunteered: John Bundy, mine manager: Andrew Mc- 
Luckie, miner; Harry Stewart, miner; James Spiers, miner; Mike Suhe, miner; 
Robert Clark, miner; Alex Norberg, assistant mine manager; Isaac Lewis. 
liveryman; Dominic Formento, grocer; John Flood, clothier; John Sezabrinski, 
eager; Joseph Robesa, driver. These volunteers went down six times and 
brought up men who otherwise would probably never have seen daylight 
again. Dr. Howe and Rosenjack, also members of the rescue party, were 
overcome after they had gone into the mine several times; therefore the) 
escaped the tragedy which befell the twelve volunteers on their seventh 
descent for rescue purposes. John Cowley, the engineer, had been given 



specific instructions by Ncrberg to obey the cage signals precisely and not 
to act until the proper signal was given. Under no circumstances was Cow- 
ley to deviate from these instructions. The cage descended with the doomed 
men, and after a short interval, Cowley received a series of mixed-up sig- 
nals. He was at a loss as to what to do, but remembering Norberg's instruc- 
tions, he refused to bring the cage to the surface until the proper signal 
was given. People around him sensed that something was radically wrong 




The professional helmet men are shown above testing their oxygen masks 
before descending the burning shaft in a futile attempt to rescue the victims. 



and pleaded with Cowley to raise the cage. He continually refused to do 
so until compelled by threats of bodily harm. As the cage reached the 
surface, a pathetic sight unfolded. The rescuers had been lowered right 
into the flames and had been roasted alive. Their clothing was still smould- 
ering! Four bodies lay across the top of the cage, evidence that the men 
had died in a frantic attempt to climb away from the fire. 

At the coroner's inquest, many of the survivors told heart-rending stories. 
The imagination of the reader is taxed to the limit by tales of futile attempts 

to escape, of suffering and death the experiences of men trapped in a 

living hell several hundred feet below the surface of the earth. The letters 
that were scribbled in that horror and later found on the bodies of the 
disaster victims reflected the minds of men who were about to die. Their 
thoughts were serious, without malice, and full of concern for the loved 

ones they were leaving behind those they commended to the goodness of 

God. Many of these letters have been published by F. P. Buck in his book, 
"The Cherrv Mine Disaster." 



8 



At eight o'clock on the evening of the disaster, the mine was scaled 
in order to smother the flames. Feeling ran high over this procedure as it 
appeared that the men who remained in the mine were doomed. Stories 
were circulated to the effect that the mine officials, thinking only in terms 
of saving the mine, were sacrificing the lives of the miners. Many extra 
marshalls were deputized by the mayor. Charles Connolly, to help keep 
order in a town that was swollen by hordes of people who flocked into it 
from surrounding communities. All saloons were closed. Relief agencies ga- 
thered on the scene immediately to alleviate the suffering of the widows 
and orphans. The Red Cross. Knights of Pythias, and the Catholic and Pro- 
testant churches organized relief committees; social workers from Chicago 
gave their assistance. The Chicago Tribune sent special nurses, and the Ca- 
tholic Church brought in Sisters to work among the bereaved. The local 
barber. John Stenstrom. provided meals free of charge in the Congregational 
Church basement. 

Ry Sunday morning, R. Y. Williams and his assistant, Mr. Webb, ar- 
rived from the government life-saving station at Urbana with helmets and 
other special rescue equipment. Soon their efforts were augmented by the 
help of professional rescue workers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and from 
the states of Ohio, Iowa, and Missouri. During the day the two men suc- 
ceeded in reaching the second vein through the air shaft. They descended 
in a spec'al sinking bucket but could do nothing as the smoke and steam 




Widows and fatherless children, as suggested by the scene above, were to 
witness the grim reality of their lot when, on March 4, 1910, sixty-one victims 
were recovered from the mine and placed in the tent at right where the diffi- 
cult task of identification took place. 



were too dense for exploration. The shaft was covered again and remained 
so during the rest of the day and night. Another attempt was made the next 
day, but to no avail. Temperatures in the mine were too high. 

In the meantim, the Ladd Fire Department under Jack Evans and 
some units of the Chicago Fire Department under Chief Fire Marshall Horan 
were rushed to the scene. The Chicago Fire Department brought with them 
five water tank cars each carrying 10,000 gallons of water. The firemen 
poured tons of water into the main shaft as soon as it was opened. On Thurs- 
day, November IS, the fire fighting began in earnest. The firemen descend- 
ed the main shaft to fight the blaze directly. In the meantime the helmet 
group explored the bottom for bodies. By Saturday, November 20, the fire 
was seemingly under control. 

