Coal Mining Disaster Finally Makes Its Mark

WILKES-BARRE — After almost 100 years, the second largest industrial disaster in Pennsylvania is finally getting some recognition. That disaster happened right in Wilkes-Barre. Now the Baltimore Mine Tunnel disaster is being remembered, and students and professors from King’s College made it happen.

If you talk to Katie Lavery and her family in Wilkes-Barre she’ll tell you about a tragic coal mining incident that goes back almost 100 years. It’s a story you probably haven’t heard.

“My grandmother had laid her two sons out in the living room, to her two sons, Michael and Victor, were both killed,” said Katie Lavery of Wilkes-Barre.

On June 5, 1919, blasting powder hit an electrical wire in the Baltimore Mine Tunnel in Wilkes-Barre. It caused an explosion that killed 92 people and injured dozens more. Katie Lavery’s two uncles died in the explosion.

The site is along Spring Street behind Home Depot in Wilkes-Barre. There’s not much to see, but soon, it will have a historical marker.

“As a historian, you want to be able to make your work useful to people in the community,” said King’s College history professor Tom Mackaman.

When King’s College history professor Tom Mackaman heard Katie’s story, he and another professor created a course focused on getting the site a historical marker. Some of the students had their own connections to the mining industry.

“My aspect on the course was the Unions and the working conditions and two of my great-grandfathers were injured in the coal mines,” said King’s sophomore Anthony Cardone.

The students made their case to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrsiburg. They received the marker earlier this week.

For Katie Lavery, it was a lifelong dream that finally came true.

“I jumped and screamed and hollered. I just can’t believe how happy it made me,” said Lavery.

For the King’s classes, it was an experience that will ensure they’ll never look at this piece of land the same way again.

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