Memorial held for deadliest coal mine disaster in Kentucky's his - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Memorial held for deadliest coal mine disaster in Kentucky's history

Dozens of black ribbons could be seen around downtown Clay in Webster County, KY in remembrance of the 1917 tragedy. Dozens of black ribbons could be seen around downtown Clay in Webster County, KY in remembrance of the 1917 tragedy.
WEBSTER CO., KY (WFIE) -

The Clay community in Webster County had its first-ever memorial to remember the worst mine disaster in Kentucky's history.

100 years ago on August 4, 1917, an explosion at the West Kentucky Coal Company No. 7 Mine, near the town of Clay killed 62 people. During Friday's ceremony, people remembered those who died and the heroes who stepped up.

Black ribbons could be seen throughout the small town in remembrance.

Out of 153 men and teens who worked the mine, 62 were killed after the explosion. Generations later, the town remains a mining community.

Even County Judge-Executive Steve Henry worked for 22-years as a miner before taking office in 2016.

"It's much more than just a black rock," Henry said to the crowd while holding a piece of coal. "It's a way that we've fed our families. We've put our sons and daughters through college because of this black rock, and a lot of people have lost their lives working to dig this black rock."

"Records were not kept up like they are today," said President of the county's Genealogical Society, Paul Cowan. "It could've been others lost. We don't know a lot of their ages, there was young kids... kids who lost their lives."

On that day a century ago, grief swallowed the community, and help came from around the region, including a mine-rescue railroad car from Evansville and miners from Sturgis with special breathing equipment.

51 killed were African-Americans, who were recruited from the South during a labor strike. Some of them were buried in unmarked graves in nearby Rock Springs Cemetery.

Now, members of the Genealogical Society are working with county and state officials to properly mark the burials in honor of the men who lost their lives.

Copyright 2017. WFIE. All rights reserved.

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