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Monongah mine memorial service scheduled this week

By EDDIE TRIZZINO

Times West Virginian

MONONGAH, W.Va.  — West Virginia State Sen. Roman Prezioso Jr. doesn’t remember hearing many stories of the Monongah No. 7 and No. 9 Mines from his grandfather, though he mined for much of his life.

The day the deadliest mine disaster in America happened was the day the miner missed work, sparing his life from the catastrophe.

Pictured is the opening of the No. 6 mine in Monongah
(File photo)

“I never remember my grandfather talking about the mine,” Prezioso said. “It was a different culture. It was as if ‘man, we had a bad day on Dec. the 6, 1907. I’m glad that’s over. Let’s get on with our lives.’ And it was a little strange.”

This disaster happened Dec. 6, 1907, and is coming up on the 110-year anniversary. To memorialize the occasion, the Town of Monongah will hold a service dedicated to the still unknown number of deaths caused in the disaster Wednesday at the town hall.

Prezioso will be the event’s emcee, as he was at the centennial memorial service 10 years ago, because of his ties with the mines.

“My grandfather worked in that coal mine. When the mines blew up it was a Catholic holiday, the Feast of Saint Nicholas, and a lot of men didn’t go to work that day. He was one of the men that didn’t go to work. His life was subsequentially spared, and that’s how I came along,” Prezioso said.

On the day of the explosion, more than 300 miners were recorded to be working within, almost all of which would have perished in the dust and gas reaction that occurred. However, because the regulations of the time were more lax, the true number of deaths is unknown and unreported, according to Prezioso.

“Men were signed up to a particular mine, and that’s where they worked out of, but it was really just a continuous mine down along the West Fork River down in Monongah,” Prezioso said. “So what happened was the mine exploded, took out both mines.

“The men were paid by the more coal that they loaded, so the more they got paid. So it was beneficial to them to bring family members into the mine to pick the coal. They can account for 362 coal miners, but they don’t know how many other relatives were in the mines. They knew there were 500 coffins that they did fill. It was estimated that more than 500 people were killed when the mine blew up.”

Prezioso is working with Monongah Mayor Greg Vandetta, who also took part in organizing the ceremony.

“The last ceremony we had was four or five years ago, but they wanted to have one for the 110th anniversary,” Vandetta said.

Vandetta said that besides the citizens of Monongah and the relatives of the victims of the explosion, the ceremony will also be attended by visitors from Italy, as many of the miners who passed were Italian immigrants. The two said the group of travelers will bring an olive tree, as well as soil from each of the deceased victims hometowns to give to the church. Prezioso said the event will finish around noon at the Monongah cemetery for the soil to be dispersed, where many of the deceased miners are buried.

“There were more Italian descendents that came from Italy that were killed in that mine than any other nationality. They sort of feel like it’s their disaster,” Prezioso said.

The ceremony begins with a mass at 8:30 a.m. at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Monongah. A reception will then take place at 1 p.m. at Monongah Town Hall.

Email Eddie Trizzino at [email protected]m and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

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