Exploring Central – “Sad News From Central Mine”

Sad News From Central Mine
As was the case in many early copper mines, the miners at Central were lowered down to the mine in the same type of rail car that was used to raise the rock from the mine. This car, commonly called a skip, was raised by means of a wire-rope that was attached to the skip at one end and to a large hoisting engine at the other end. The hoist engineer operated the hoist engine that raised and lowered the skip. On Monday, April 22, 1872, the wire rope at Central snapped as men were being lowered into the mine. Most of the thirteen men who were riding the skip were Cornish. This poem, “Sad News from Central Mine” appeared in the newspapers in Cornwall some time after the accident. While it was a poetic way of announcing and commemorating those who died it also provides a glimpse of the hard life these Cornish miners faced as they toiled in the “foreign land” we now call Central.

Sad news from across the ocean we hear,
Sad news from the Central Mine,
Sad news for the wives and children dear,
Of death in that distant clime.

‘Twas ten o’clock on an April night,
When a change of men took place,
And thirteen miners in the skip— “all right;”
Down the shaft were lowered apace.

This photograph shows a man car used in the Quincy Mine during the 1920's. The 'skip' mentioned in the poem would have been a car with larger sides that normally would have carried copper ore to the surface but was also used during that time period to lower men to the mine workings underground.
This photograph shows a man car used in the Quincy Mine during the 1920’s. The ‘skip’ mentioned in the poem would have been a car with larger sides that normally would have carried copper ore to the surface but was also used during that time period to lower men to the mine workings underground.

Ten men were on the top of the skip
And three seem’d sage within,
When the wire-rope broke with a sudden snap,
And it fell with an awful din.

Two of the men fell in the level below,
In the ten-fathom level ’tis said;
Joel Eade had his arms and legs broken like tow,
Thomas Bone was killed stone dead.

The cries of poor Bade were dreadful to hear
As up from the shaft they came,
Which fili’d the hearts of the miners with fear,
As they stood and heard the same.

The guides from the skip fell off with a crash,
To the fifty-fathom they fell,
And across the shaft they fix’d with a smash
‘Twas to several a funeral knell.

The three in the skip alive remain’d,
Though frighten’d and much alarm’d.—
In that position awhile sustain’d,
Not a hair on their head was harm’d.

Eight others were kili’d in that dread place,
Midst broken timber and stones,
With limbs all smash’d and disfigur’d face,
Torn-off flesh and splinter’d bones.

Double Jacking
This classic photo shows two miners “Double Jacking” to drill a hole by candlelight. Many of the miners at Central were of Cornish descent and thus were often called “Cousin Jacks.” While none of these photographs were taken inside of the Central mine they are representative of the mining done during the time of the tragedy at Central.  (MTUCCHC).

When the engineer found the rope was broke,
The whistle he sounded aloud,
To summon some help to the fearful spot,
Where soon assembled a crowd.

Some quickly descended the fatal shaft,
A horrible scene to behold;
Eight of their comrades of life bereft,
Their bodies all bloody and cold.

They might have gone down much deeper still
Full eighty fathom or more;
For the shaft was a hundred and twenty deep,
Where they sought for the precious ore.

And one by one they were soon brought up,
And laid in the change-house near,
‘Till coffins were made in which they were put,
And sorrow and sighing were there.

To their homes they bore them in sad array,
For awhile with friends to remain,
And then to the grave on the first of May,
There proceeded a mournful train.

On the fourth of May, poor Joel Bade,
Of his terrible winds did die;
And soon with his comrades side by side,
In that foreign grave did lie.

The names of the dead we must here record,
All bred in English homes,
With wives and children depending for bread,
Who now their sad fate bemoan.
From Bovey Tracy, in Devonshire,
There two of the victims came, —
Philip Roberts who’s left a family dear,
Thomas Champion a young man’s name.

Joel Eade from Ludgvan; from Zennor three
Who first-cousins were well known—
Thomas Berriman and John—two brothers they,
And also Thomas Bone.

Two of these miners are each swinging an 8 pound sledge hammer while the third is holding a chisel as they attempt to cut a large mass of copper. As can be seen on the left of the photo, all of their work would have been done by candlelight. (KNHP)
Two of these miners are each swinging an 8 pound sledge hammer while the third is holding a chisel as they attempt to cut a large mass of copper. As can be seen on the left of the photo, all of their work would have been done by candlelight. (KNHP, Louis G. Koepel  Collection, Quincy Mine General  Photograph File)

From Callington was Jacob Grey; —
And William Barritt too;
John Ivey from Camborne came thy say,
Edward Thomas from Marketjew. *

The names of those who were sav’d in the skip
All three from Cornwall came.
And one of them was a Gwinear chap,
And Edward Trezise was his name.

John Pearce from Crowan known full well,
John Rowe from Camborne town.
And these were spar’d alive to tell
Of their comrades stricken down.

Four families at Lake Superior live,
With husbands and fathers gone;
Without some friends their wants relieve,
How sad in that land alone.

At home there are four more families left,
No husbands of father dear,
By this sad accident of those bereft,
They liv’d with a love sincere.

This sign was erected to mark the spot where the tragedy occured that sparked the poem, "Sad News from Central Mine.
This sign was erected to mark the spot where the tragedy occurred that sparked the poem, “Sad News from Central Mine.

Though their graves are made in a foreign land,
And their forms no more we shall see,
yet we hope to meet them on Canaan’s strand,
Each one with his family.

For when the last trump sounds thro’ the skies,
Each one shall appear again,
And may they and us with joy arise,
The Savior to meet. —Amen.