Underground mining always has the potential to become deadly. The people of New Cumnock in Ayrshire, Scotland know that all too well after a mine collapsed, trapped 120 miners underground in Knockshinnoch Castle colliery. The tragic event became known as the Knockshinnoch disaster and it occurred in September 1950 in the village of New Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. The disaster began when a glaciated lake filled with liquid peat and moss flooded the pit workings, trapping more than a hundred miners underground. That set of a rescue effort that lasted for several days. Teams worked non-stop to reach the trapped men. They did finally reach the men, but by the time they were able to reach them, three days later, thirteen men had died.
The men who survived were all found together 24 hours after the disaster began, and the thirteen men who died had been separated from the main group. They were missing for two more days before they were finally found. When the lake flooded, it released a field about the size of a football field into the mine. The resulting crater was about 300 feet by 200 feet and about 50 feet deep. The crater then sent liquid peat cascading into the mine, effectively blocking any exit for the men.
Thankfully, the mine owners had the forethought to install a phone in the mine, and the miners were able to phone for help. There was no way of reaching them, but the rescuers knew they were still alive, so the rescue efforts began in earnest. Rescue workers decided the easiest way to get them out was through an abandoned mine, next door. It took until 10:30pm local time for the rescuers to clear a passage through the unused mine and break through the final 30-foot wall of coal and rock that separated the two collieries. The rescue team, made up of hundreds of miners, firefighters, and trained rescuers, worked all day to shore up the walls and ceiling of the old mine. Because the tunnels were so cramped, the workers had to work in shifts, using fans to disperse the gas known as firedamp which accumulates in sealed mines. Firedamp is not poisonous, but it reduces the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere making breathing difficult, not to mention the fact that it is also highly flammable. At one point, a rescue worker collapsed because the air was so foul. He had to be helped to the surface. The situation was really getting serious, and time was running out. The danger of explosion meant the rescuers had to use hand tools to cut through the rock delaying the rescue even more.
Everyone was very focused on saving the trapped men. The volunteers were working above ground, filling the crater made by the landslide with haystacks, trees and other materials to prevent any further slippage. They knew that is more peat fell into the hole, it could have blocked what little ventilation the trapped men had. The buried miners kept in phone contact every 15 minutes or so. They were told how they could help the rescue operation by digging carefully and slowly, so as not to let in a sudden rush of foul air from the unused pit, because they had no oxygen masks to help them breathe.
Finally, the wall was breached. To let the family and friends of the trapped men know that their loved ones were safe, a siren was sounded on the surface. Immediately, huge crowds gathered near the pithead. The police linked arms to form a protective cordon around the exit. The last thing the men needed was a rush of people the minute they reached the surface. Shortly before midnight, rescuers began taking food and drink into the pit for the miners. They had been underground for so long without nutrition and hydration. While the rescuers were now with the men, the process of bringing them out of the mine would not be a speedy one. The rescue tunnel was only wide enough for one man to crawl through at a time, and many are said to be weak, so they waited while they ate and drank some water, before beginning the trek out. The Area Manager of the National Coal Board David McArdle has described the rescue operation as the greatest in the history of Scottish mining.
My uncle, Elmer Johnson worked a number of places, mostly as a truck driver of one type or another. He moved furniture for Burke Moving and Storage and for United Van Lines, working for Tom Aurelius, and often taking his oldest son, Elmer along with him for a couple of weeks in the summertime. When his son, Elmer was older, they had the opportunity to work together at Dalgarno Transportation. Uncle Elmer was also a certified welder working on pipeline, and later worked in the Uranium mines at Shirley Basin. While Uncle Elmer worked hard to support his family, his job was never where his heart was. His heart was with his family, and showing them the great outdoors.
Uncle Elmer was raised loving the outdoors, and fishing was always a family fun time. Time spent at the lake, swimming, or just clowning around with his brothers was the way to have fun in the summer. For my cousin, Elmer, those are the times he remembers as the very best part of life. Camping, fishing the most of the lakes and quite a few of the creeks throughout the state of Wyoming. They camped out and rented cabins in places like Louis Lake and Meadowlark Lake. Elmer remembers that his dad was always happiest with a fishing pole in one hand and a beer in the other. It’s no wonder that Elmer has a boat and spends as much time at the lake as he can, often taking his niece, JeanAnn and her kids, Mykenzie and Ethan along so he can show them the great times he had as a kid.
Since Uncle Elmer passed away in 1981, when my cousin, Elmer was just 25 years old, those great family times have become more and more precious. His mom, Deloris Johnson’s passing in 1996 made that family time even more precious. Elmer has worked very hard to keep his dad’s dream lifestyle alive. In many ways, Elmer is carrying on his dad’s legacy, and I know that Uncle Elmer would be very pleased and very proud of Elmer. Today would have been Uncle Elmer’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Elmer. We love and miss you very much.
