ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology»
  • History of the Modern Era

History of Pleasant Grove's Mining Disaster

Updated on November 23, 2017
vicki goodwin profile image

Sojourner is a history buff that shares stories about her ancestors and local history. She believes History is a fascinating journey.

Mining site

An example of the size of an operating coal mine during the same time period.
An example of the size of an operating coal mine during the same time period. | Source

November 22, 1922

Pleasant Grove is a small community on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama. The people that settled there in the late 1800’s were farmers by trade. In 1916, Woodward Iron and Coal Company opened a mine in the community and became the employer of most of the men in the area.

It was a chilly damp November morning when the miners left their homes and headed off to the Woodward #3 mine. November 22, 1922, started as all mornings started in this small farming and mining community between Bessemer and Birmingham Alabama. Children watched their fathers and older brothers leaving for work at the Woodward # 3 mine just as they did every other morning. Children would run alongside their fathers as they drove the truck to work with their lunch buckets and containers of milk in hand. Children would make a game of racing the family truck down the dirt drive to the main street. This morning was no different. The younger children went to school, the men went to work.

These men, old and young passed the Methodist church and the town cemetery on their route to the mine. Arriving to start their shift that morning, no one knew that so many would never make it out at the end of the day.

Everything was normal and work was progressing until the middle of the afternoon when there was an accident. Three mine cars loaded with coal from deep inside the mines were being hauled to the mine entrance. As they reached the top of the incline there was a break in the cable and all three cars roll back into the entrance of the mine. As they rolled back, they severed an electric cable, which caused a spark. When the spark ignited the coal dust, there was an explosion in the mine opening. The explosion which was both heard and felt in Birmingham, which is nine miles away. Over 400 miners were inside the mine at the time. The wreckage of the coal cars, the fires, and the poisonous gasses that remained in the mine entrance trapped them inside. The fifty men that were working in and around the mine entrance were immediately killed as the flame shot out of the mine and across the yard to the Tipple. At this point, no one knew the fate of the others trapped inside.


The three coal cars sliced the electric cable of the tipple which sparked a fire with the coal dust and the gas in the surrounding mine opening.
The three coal cars sliced the electric cable of the tipple which sparked a fire with the coal dust and the gas in the surrounding mine opening. | Source

Coal Miner

Over 400 miners were in the mine when the explosion occurred.  Many ended up walking out in Dolomite and slowly making their way back up the hill to Pleasant Grove. their families were unsure of their fate as they walked home.
Over 400 miners were in the mine when the explosion occurred. Many ended up walking out in Dolomite and slowly making their way back up the hill to Pleasant Grove. their families were unsure of their fate as they walked home. | Source

The family members heard the explosion from all over the community in western Jefferson County. The noise caused all the women and children to come out of their homes and start heading to the mine. They came on foot, in cars, and trucks. They carried the small children as the older children helped with their brothers and sisters. No one knew what to expect. There was smoke over the mine and they knew that they were going into a situation they had all dreaded and feared. No one at this time knew how bad it was. The entire community raced to the number three mine.

Dolomite coal mine

A photograph of the Dolomite portion of the #3 mine. Many men ended up here after walking through the tunnels to safety.
A photograph of the Dolomite portion of the #3 mine. Many men ended up here after walking through the tunnels to safety. | Source

The scramble that took place inside the mine made news once survivors came out of the tunnels. The stories told that were then reported in the newspaper about the acts of individuals. One such story told of the Foreman that asked thirty men to remain and help secure the area with canvas and stone to block the “after-damp gas”. One man refused to stay and his body was later found, once the fans had been turned on and the air cleared, just a few feet from the brattice they had built.

Many men were able to escape using the underground tunnels arriving at the other entrance in the neighboring town of Dolomite several miles away. The tunnels had allowed them to escape the gasses which were released by the explosion at the front of the mine.

Men told of stepping into slight niches and blocking themselves in with their own clothing to escape the gas. The rescue of the men trapped inside continued all night with family standing as close to the mine as allowed. Mothers, wives, and children watching as one by one a man would struggle to the top and exit the mine. They would gather the miner close and hurry home relieved that their little family had been spared the fate of the families of those 89 that never made it out.

The Associated Press reported the next day that the vigil went on all night with men struggling to exit the mouth of the mine. Some men appeared leading the wounded out with them. Some of the men that eventually were found dead had gone back to help others. This was a community in every sense of the word and everyone felt the effects of that day. These men were family, friends, and co-workers and they were heroes going through a nightmare of unfathomable proportions.

