Knox Mine Disaster
January 22, 1959
Lesson Goals:
We will deepen our understanding of coal mining in our
local region, and gain knowledge of the working conditions
and the dangers of the trade.
We will learn about the Knox Mine disaster of 1959 and its
connection to and impact on the coal mining industry in
Northeast Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania State Standards for History:
8.2 Pennsylvania History
A. Understand the political and cultural contributions of individuals and groups to Pennsylvania
history.
B. Identify and describe primary documents, material artifacts, and historic sites important in
Pennsylvania history.
Pennsylvania State Standards for Mathematics:
2.6 Statistics and Data Analysis
A. Gather, organize and display data using pictures, charts, bar graphs, etc.
B. Formulate and answer questions based on data shown on graphs.
D. Form and justify an opinion on whether a given statement is reasonable based on a comparison to
data.
Pennsylvania State Standards for Reading, Writing, and Listening:
1.2 Reading Critically in All Content Areas
A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
B. Use and understand a variety of media and evaluate the quality of material produced.
1.4. Types of Writing
B. Write informational using illustrations when relevant.
C. Write an opinion and support it with facts.
1.6. Speaking and Listening
A. Listen to others.
D. Contribute to discussions.
E. Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations.
F. Use media for learning purposes.
History of Anthracite Coal Mining in Northeast Pennsylvania
Although, settlement in Northeast Pennsylvania predates the American Revolution,
the actual discovery of anthracite coal did not occur until the early nineteenth
century. After the Civil War, there was a rapid population growth due to both the
mining and railroad industries. Immigrants from throughout Europe made up the
majority of the population. The coal mining industry was visible throughout the
region until the 1950s. The Know Mine disaster of in 1959 essentially was the end of
deep coal mining in the Wyoming Valley. Today, tours of underground mines can be
taken in abandoned mines of Northeast PA and provide an in-depth look and history
of the mining industry.
Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal Mining History
WATCH: The Hard Coal Part 3 video was filmed in The Ashland Pioneer Tunnel coal mine
and talks about the mining industry in Northeast PA from the 1930’s-2008.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsSqwNizhy8&feature=channel
DO: Complete the NARA motion picture analysis worksheet in your packet and describe
what the message and effectiveness of the video was.
DISCUSS: What information have you learned about anthracite coal mining in
Pennsylvania?
Knox Mine Disaster of January 22, 1959
• Occurred in Port Griffith, Pennsylvania, near Pittston
• The Susquehanna River broke through the mine workings
• In an attempt to plug the hole between the river bottom and the
mine, railroad coal cars were fed into the swirling funnel of water
• Caused permanent flooding of the majority of the interconnected
underground mines in the Wilkes-Barre area
• They were a total of 12 victims, who were all miners that were
trapped in the mine
• This disaster is referred to as the event which ended deep coal mining
in the northern anthracite fields of Pennsylvania
Knox Mine Disaster Information
STUDY: The chart from the U. S. Department of Labor Mine Safety & Health
Administration lists fatality information from historical coal mine disasters in the
anthracite region of PA at http://www.msha.gov/district/Dist_01/Fatals/histfat.htm.
Concentrate on the years 1909-1959 and answer the following questions:
1. How does the Knox Mine Disaster of January 22, 1959 compare to the other mine
disasters during that time frame in the number of miners killed and the cause?
2. Describe why or why not such a disaster was new to the Pittston area.
READ: Page 1 of the MSHA report provides an overview of the river slope
mine disaster of January 22, 1959:
http://www.msha.gov/District/Dist_01/Reports/Knox/page01.htm
COMPLETE: The NARA written document analysis worksheet in your packet.
http://www.hsp.org/default.aspx?id=273
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania provides the
audio for “The Old Miner’s Refrain”.
Listen carefully and complete
the SEA worksheet in your packet
based on both the audio version
and written lyrics.
•
THE OLD MINER'S REFRAIN
by Minstrels of the Mine Patch - George Korson
I'm getting old and feeble and I cannot work no more:
I have laid my rusty mining tools away.
For forty years and over I have toiled about the mines,
But now I'm getting feeble, old and gray.
