CASTLE GATE MINE DISASTER
Funeral Mass for Castle Gate Greek miners
On 8 March 1924, in the second major mine disaster of the twentieth
century in the Utah coal fields, 172 men lost their lives, including one
worker who inadvertently inhaled deadly carbon monoxide during the rescue
efforts. At 8:00 A.M. two violent explosions ripped through the Number Two
Mine of the Utah Fuel Company, located at Castle Gate in the canyon north
of present-day Helper and Price, in Carbon County. The cause of the disaster
was attributed to inadequate watering down of the coal dust from the previous
shift's operations, as well as the use of open flames in the workers' headlamps.
No workers in the mine survived the explosion; fatalities included 49 Greeks,
22 Italians, 8 Japanese, 7 English, 6 Austrians (Yugoslavs), 2 Scotch,
1 Belgian, and 76 Americans, including 2 African-Americans. The ethnic make-up
of the victims of the disaster reflected the international character of
Utah's mining industry.
Governor Charles R. Mabey formed a committee to distribute $132,445.13 collected
publicly for the aid of the 417 individuals who were left without support
following the disaster. The committee hired one of the first social workers
in the country, Annie D. Palmer, to assess needs and disburse funds. A granite
and bronze monument is located in the canyon north of Helper to mark the
general location of the mining accident; the Castle Gate cemetery east of
the canyon contains many of the victims' graves.
See: Allan Kent Powell, The Next Time We Strike: Labor in the Utah Coal
Fields, 1900-1933 (1985); Saline Hardee Fraser, "One Long Day That
Went on Forever," Utah Historical Quarterly 48 (1980); Michael
Katsanevas, Jr., "The Emerging Social Worker and the Distribution of
the Castle Gate Relief Fund, "Utah Historical Quarterly 50 (1982);
and Janeen Arnold Costa, "A Struggle for Survival and Identity: Families
in the Aftermath of the Castle Gate Mine Disaster," Utah Historical
Quarterly 56 (1988).
Janeen Arnold Costa