On November 9, 1888, at Cherokee & Pittsburg Coal & Mining Company’s Mine #2, at Frontenac, Kansas, occurred the largest, most deadly explosion in the Cherokee-Crawford coalfields. Forty-four men and boys were killed. The Cherokee & Pittsburg was the coal branch of the Santa Fe Railroad, and Mine #2 was one of the largest, most modern mines in the district.
This disaster occurred, it was found, by a “windy” shot; an explosive shot not properly prepared that blows fire out into the mine, instead of blowing the coal loose. The fire blowing outward ignited the coal dust created by other shots fired, and a series of explosions occurred as the fire shot down the mine entries igniting the miners’ powder kegs. This explosion originated in the room of James W. Wilson, a 17 year old. His father had quit work at this mine a few weeks before because of what he considered unsafe conditions.
The wounded were cared for in the engine house at the mine, there being no hospital in the area. Many of the dead were buried in mass graves at St. Mary’s and Mt. Olive Cemeteries in Pittsburg, remaining in unmarked graves until recently.
At the time, it was customary for miners to take powder into the mines and at the end of the day to fire their own shots. Following this disaster, mining laws were changed in the state of Kansas. The state mandated that miners could not fire their own shots. The mining companies were required to hire shot-firemen, thereafter, who fired all the shots after the miners left the mine for the day.
I have done extensive research on this disaster and the miners killed, if anyone would like further information.