“A frightful scene” – A Wiconisco boy’s narrow escape from death in a mine accident in 1859

The newspapers from the years before the Civil War are filled with stories of miners and laborers from the towns of Lykens and Wiconisco perishing due to accidents deep underground. In this entirely unregulated industry, dangerous working conditions were nearly universal. Horrific accidents were depressingly common.

One of these accidents, however, resulted in a miraculous, twist ending.

The following comes from the Adams Sentinel, March 7, 1859:

A frightful scene occurred at Lykenstown, Dauphin County, a few days since. A chain attached to a drift car in the slope of the Lykens Valley Coal Company, broke whilst the car was running down the plane of the slope at an angle of about 40 degrees, consequently the car ran with such a tremendous velocity, that when it arrived a the terminus of the road it was literally broken into splinters.

A small lad was in the car at the time the chain broke, and everybody of course expected that it would be utterly impossible to save him alive, but to the astonishment of everybody the lad escaped unharmed.

Not a particle of his body was injured in the least, and his first inquiry was “where is my dinner?” which had been in the car wrapt up in a handkerchief.

That is one lucky lad. Unfortunately, his identity remains unknown. I’d love to know whether his good fortune held out over a long career in the coal holes of Wiconisco Township.

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