When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Thrice Cursed in Michel-Natal—1904, 1916 and 1938
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Whether it was many deaths or one death, the community wanted to pay their respects and acknowledge the importance of those killed.  The fraternal societies (Loggias) took on this responsibility and this scene shows the men with their commemorative sashes and the society ribbon worn on the “In Memoriam” side.  Members of the community gathered to watch this commemorative event, which even included the Italian band.The BC communities of Michel and Natal suffered their share of bad luck. A mine explosion (1904) killed seven men and set the town of Michel on fire. It was believed that a careless worker had been responsible, but the cause was never determined.

In 1916, during a violent thunderstorm, 12 men died at the Number 3 Mine in a mysterious methane gas and coal dust explosion. Some people thought lightening might have been the cause, but the theory was rejected and no other explanation was found. Then, another explosion (1938) rocked the Number 3 Mine, once again during a thunderstorm! Five men were underground. Only two survived.

The cause was clear: lightening had struck the rails at the mine entry and travelled deep into the mine to ignite a pocket of methane gas. The resulting explosion could have killed an entire shift of workers. That day, the maintenance crew, alone, walked the depths of danger.

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