First Methodist Church and cemetery
First Methodist Church and cemetery | Source

Many of the ones that died are buried in the small Pleasant Grove cemetery. The cemetery that is right outside the entrance to the #3 mine. The cemetery is located directly across the street from the Pleasant Grove Methodist Church. Tombstones that state that men like B.T. Dobbs a thirty-three-year-old man were killed in the Woodward Iron Company’s #3-coalmine explosion November 22, 1922.

Twenty-one-year-old Hershell Warnick and Tom C. Warnick, his thirty-eight-year-old brother both were lost that day.

Young men like Hugh Connell who was just twenty-four and men like fifty-eight-year-old D. A. Busby (Andy) all left families grieving their loss.

There are two Bolton's, John and Will. Marvin and Tim Brown. I have not been able to discover if they were brother, father, and son, or any other relation or even their ages. The news did not carry the same information about the black victims of the explosion as they did for the white. They rarely mentioned their name and gave no tributes or details. I was able to find a list of black victims on the Alabama Mine Accident report online. Doc Byars and Arthur Carlisle are both explosion victims of that day. The men that were wounded or killed that day touched most of the families in the area known as Pleasant Grove.

Their tombstones stand as a silent tribute to the 89 men, marking the most tragic day in the history of one small farming community in Alabama.

© 2010 Sojourner McConnell


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Wanda Hartley 7 months ago

      My grandfather, Lidge Stanford, died in this accident. My mother, Ida Stanford, was only 9 years old when this happened. Needless to say, she had to help her mom with a younger sister and 4 brothers. I can’t image going through something like this. I’m sure my mother lost her childhood at this time because she had to take on the role as an adult and help raise her siblings. This made my mother a stronger woman. Thank you for sharing this article, so others will know some of Pleasant Grove history.

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 7 months ago from Winchester Kentucky

      CoffmanCarmen G I am so happy you wrote. I loved living there and found the people so gentle and kind. I did read a lot of documents concerning the Coffman family as they were some of the earliest residents. There is a rich history there and this was just one of the fascinating details.

      I worked with Nora Buzby when she was 91 so we can always learn some great information from that age. I still have family in the area and that tornado was terrifying. I have been back and it totally looks different.

      I would love to share what I know with you if you wanted to contact me at I would welcome your questions. Enjoy your projects they are so important!

      Thank you for reading and especially commenting. Can I ask what Grandmother Coffman's first and maiden name is?

    • CoffmanCarmen G profile image

      CoffmanCarmen G 7 months ago

      Hi, I see this article was updated March 2017, so Sojourner McConnell, I am hoping to connect with you. I am a descendant of the Coffman family, and I found your story posted by a friend from P.G. around the time of the March 2017 update. I recently remarried and moved back to this sweet town. You guessed right, to one of those local families, lol. Seems all I wanted was to go conquer when I left, and I am back home now. I am working on some community projects, the 2011 tordando , well our folks pulled it back together like they always do. However, You can never go back to the way things used to be, that's not my goal, but I would love to read more of your research. I love this small city, and I love all the people who are here now. If you would reach out to me, or I will look for you, I would love to continue the story!

      Thank you,

      from the bottom of my heart,

      and my Grandmother Coffman 98 years old and still going in this small town.

      We are all blessed by your article, and hard work.

      Your story has passed through the great vine of Facebook through many generation of Pleasant Grove residents.

      May the place you call home now, cherish you, and motivate you to do what you did for us!

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 15 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Coal mines are dangerous places to work. You provide great research and outstanding sepia photos, adding an eerie quality to a horrible tragedy.

    • profile image

      Thomas E. Badham 15 months ago

      Great article.

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 15 months ago from Winchester Kentucky

      Your Grandfather, Jim Reed, and your's John Scholl were lucky to escape that. It was a terrible day for most of the families in Pleasant Grove with most in the community having a family member lost, missing, or dead. I can not even imagine the fear of walking to the mine and waiting for news. I am so thankful to Nora Busby for sharing this story with me and giving me other names to talk to about their memories on that day.

    • profile image

      Joe Kirkpatrick 15 months ago

      My Grandfather Jim Reed was working night shift and had just gotten off work when the explosion happened! A tragic day that I've known about all my life!