Anyone who has spent much time in the Black Hills has most likely seen Deadwood, and knows it to be a historic gambling town where many famous Wild West characters hung out and died. Legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane each left their mark. Hickok, a legendary man even in his own lifetime, was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall, while playing poker at the No. 10 Saloon on August 2, 1876. Calamity Jane was renowned for her excellent marksmanship, as well as her preference for men’s clothing, and brash behavior.
Deadwood also had, in addition to its tough individuals, others such as Reverend Henry W. Smith. Preacher Smith was the first Methodist minister to come to the Black Hills. Smith was mysteriously murdered on Sunday, August 20, 1876, while walking to Crook City to deliver a sermon. These individuals are just a few of the many notables buried in Mount Moriah Cemetary, which was established in 1877 or 1878.
That’s all well known to many people, but some may not know that the settlement of Deadwood began illegally in the 1870s on land which had been granted to the Native Americans. In 1874, Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills and announced the discovery of gold on French Creek near what is now Custer, South Dakota. That announcement ushered in the Black Hills Gold Rush and gave rise to the new and lawless town of Deadwood. In 1875, a miner named John Pearson found gold in a narrow canyon in the Northern Black Hills. This canyon became known as “Deadwood Gulch,” because of the many dead trees that lined the canyon walls at that time. The name stuck. Try as they might, the government couldn’t keep the situation under wraps, in order to honor the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which forever ceded the Black Hills to the Lakota-Sioux. The government dispatched several military units to forts in the surrounding area to keep people from entering the Hills. However, people illegally entered the area anyway, searching for gold or adventure. Despite the efforts of the military and federal government. They were driven by dreams and greed.
Once Deadwood was established, the mining camp was quickly swarming with thousands of prospectors searching for an easy way to get rich. Fred and Moses Manuel, claimed the Homestake Mine, which proved to be the most profitable in the area. Although the Manuels had been lucky, others were not so fortunate. Most of the early population was in Deadwood to mine for gold, but the lawless town naturally attracted a crowd of rough and shady characters too. These particular individuals made the early days of Deadwood rough and wild. A mostly male population eagerly patronized the many saloons, gambling establishments, dance halls, and brothels. These establishments were considered legitimate businesses and were well known throughout the area.
In 1890, the railroad connected the town to the outside world. Illegal beginnings aside, Deadwood was a town that was now here to stay. The treaty with the Lakota-Sioux was broken and the Black Hills would never again belong to them. As unfair as it was to break the treaty, I don’t think that it could have lasted forever anyway, because the United Stated was going to be populated from coast to coast one way or the other.
My brother-in-law, Lynn Cook, who goes by LJ, has always been a guy who loves to joke with those around him. Making people laugh is one of his favorite things to do, but he is also a family man, who really hasn’t ever wanted to be anything else. He drove truck for many years, and spent a number of years as a deputy sheriff in Casper, before moving his family to Thermopolis, Wyoming and then Powell, Wyoming, where they put down roots. At the time of his retirement, LJ was working in on of the area mines in Powell. As I said though, in all reality, LJ was a family man, and that was what he loved.
LJ and his wife, Debbie had three daughters, Machelle Moore and Susan Griffith, who both live in Powell too; and Nancy Cook who died a few minutes after her birth in Casper. That was the worst day of their married life. The loss of a child can tear a marriage apart, but their marriage was strong, and it endured. They have been blessed with four grandchildren, Weston Moore, Jala Satterwhite, Easton Moore, and Kaytlyn Griffith. They have been the continuing blessing of a long marriage. These days, LJ spends as much time with the grandkids as he can. They help him at the house, so he teaches them how to do things like mow the lawn, and to be safe. They love spending time with their grandparents. LJ also loves his dogs. They are practically inseparable. Of course, that is how most pet owners are. Our pets become a part of the family. They are just like a child or grandchild, and we love them. LJs dog is very faithful to him.
LJ loves the outdoors, and is happiest when they are camping in the Big Horn mountains. Like his kids, he and Debbie would live in the mountains if they could. LJ has always liked hunting and fishing too. But sitting around the campfire with his family is the priority in his life these days. Being retired gives him more time to spend with those he loves. Today is LJ’s birthday. Happy birthday LJ!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Hospitals and hospital ships should be off limits during a war…even to the enemy. Some things should be considered sacred n the work hospitals do, should not be attacked. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always seem to matter. The Glenart Castle was a hospital ship during World War I. On March 1, 1917, the ship suffered damaged when she struck a mine in the English Channel 8 nautical miles northwest of the Owers Lightship on 1 March 1917. The ship was repaired and returned to service. That damage was accidental. What happened later was not.