Another phase of the rescue work must be mentioned here. It was no 
secret that the populace was very much dissatisfied with the rescue efforts 
directed by company officials. Serious threats had been made, and Sheriff 
Shoglund feared for the very lives of these men when he learned of a plot 
to blow up the sleeping cars which accommodated the officials. The sheriff 
notified Governor Deneen of the gravity of the situation, and the governor 
responded by sending the militia to help maintain order and to guard the 
area surrounding the mine. Cherry was not placed under martial law, how- 
ever. Meanwhile, sensing the wrath of the anxious villagers, cagers Rosen- 
jack and Dean left town as did engineer Raisbeck. It was later discovered 
that Dean had gone back to Scotland; the whereabouts of Rosenjack was 
never known. Cowley, the engineer, was placed under guard. 

On Saturday, November 20, the world was amazed by the good news 
that twenty-one men had been found alive in the shaft. A rescue party con- 
sisting of David Powell, mine superintendent of the Braceville, Illinois, mine; 
Father Haney, pastor of St. Mary's Church in Mendota, Illinois; Father 
Wencel of St. Bede Abbey, Peru, Illinois; Captain Kenney of the Chicago 
Fire Department, and three other firemen were searching for bodies when 
they encountered four miners who were making one last attempt to escape. 
The survivors told of other miners who were still back in the entry. In all, 
twenty-one men were rescued. One man died shortly after reaching the 
surface. Some of the survivors were unable to walk. Those rescued were 
George Eddy, Walter Waite, Thomas White, John Lorimer, Frank Waite, 
Thomas Brown, John Barnoski, John Semich, George Semich, George Stimez, 
Frank Zanarini, Q. Antenore, Daniel Holafcak, William Cleland, Fred Lauzi, 
Silvatore Pigatti, Joe Pigatti, Bonfiglio Rugged, Fred Prohaska, and Frank 
Prohaska. These men are now deceased. 

Frank Zanarini, who had the distinction of being the last of the sur- 
vivors, spoke of his eight-day entombment as a living death. The writer re- 
calls from a personal interview with Frank Zanarini on July 10, 1954, that 
while he and his companions were building a wall to protect themselves 
from the black damp and foul air, they felt as if they were putting nails 
in their own coffins. He described how the men obtained moisture from 
small holes made in the wall. A piece of cloth was wrapped around a stick 
and inserted in the wall to absorb the moisture; afterward the men would 

10 



suck on the cloth. Muddy water accumulated slowly in a larger hole dug 
in the floor of the entry. Each man in turn had access to this water. The 
survivors had nothing to eat; some chewed their hat bands and the tongues 
from their shoes to relieve the pangs of hunger. Some of the miners wrote 
notes to their loved ones; others prayed. Mr. Eddy bolstered the spirits of 
those who at times were on the verge of becoming hysterical. Zanarini re- 
lated how, with every passing minute, the men were resigning themselves 
to their fate. 




New hope began to surge in the hearts of all as Sheriff Skoglung in the 
background calls excitedly for doctors to be rushed to the scene after the 
first victims were rescued from their eight-day entombment: "They are alive!" 



By Saturday, November 20, a decision had been reached among the 

strongest to make a break win or lose! They figured they were going to 

die anyway. It was then that the rescue party came upon them. 

But the real story of the twenty-one men is the story of George Eddy. 
He was the guiding light, and with the assistance of Walter Waite, provi- 
ded the leadership necessary to keep the men together. Because he was 
night boss, Eddy was not at the mine when the fire started; but he had 
rushed to the mine upon hearing that it was on fire, descended with res- 
cue workers, and helped many men to escape. Finally, cut off from escape 
himself, he started to retreat toward the back entries. As he went along, he 
met Mr Waite and the nineteen other men, and led them back into an 
obscure entry. There the group barricaded themselves as had been explained. 
Eddy's story is vividly told in records of the inquest and in an interview 
which appeared in the Chicago Tribune. 



11 



James E. Williams offered to George Eddy a tribute which seems 
pertinent to any study of the Cherry mine disaster. 