    • profile image

      David Blue 15 months ago

      I lived in Pleasant Grove and was honored by an invitation to join a group of families having a BBQ across the street from the football field and to my surprise I learned of this story while listening to many stories of family members who were relatives of this tragic day. Thank you for this story it should never be forgotten.

    • profile image

      Kelley scholl 15 months ago

      I am from pleasant grove, I had heard of this accident but did not know all the details, my granddaddy john scholl had told me this story as a teenager, but again not in detail. Thank you for this, my family attended the Methodist church as well, the history of the little town I called home growing up is amazing.

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 2 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      The mines were an important part of the history of Pleasant Grove and the other surrounding areas. When I was researching this mining accident, I was talking to Norah Buzbee who at the time was in her 90's. She could remember that day just like it had happened the week before.

      I knew I had to share the story. It was too important not to.

    • profile image

      James Parker 2 years ago

      I grew up in Pleasant Grove. We moved from Cullman County in 1953. I remember seeing the mine in operation with the great big trucks taking the slag out to dump it. I have ridden bicycles and later drove cars up on the slate dump. I have never heard this story however, and I find it very interesting. Most of the names mentioned in the article are familiar to me since I went to school with thier descendants.

    • profile image

      ashley smith 3 years ago

      I have grown up in P.G., been here since the 70's. I have been told about this tragedy and read many articles. I'm more than sure that over by the slate dumps a mine entrance was filled up with tires and cement. Once a kid was on a dirt bike riding up on the slate dumps and fell in part of a mine shaft. He survived thankfully! Thanks for the article.

    • Ole Number One profile image

      Tim Hyde 4 years ago from Louisiana

      No, they filled it in around the entrance and covered it over. It was located at the end of 3rd st. off to the right about 2000 ft at the wood line.

    • profile image

      aaron thrasher 4 years ago

      I was born here and raised. I knew of the slate dumps but didn't know where the mine entrance was. Can you still see it from the road or where it once was.

    • profile image

      Woody Talley 4 years ago

      My Dad told of his uncle who did in a mining accident in the #3 mines in Pleasant Grove. I'll be it's this accident. He too is buried in the Pleasant Grove Cemetary across from the Methodist Church. His name, Zollie Talley.

    • profile image

      Kelley(scholl) pope 4 years ago

      I grew up in pleasant grove, my granddaddy was fire chief there and all the scholl family grew up there. I can remember hearing this story from him and him talking about the lives lost. Thank you for sharing this....

    • profile image

      Jerry Wheeler 4 years ago

      My uncle died in this disaster. My father was a young boy when it occurred. He told many times of going immediately to the mine upon hearing and feeling the explosion. He watched as a lad as wife's searched among bodies for husbands and parents searched for sons. He described, in vivid detail, the subsequent rows of caskets at the Pleasant Grove Methodist Church. This was a devastating blow to a very quiet community. Thanks for the history.

    • profile image

      Brittney McElrath 4 years ago

      wow its so interesting to learn about the history of pleasant grove, especially since it was so close to my house! I live one street over from that cemetery, I can look directly at it standing in my yard! this story also gave me chills because now I know how dangerous working in the mines can really be, my dad is a coal miner at Jim Walter #7...and I fear every night he goes to work that somethings gonna happen to him! but I just wondering why no one ever really talks about this incident!

    • profile image

      Karen McKee 4 years ago

      My parents moved to P.G. in 1956 and I was born and raised there. Never knew about this and find it so interesting to learn of my hometown history. Is there a way to get this article downloaded without downloading the zipware? It loaded a Trojan onto my computer so afraid to try again. Would like a copy of this please. Thanks for writing it and including photos.

    • profile image

      Ashley Grounds 4 years ago

      I am still very young only 22 but this article is so interesting to me! To find out all this information of my hometown. I now want to go find the entrance to the mine and the grave markers of the people who lost their lives. 11-22-22 will now always have a place in my heart and will always be remebered. Although i have no connections to the mine and still touches my heart!

    • profile image

      Donna Harbin Bowser 4 years ago

      I grew up in this Pleasant Grove community. I never heard about this mine accident. My parents are burie d in the little cemetary across from the PG Methodist Church. Will look for grave markers from the mining accident. Thank you for sharing this sad story. Pleasant Grove is a strong community, removing from the April 11 tornados. It seems to have always been a strong community.

