1912 W.Va. mine explosion graves to be cleared

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HAVACO, W.Va. – A project to clear the unmarked graves of miners killed in a 1912 explosion in McDowell County is getting help from the Boy Scouts of America.


The cemetery is located in Havaco, a few miles west of Welch, near the site of the Jed Coal & Coke Co. mine explosion that killed 83 miners. Most of the victims are buried there.


Scouts will help clear the cemetery as a community service project during the 2013 National Boy Scout Jamboree in July at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County. The McDowell County Commission has been working the organization to identify potential projects in the county that scouts can undertake, County Commission President Gordon Lambert said.


“We know that the Boy Scouts will not be able to operate any machinery, so we’re going to rely on the AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) to help us when we need to use machinery,” Lambert told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.


The graves are located behind a row of houses in the unincorporated community, said Jerry Step with the County Commission.


“It’s not marked, and that’s something we need to address in the future,” Step told the newspaper. “The first thing we need to do is get the site cleared and work on keeping it cleared.”


Many of the miners killed in the explosion were immigrants with few friends and no relatives, Lacy Dillon wrote in his 1976 book on West Virginia’s mine disasters, “They Died in Darkness.”


“Some were imported and no one knew anything about them. Few cared,” Dillon wrote.


Scouts also will help with work at two other abandoned cemeteries in the county, Step said.


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