"The name of George Eddy deserves to go down in history as one 
of its bravest heroes. He stayed down there to the last, helping 
others on the cage, when by a single step he might have got on 
himself and been hoisted out of danger. The supreme value of a 
catastrophe like this is in showing how plentiful is the raw ma- 
terial out of which heroes are made. Given a sufficiently com- 
manding motive, the men who will lay down their lives are more 
numerous than they who will run away. Against the one man 
who failed by running away from his post as eager at the lower 
level when panic stricken and leaving the men below to perish, 
there were scores who stood nobly to their tasks and risked or 
lost their lives for their fellows." 

No more miners were found alive. The next few days were spent 
in the search for more bodies and in the difficult task of identification. 
Then the fire broke out again, and it was decided on the morning of No- 
vember 25 to reseal the mine until February 1, 1910. Many bodies were 
known to be in the third vein, but a large accumulation of water preven- 
ted their removal in view of the fact that the fire was again gaining momentum. 




Huge trenches had to be dug to provide burial for the scores of victims that 
were laid to rest in the plot which was to become Cherry's Memorial Cemetery. 

After February 1, the mine was reopened and the remaining bodies were 
removed. The St. Paul Coal Company had donatd a five acre plot at the 
south edge of town for a cemetery, and many of the victims were buried 
there. Others were buried at Ladd, Illinois. 



12 




The two Sisters pictured above were among these who came from St. Mar- 
garet's Hospital in Spring Valley, Illinois to give aid and consolation to the 
bereaved. Among them was Mother Anthony who is still living today. 

A final report on the number of dead was made by Thomas Hudson. 
State Mine Inspector, on August 16, 1910, as follows: 

Total number believed to be lost 268 

Total number of bodies recovered from second vein . . . 187 

Total number of bodies recovered from third vein . . . 51 

Lost, by burning, on the cage 12 

Thought to be lost but later found alive 

and working in other mines 11 

Still missing 6 

The public's response to the needs of the victims was tremendous. There 
were 160 widows and 390 children to be cared for. In all, 607 persons had 
been dependent upon the men who were killed in the mine. Nearly every 
city and village in Illinois contributed in some way to their relief; the United 
Mine Workers, the Chicago Tribune, the Red Cross, and a variety of other 
organizations arrived early on the scene of the disaster, and soon the vil- 
lage was the recipient of the generosity of thousands. By November 28 the 
Chicago Tribune and Red Cross relief funds had reached $70,000. It was 
estimated that the total amount of the contributions was $444,785.92. To 
this was added another $400,000 paid out by the St. Paul Coal Company in 
settlements, making a total of §844,785.92. The sum of S3, 26 1.72 was paid 
to the family of each person killed in the disaster. 

The Cherry Relief Commission, organized to distribute relief funds, 
was staffed by the following persons: 

Fred J. Kern, Chairman 

Board of Administration — Springfield, Illinois 
J. E. Williams, Vice-Chairman 

Streator Relief Commission — Streator, Illinois 



13 




Personal effects found on the victims of the disaster, — and in many cases 
the sole evidence as to the identity of a loved one. 

Duncan McDonald, Secretary 

United Mine Workers of Illinois — Springfield, Illinois 
Edward T. Bent 

Illinois Coal Operators Association — Chicago, Illinois 
Ernest P. Bicknell 

American Red Cross — Washington, D. C. 



EXECUTIVE OFFICERS 
James Mullenbach, Superintendent 
Miss B. G. Davis, Executive Secretary 
Mrs. L. J. Collar, Visitor 
The Northern Trust Company, Agent 



Chicago, Illinois 

Chicago, Illinois 

Chicago, Illinois 

Chicago, Illinois 



The plan was roughly as follows. An amount of money, determined by 
the number of dependents, was paid in a lump sum to a widow who was a 
lone survivor and to a family which planned to return to Italy. (The Italian 
Government was willing to provide transportation for any Italian widow and 
her children who wished to go back to their native land). The widow with 
children who remained here was paid on the pension plan, in amounts de- 
termined by the number of children. A widow with one child under the age 
of 14 years got a pension of $25 per month until the child was 14 years of 
age or until the widow should marry a second time or otherwise become 
self-supporting. A widow with two children under 14 years got $30, and 
for each additional child $5 more per month until the maximum of $40 per 
month was reached. A widow with more than four children under the age 
of 14 did not get more than $40. 