On February 26, 1918, Glenart Castle was leaving Newport, South Wales, on its way to Brest, France. Fishermen in the Bristol Channel saw her clearly lit up as a hospital ship. That was supposed to let everyone know that they were not to fire on the ship. John Hill, a fisherman on Swansea Castle, remembered “I saw the Hospital Ship with green lights all around her – around the saloon. She had her red side lights showing and mast-head light, and also another red light which I suppose was the Red Cross light.” Nevertheless, being lit up did nothing for the Glenart Castle. At 04:00, Glenart Castle was hit by a torpedo in the number 3 hold. The blast destroyed most of the lifeboats, and the subsequent pitch of the vessel as I listed hindered attempts to launch the remaining boats. In the eight minutes the ship took to sink, only seven lifeboats were launched. Rough seas and inexperienced rowers swamped most of the boats.
Of the 194 people o board, only 32 survived. A total of 162 people were killed, including the Captain, Bernard Burt, eight nurses of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, seven Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) medical officers and 47 medical orderlies. Of the hospital patients being treated on board, a total of 99 died. The matron of Glenart Castle, Miss Kate Beaufoy (1868-1918), was among those killed in the sinking. Beaufoy was a veteran of the South African War and the Gallipoli campaign. She kept a diary of her time on the ship. It is all her family has now. Evidence was found suggesting that the submarine that fired the torpedo may have shot at initial survivors of the sinking in an effort to cover up the sinking of Glenart Castle. It wasn’t bad enough that the hospital ship had been sunk, but they tried to make sure there were no survivors too. The body of a junior officer of Glenart Castle was recovered from the water close to the position of the sinking. It was marked with two gunshot wounds, one in the neck and the other in the thigh. The body also had a life vest indicating he was shot while in the water.
After the war, the British Admiralty sought the captains of U-Boats who sank hospital ships, in order to charge them with war crimes. Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Kiesewetter, the commander of UC-56, was arrested after the war on his voyage back to Germany and interned in the Tower of London. He was released on the grounds that Britain had no right to hold a detainee during the Armistice. To my knowledge, he never paid for his crimes. A memorial plaque was dedicated on the 84th anniversary of the sinking, February 26, 2002 near Hartland Point. The plaque’s inscription read, “In proud and grateful memory of those who gave their lives in the hospital ship Glenart Castle. Please remember, Master Lieutenant Commander Burt, Matron Katy Beaufoy, the ships officers, crew and medical staff who died when their ship was torpedoed by UC-56 in the early hours of 26th Feb 1918. The ship lies 20 miles WNW from this stone. For those in peril on the sea. R.I.P. Dedicated 26.02.2002.”
My Uncle Larry was well known to his family and his friends for being a real joker. He loved to tell jokes and make people laugh. He was also very handy with tools. He loved working on all kinds of things, from cars to carpentry. One time he was looking for one of his tools…specifically, his hammer, and couldn’t find it. He looked everywhere, and finally, when he could think of no other way to find it, he sat down on the floor by the cat, and asked, “Kitty…Whar’s the Hommer?” It was said in a joking way, but apparently, the kitty knew more than Uncle Larry expected. Of course, the kitty didn’t really know anything, but when Uncle Larry looked down…there beneath in a crack in the floorboards, was the hammer. I’m sure it was a surprise to Uncle Larry, because he didn’t think he would find it, but in a moment of resignation, he found it because of a silly question.
Uncle Larry was my mom’s best friend as a child. Just two years older than she was, they did a lot of things together. One time, Uncle Larry bought an old car…a junker. He worked on the car, fixing it up, with great plans for it in the future. That morning, he decided to take the car to school, and give his sister, Collene, my mother a ride while he was at it. They figured out pretty quickly that the brakes on the car probably needed more help than the engine had needed. Now they were driving down the road, had no way to stop. For me, this story brought visions of Fred Flintstone putting his heels to the pavement in an effort to stop quickly. Of course, reality is much different. According to my mom, her brother pulled off an amazing feat…swerving around every obstacle until he could finally get the car slowed down enough to coast to a stop. I can imagine that Uncle Larry was extremely relieved that he and his sister were not going to be in an accident. Accidents can be so scary, and it doesn’t take much of an impact to cause injury. I’m sure that my Uncle Larry was very thankful, but my mom was very proud of him. His driving was amazing according to her.
When Uncle Larry was older, he decided to go to work in Bemidji, Minnesota in a mine there. With World War II going on at the same time, the family found out that he had been drafted. They had no way to contact him, so it was decided that my mom, and her fiancé, my dad, and Dad’s sister, Ruth would drive up to Bemidji to let him know that he had to come home, and prepare to go to fight in the war. They went up there, but couldn’t find him right away. He had gone into town. Eventually they found him and headed back home to Casper, so that he could go and fight for his country. I’m sure that was a bittersweet trip for my mom, who was now unsure of his future. Thankfully, Uncle Larry came home from the war, and went on to become the wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and uncle that he was to us, as well as the great brother and son he had always been. Today Uncle Larry would have been 80 years old. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.