In the chutes I graduated instead of going to schoolRemember, friends, my parents they were poor;
When a boy left the cradle it was always made the rule
To try to keep starvation from the door.
At eleven years of age I bought myself a lampThe boss he sent me down the mine to trap;
I stood in there in water, in powder smoke and damp;
My leisure hours I spent in killing rats.
I started in the breaker and went back to it again,
But now my work is finished for all time;
The only place that's left me is the almshouse for a home,
That's where I'll lay this weary head of mine.
At eight years of age to the breaker first I went,
To learn the occupation of a slave;
I was certainly delighted, and on picking slate was bentMy ambition it was noble, strong and brave.
One day I got promoted to what they called a patcher,
Or a lackey for the man that drives the team:
I carried sprags and spreaders and had to fix the latchI was going through my exercise, it seems.
I next became a driver, and thought myself a man;
The box he raised my pay as I advanced:
In going through the gangway with the mules at my command,
I was prouder than the President of France.
But now my pride is weakened and I am weakened too;
I tremble till I'm scarcely fit to stand:
If I were taught book learning instead of driving teams,
Today, kind friends, I'd be a richer man.
I'm getting old and feeble and I can work no more:
I have laid the rusty mining tools away.
For forty years and over I have toiled about the mines,
But now I'm getting feeble, old and gray.
I started in the breaker and went back to it again,.
But now my work is finished for all time;
The only place that's left me is the almshouse for a home,
That's where I'll lay this weary head of mine.
Class Field Trip to the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour Background Information:
The Lackawanna Coal Mine is a museum and retired coal mine located in
McDade Park, Scranton, Pennsylvania. We will board a mine car and descend the
#190 slope into the Clark Vein of coal. As we descend slowly into the earth, we will
watch the sky slowly disappear. Soon we’ll reach “the foot” and explore 300 feet
beneath the earth through an anthracite coal mine originally opened in 1860. We
will accompany a miner in the winding underground gangways and rock tunnels
passing three different veins of hard coal, the mule boy and the nipper, the monkey
vein and the dead chute. He will explain the fascinating methods used, and the heroic
efforts involved, in deep mining history. After the mine tour we will visit the
Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Heritage Museum and view exhibits on Northeast PA's
mining and industrial history.
Wrapping it all up….
We have learned about the history of coal mining in northeast Pennsylvania
with an emphasis on the working conditions and the dangers of the trade. We
discussed the Knox Mine disaster of 1959 and its connection to and impact
on the coal mining industry in Northeast Pennsylvania. Then, we visited a retired coal
mine and explored the primary sources present at the Pennsylvania’s Anthracite
Heritage Museum.
Now it is time to reflect…
Write a 1-2 page journal entry from the perspective of one of the following:
-A family member who lost someone in the Knox Mine Disaster
-A miner who escaped the tragic Knox Mine Disaster
-A reporter who witnessed the aftermath of the Knox Mine Disaster
* Cite facts and details from the primary sources
presented in class or at the coal mine.
References
http://paposter.com/articles/disaster-murder.pdf - A copy of a local newspaper article that
was originally published in the Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine
http://www.undergroundminers.com/knox.html - The official site of the abandoned mine
research, inc. provides a short summary of the incident and pictures
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsSqwNizhy8&feature=channel - Hard Coal Part 3
Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal Mining History filmed in a coal mine (1930’s-2008)
http://www.msha.gov/district/Dist_01/Fatals/histfat.htm - US Department of Labor Mine
Safety and Health Administration chart of coal mine disaster fatalities from 1846 until 1959
http://www.msha.gov/District/Dist_01/Reports/Knox/page01.htm - The U.S. Department of
Labor Mine Safety & Health Administration report of the mine inundation of the river slope
mine on January 22, 1959
http://www.hsp.org/default.aspx?id=273 - The Historical Society of Pennsylvania provides the
audio for “The Old Miner’s Refrain”
http://explorepahistory.com/displayimage.php?imgId=1489 - Explore PA History provides a
summary of the Knox Mine Disaster as well as photos
http://www.msha.gov/District/Dist_01/Reports/Knox/cover.htm - The MSHA report of the
Knox Mine Disaster includes historical pictures of the incident

Knox Mine Disaster - Fall10-OROL-02