A widow without children or with children over the age of 14 years 
was awarded a cash settlement determined by conditions peculiar to the fa- 
mily, such as their ability to support themselves. The amount was usually 



14 



about $300. The average age of the children left was five and two-thirds 
years, and it was estimated that the fund on hand would support the depen- 
dents for at least eight years or until the children were able to work. Food 
clothing, medicines, and other supplies sent from all parts of the country 
were rapidly dispensed by the members of the charitable institutions at the 
seene of the disaster. The monetary value of such generosity could not be 
estimated. 'Hie total amount of money allocated for relief purposes was 
made available through the following sources: 

At the disposal of Cherry Relief Commission, including 
$100,000 appropriated by the State legislature . . . S256.215.72 
Contributions of employees of the St. Paul Coal Co. . . 55,742.40 
Death benefits paid by United Mine Workers of Illinois . 40,000.00 
Expended by Local Relief Committee of Cherry . . . 33,968.91 
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad . . . 10,964.29 
Matthiessen and Hegler Zink Company .... 10,000.00 
Congregational Church ........ 10,000.00 

Knights of Pythias 7,500.00 

His Excellency, Edmund Dunne, Bishop of Peoria . . 5,000.00 

Coal Operators 5,000.00 

Citizens of LaSalle 4,292.85 

Slavish Newspapers 4,000.00 

Citizens of Oglesby 2,101.75 







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Pictured at right is the huge tent which was improvised to search the vic- 
tims for articles of identification, and to wrap them in canvas for burial. 

The story of the disaster would not be quite complete without a few 
words about John E. Williams of Streator, Illinois, who was what may be 
accurately called "the self-appointed mediator". Mr. Williams was chairman 
of the Streator Relief Committee for the mine victims and also vice-chairman 
of the Cherry Relief Commission. As such, he made the acquaintance of Al- 
bert J. Earling, president of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway, 
and John H. Walker and Duncan McDonald, officials of the mine workers 
organization. Williams was instrumental in bringing the divergent groups 
together, and he presented a plan for the settlement between the Company 



15 



and victims of the disaster so that the Company would not file bankruptcy 
or be dragged through the courts by long litigation. The latter would have 
spelled the doom of the mining industry in Cheny. 

At one time the officials of the Coal Company contemplated selling 
the property and turning over the entire proceeds to the victims' families 
on an equitable basis. Williams' foresight deprecated this plan, as it would 
have been made at a tremendous loss. He proposed a settlement based on 
the English "Workmen's Compensation Act,'' which was more liberal than 
any compensation plan in the United States at that time. The Company 
finally agreed to the settlement to the amount of $400,000, thus preventing 
long suits and maintaining the ownership of the mine. The amount was large 
enough to give about $1800 to every family whose breadwinner had been 
killed. This was a far cry from the State of Connecticut statutes of that per- 
iod which provided an average of $50 to dependents of those killed in the 
industry. What is more, the village was assured an industry which lasted 
until 1927. 

The impact of the disaster prompted the state legislature to enact mea- 
sures for protecting miners from fire, for the increase of resources and fa- 
cilities for the rescue of lives endangered in mine disasters, and for promoting 
the technical efficiency of all persons working in and about the mines in order 
to prevent accidents and to conserve the coal resources of the state. These 
measures were followed by the liability act which is the basis of the Illinois 
Workmen's Compensation Laws. The "fellow-servant" clause, which had le- 
gally exempted employers from liability for accidents due to the "contribu- 
tory negligence" of fellow employees, was eliminated. 

The St. Paul Coal Company reopened the Cherry mine in the latter 
part of 1910. At that time the Company abandoned the second vein and 
developed the third vein which it worked until 1927, when factors in the 
mining industry made the mine uneconomical to operate. What is more, the 
northern coal fields could no longer compete with the mechanized central 
and southern coal mines, and therefore one by one all the northern mines 
were closed. 

Today, only the mine dump remains to mark the location of the once 
prosperous Cherry mine. The tipple has been removed, and the company 
acres have been sold and converted to farmland. The population of the vil- 
lage has dwindled to and stabilized itself at approximately 500 people. For 
the most part, those who seek employment find it in the surrounding com- 
munities Spring Valley, LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby, Mendota, Ladd, and Ottawa. 

The citizenry have long sensed the necessity for the esthetic in the commu- 
nity and have so improved the general appearance of the village that one 
who had not seen it since 1909 would find Cherry much different from the 
village it was at that time. 