    • profile image

      Robert Wales 4 years ago

      I was born in a house 1mile from that mine in 1940. The accidet was talked about often when I was young. The mine reopened and operated, Im guessing, into the late 50s. my dad would sing us kids a song of a little girl begging her dad not to go to work that day because she had a dream something bad was gonna happen. He went anyway and was killed. All us kids would cry when he sang it.

    • profile image

      Kaye Capps Hutchins 4 years ago

      Thank you for this article. Both of my grandfathers Robert Capps and Mark Shearer worked at this mine until it shut down.

    • Ole Number One profile image

      Tim Hyde 4 years ago from Louisiana

      I lived on 2nd Place in PG from 76 - 94. I could walk out of my parents house and be at the entrance to that mine (I think it would be the same one it was abandoned) in 4 minutes. I can't tell you how many times my friends and me were in that shaft and climbing on the mountains of slate and never had a clue this stuff happened. Nobody ever said a word about it. My parents were from other places close by so I suppose all the older people had moved on or died off by the late 70's and it just got lost in memory. One thing I do remember vividly is that giant concrete coal railcar loader. I saw an icicle hanging off of it one time when it was snowy and cold. It was the biggest one I have ever seen to this day. (Alabama remember) It was at least 1 foot around at the base and about 6 feet long just hanging off there. No cell phones back then to snap a pic.

    • profile image

      John Travis 5 years ago

      My Great Grand Father, John H. Anthony lost his leg (unrelated accident) at this mine.

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 5 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      Thank you Brett for commenting and informing us of your Grandfather's time at the mine. I hope he was a survivor at the time of the accident.

    • profile image

      Brett Duncan 5 years ago

      My grandfather Dave Thrasher worked there..

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 5 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      When I was doing the research on this it broke my heart to think about the families that waited throughout the night for word on their relatives. I am sorry that your family suffered this loss, Gail. It was a terrible day in Pleasant Grove.

      Thank you Jamie for taking the time to read this and comment. I too believe that it is important to know the history of both the city and country.

    • profile image

      Gail McGinnis 5 years ago

      My Grandfather, Hubert Earley, was in the accident, but he was not injured, but his brother Cleve Earley, was killed. My thoughts are of the families waiting to see if there loved ones were safe, and the ones that lost there loved ones.

    • profile image

      Jamie 5 years ago

      This is so great. My property is on top if this mine. I love knowing the history of our city and this land!

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 6 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      Jools, Thank you for your votes and sharing this article. The people still speak of the incident and it has been almost a full century. For a town that small to lose so many, it means that almost every family lost someone.

      Case1worker, Thank you for reading this article and taking the time to comment. That is what stayed with me as well, the thoughts of the wives and mothers waiting on any news and praying for each other.

      MollyMeadows, thank you for reading it. I agree the safety precautions were almost nonexistent. Mining was such a dangerous field, it was awesome when someone was able to leave that field before they were harmed.

    • mollymeadows profile image

      Mary Strain 6 years ago from The Shire

      Vicki, this was an interesting hub. My grandfather was once briefly a miner in Kentucky but he quit, and I'm glad he did. Mining is such a dangerous occupation even today and in the past they had almost no safety precautions in place. Thanks for bringing this incident to light!

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      Really interesting hub about a horrible accident- when tradgedies like this are recounted it does make you stop and think .

      I can imagine the mothers and wives eagerly looking at each man as he came out of the pit- and the sorrow for those who did not make it out.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 6 years ago from North-East UK

      Vicki, this is a very interesting article on a subject I find very interesting - when I was studying my family tree, I discovered a gr-gr uncle who died in a mining accident, he was only 37. He was just one man and so I expect my own family (at the time - 1920s) were pretty devastated but you cannot imagine the effects on a community of a terrible disaster like that you've described.

      Voted up and shared.

    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 6 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      I am happy that you found this. I believe that history needs to be retold and with damage like the tornadoes shows how fast history can be erased. It is good to know that people like your dad are helping repair Pleasant Grove.

      Thank you for taking the time to read the article and to comment.

    • profile image

      Misty Leader Ayotte 6 years ago

      I would like to say thank you so much for writing this because i've been looking for this article for a while. My dad is cleaning up the tornado mess in Alabama and one of the job sites he's managing is the area that the mine was at. I walked to it and it was covered my trees because of how long it sat there. We moved a branch and we didn't see much because It was a far drop. There was no way we we're going to try to move anymore branches and trees so we walked away. I was really curious about the mine so i'm glad that you posted this :)

    • profile image

      Charles Turner 7 years ago

      Well written article and very interesting.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)