A mine disaster in Carbon County claimed the lives of more than 170 men in the 1920s. The tragedy had long-reaching effects on the large mining community throughout the County.
In 1924, two explosions tore through the Number Two Mine at Castle Gate in Carbon County killing all 171 workers in the mine. One rescue worker also died after breathing in carbon monoxide fumes while trying to find survivors. According to later reports, a miner’s open-flame headlamp caused the explosions by igniting either coal dust or methane gas.
The destructive force of the blast left gruesome sights scattered around the mine. Many of the dead miners had been decapitated or shredded by the impact of the explosions. According to historian Nancy Taniguchi, one rescue worker even recalled finding a bloated body expelling gas from its mouth as he worked his way through the damaged mine.
The Castle Gate disaster had a tremendous impact on the communities of CarbonCounty. The county’s mining work force had always been an ethnic and national fusion. Greeks, Japanese, Italians, South Slavs, English, Belgians, Scots, and Americans—both black and white—died side by side in the tragedy. But nationality and ethnicity seemed to matter very little in the aftermath of the disaster. The loss of life was mourned by the entire county, as people from Helper, Price, Spring Glen and Kenilworth closed businesses, churches, and other public meeting places in honor of the dead. In the weeks that followed the tragedy they and other Utahns also opened their pocketbooks, eventually collecting and distributing, through one of the state’s first social workers, more than $100,000 to the families left destitute by the catastrophe.
Image: African Americans in Utah. Family of a black miner killed in the Castle Gate mine disaster, 1924. L. to R.: Mrs. Henderson, Archie, Jr.(9), Myrtle(12). Elizabeth(15) and Lewis(19) were absent when photo was taken. Another child is expected soon. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See Janeen Arnold Costa’s entry on the Castle Gate Mine Disaster in the online Utah History Encyclopedia; and Nancy J. Taniguchi, Castle Valley, America: Hard Land, Hard-Won Home (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2004), 190-194. Also see Allan Kent Powell, The Next Time We Strike: Labor in the Utah Coal Fields, 1900-1933 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1992).