The people of Cherry have not forgotten those who lost their lives in 
the Cherry Mine Disaster. Each year, on November 13, the community ar- 
ranges appropriate commemorative ceremonies and marches en masse to the 
Cherry Miners' Memorial Cemetery. There a wreath is placed on the monu- 
ment which is dedicated to the memory of victims of the disaster, and which 
serves to remind travellers on highway 89 of the grim business of coal mining 
and the holocaust of 1909. 



16 



Victims Of The Disaster 



Amider. Altio; Agramanti. Foliani; Alexius, Joseph; Atalakis, Peter; Atlakis, G; 
Adakosky, M; Armelani, Chas; Armelani, Paul. 

Burke, Joseph; Bauer, Milce; Brain, Oliver; Burslie, Clemento; Bolla, Antonio; 
Bastia, Mike; Brown, Thomas; Bolla, Peter; Bawraan, Frank; Bawman, Lewis; 
Barozzi. Antone; Bruno. Edward; Bredenci. Peter; Budzon, Joseph; Boucher, 
Jerome; Bakalar, Geo; Bayliff. Thomas; Bernadini, Chas; Bosviel, Adolph; 
Budzom, Chas; Bertolioni. Tonzothe; Benossif, J; Butilla, August; Bordesona, J; 
Betot, John; Brown. John; Buckels, Richard; Bruzis, John; Bundy, John. 
Costi. Angelo; Ciocci. Peter; Canov. Canivo; Cioci, Canical; Costi. Lewis; Camilli, 
Frank; Casserio, John; Castoinelo, Chelsto; Cagoskey, John; Chebuhar, Joseph; 
Casollari, Elizio; Conlon. Henry; Cohard, Henry; Cipola, Mike; Clark, Robt; 
Carlo. Klfi; Casolari, Diminick; Cavaglini, Chas; Compasso, Jbhn. 
Denalfi. Francisco; Durand, Ben; Dunko, John; Durdan. Andrew; Davies, Jno. G; 
Donaldson. John; Dovin, Geo; Demesey, Fred; Dumont, Leopold; Detourney. V; 
Elario. Miestre; Elko, George; Eloses, Peter; Erikson, Chas; Erickson, Eric 
Farlo. John; Fayen. Peter; Forgach, John; Formento, Dominick; Freeberg, Ole; 
Franciscio. August; Francisco. John; Flood, John. 

Governer, Jno; Grehaski, Andrew; Gugleim, Peter; Galletti, J; Galletti. Jno; 
Gialcolzza, Angone; Garabelda, Jno; Gulick. Joseph; Gwaltyeri, Jalindy; Geckse, 
Frank; Grumeth, Frank; Gibbs, Lewis; Guidarini, Jno. 

Halko, Mike; Hadovski, Steve; Howard. Samuel; Hudar, Jno; Hynds, William; 
Hertzel, Jno; Holofcak, Dan: (Rescued Nov. 20; died 4S hours after); Harpka, Jos. 
Hainant. August; Howard, Alfred. 
James. Frank; Janavizza, Joe; Jamison, James. 

Klemiar, Thomas; Kranz, Jno; Kussner, Julius; Klaeser, Jno; Klemiar. Richard; 
Kometz, John; Krall, Alfred; Krall, Henry; Kroll, Alex S; Kenig, John; Klemiar, 
Geo; Korvonia, Joseph; Kovocivio, Frank; Korvonia. Antone; Kutz. Paul; 
Kliklunas. Dominic. 

Love, James; Leyshon, Chas; Lukatchko, Andrew; Leptack, John; Lonzotti, John; 
Love, Morrison; Love, John; Love, David; Leynaud, Urban; Lonzetti, Seicomo; 
Lallie. Frank; Lurnas, Mike; Leadache, Joseph; Leadache. Frank; Lewis, Isaac; 
Leadache, James. 

Mumetich, Hasan; Miller or Malner, Lewis; Miller or Malner, Joe; Miller, Edw; 
Mokos, Joseph; Meicora, Joseph; Monahan, James R; Mills, Edw; Mekles, Tony; 
Merdior. Arthur; Marchiona, Frank; Marchiona, Archie; Maceoha, Jno; Mills, A; 
Mittle, Jno; Mayelemis, Frank; Masenetta, Anton; Malinoski, Joe; McCandless, 
Robert; McGill, Jno. Jr; McCrudden, Jno; McCrudden, Peter; McMullen, Geo; 
Mazenetto, Jno; Mani. Joseph; Mayersky, Jno; McLuckie, Andrew; McFadden. 
Andrew; Mazak, Jno; Matear (or Mactear), Wm. 
Norberg, August; Norberg, Alex. 

