A story of the fundraising efforts to help the victims of one of the deadliest mining disasters in American history, the 1900 explosion at Utah’s Winter Quarters Mine.
The Winter Quarters Mine Disaster of May 1, 1900 brought international attention to the small mining town of Scofield, Utah. The Daily Telegram, an English newspaper, expressed its sympathy, as did French President Emile Loubet. US President William McKinley wrote to Utah’s Governor stating his “intense sorrow upon learning of the terrible calamity” and his “deep sympathy with the wives, children, and friends of the unfortunate victims of the explosion.” The 200 dead miners left about 105 widows and 270 orphaned children.
In a time before insurance and workers compensation, the relief efforts that followed this horrific disaster showcased community activism and compassion. Utahns quickly moved to create a monetary fund for the widows and orphans called the Scofield Relief Fund. Ogden’s Grand Opera House hosted a benefit concert and donated the proceeds to the fund. Around the state various baseball teams staged benefit games, while clubs and fraternal organizations collected money from their members. Even school children dug into their pockets. A.C. Patterson’s class at the North Hooper School penny, nickel, and dimed its way to raising $2.10. On May 2, the day after the disaster, the town of Provo raised $5,000, while the LDS Church donated $2,500 to the effort. Fellow miners at Castle Gate levied a fee of $2.50 on all laborers at that mine. The Pleasant Valley Coal Company, owner of the Winter Quarters Mine, erased the debts owed by the victims of the disaster and donated $500 to each of the victims’ families.
By May 3, only two days after the disaster, Utahns had raised nearly $13,000 for the Scofield Relief Fund. The amount tripled the next day. A week later, more than $100,000 filled the coffers of the Scofield Relief Fund. Ultimately, a total of $216,289.91 was raised throughout the United States for the families affected by the disaster at Winter Quarters Mine.
Image: Winter Quarters, Utah. 1900. Image shows the Jones family outside their home after losing a family member in the mine explosion. The explosion left many families without their main breadwinner. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See A. Kent Powell, The Next Time We Strike: Labor in Utah’s Coal Fields, 1900-1933 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1985), 27-35. See The Deseret Evening News: May 1, 1900; May 2, 1900; May 3, 1900; May 4, 1900; May 5, 1900; May 8, 1900; May 9, 1900; May 10, 1900; May 12, 1900. Also see the Davis County Clipper: May 4, 1900; May 11, 1900. See also The Semi Weekly Standard: May 4, 1900, May 8, 1900; May 11, 1900. See The Park Record: May 5, 1900. The articles from The Deseret Evening News, Davis County Clipper, The Semi- Weekly Standard, and The Park Record can be found on Utah Digital Newspaper at http://digitalnewspapers.org/. See also New York Times: May 3, 1900; May 4, 1900 on http://proquest.umi.com. Also see The Salt Lake Tribune: May 2, 1900; May 3, 1900; May 4, 1900.