Ossek, Donaty; Ossek, Martin; Ondurko, Matt; Olson. Chas. P. 
Palmiori. Albert; Prusitus, Perys; Prusitus, Pete; Pavoloski, Jno; Pressenger, Joe; 
Prich, Joseph; Pearson, Alex; Perono, Dominik; Papea, Chas; Pearson, John; 
Perbacher, Peter; Packo, Andrew; Pete, Ben; Pshak, John; Pauline, Antona. 
Repsel, Martin; Repsel. Joe; Rodonis, Joe; Rolland, Victor; Rittel, Frank; Rich- 
ards, Thos; Ricca, Cegu; Riva, Joe; Raviso, Joe; Ruggesie, Gailamyo; Rossman. 
Robt; Ruygiesi, Frank; Rimkus, Joseph; Robeza, Joseph; Sopko. Cantina. 
Speir, James; Stettler, Harry; Sandeen, Olaf; Sleitz, Paul; Shermel. Antone; 
Stark, John; Stanchez, Frank; Stefenelli, Dominik; Sarginto. August; Siamon, 
Andrew; Semboa (or Sereba).J; Smith. John W; Sublich, ('has; Suhe. John; 
Suhe, Mike; Suffen, John; Sukitus, Joe; Steele, Peter; Sarbelle. Julius; Steams. 
James; Seitz, Edw; Scotland, Wm; Shima, Jno; Stewart, Harry; Stam, Antone; 
Szabrinski, Jno. (known as John Smith); Staszeski. Tony; Sestak, Jno. 
Timko, Joseph Jr; Timko, Joseph Sr; Timko, Steve; Timko. Andr; Teszone, Geo; 
Talioli. Eugene; Tonnelli, Emilia; Turchi. Nbcenti; Tosseth, Prank; Tamas- 
hanski, Joseph; Tamarri, Pasquale; Tonner, John. 

Ugo, Filippe; White, Geo; Welkas, Anthony; Waite, Chas; Wyait. Win. 
Yurcheck. Ant; Vacober, Frank; Vannis. Peter; Yagoginski. Frank; Yearley, Joe. 
Zlieglev, Thos; Zekuia. Joseph; Zacherria. Giatano; Zeikell, Pat. 

17 



tribute \lo \ike t^a<^tor° 



Without any attempt at presumptuousness the 
author feels that the story of the Disaster would 
be incomplete without a word about the "Miners' 
Memorial Cemetery." For many years after the 
disaster, through neglect and indifference, the 
cemetery had degenerated into a veritable mass of 

weeds an eyesore to visitors. Through the tireless 

efforts and hard work of Rev. Anthony Wehrmann, 
O.S.B., pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 
it has been transformed into a beautiful Memorial 
Cemetery, of which our village can justly boast. 
It stands as a fine tribute to our pastor, Father 
Anthony, who accepted the challenge against great 
odds to restore to the dead victims a respectable 
resting place, a beautiful God's Acre. 



18 




"TO THE MEMORY OF THE 
MINERS WHO LOST THEIR 
LIVES IN THE CHERRY 
MINE DISASTER NOVEMBER 
13, 1909." 

"ERECTED BY THE U. M. W. 
OF A. DISTRICT NO. 12, 
ILLINOIS NOV. 13, 1911." 



19 



Acknowledgments 



This brief outline of the Cherry Mine Disaster was 
compiled from the best available written sources. 
The author accepts sole responsibility for any er- 
rors of commission or omission. 

— Anton Demichelis 



The pictures contained in the body of this booklet 
are actual scenes taken at the time of the disaster, 
and have been submitted through the courtesy of 
Mr. Burton Waite, the honorable Mayor of Cherry, 
and Mrs. Bertha Keutzer. 



The pictures for the present day monuments were 
supplied by Mr. Ray Broviak of Peru, Illinois. 



Sincere thanks are due to Father Anthony Wehr- 
mann, O.S.B., and Mr. William Parisi for' their 
unselfish efforts and hard work in guiding the ar- 
rangements for the entire Commemorative program. 



Additional copies of this booklet may be obtained 
by writing to: 

Rev. Pastor 

Holy Trinity Parish 

Cherry, Illinois 



The St. Bede Abbey Press — Peru, Illinois 



20 



UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-URBANA 



coot 



KS%F THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF