Explosion kills 11 coal miners at Lawson Mine, McKay, King County, on October 1, 1902.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 1635

On October 1, 1902, at about 8:30 p.m., an explosion at the Lawson Mine of the Pacific Coast Co. located at McKay, King County, kills 11 coal miners, and injures four miners.

The miners who died, as listed by the State Inspector of Coal Mines, were:

  • J. Swanson, single, killed.
  • R. Lamberger, single, killed.
  • Joe Jocki, married, killed--wife and one child.
  • J. Cerazhino, single, killed.
  • Hugh Lanader, single, killed.
  • Frank Flinder, single, killed.
  • E. Ricci, single, killed.
  • Louis Deckman, single, killed.
  • Symon Tarasoviz, married--wife and four children--killed.
  • Ed Applenap, single, killed.
  • Frank Grosshell, married--wife and one child--killed.

Gas, Dust, and Fire

According to the investigation immediately following the explosion, the accident was caused by two shots being fire one right after the other, an unsafe practice. The first shot went off, loosening coal and releasing methane gas (called at the time firedamp) and dust into the air. The second shot going off set the methane gas on fire and that in turn ignited the explosive coal dust, which exploded.

The Pacific Coast Co. had its offices in the Burke Building in downtown Seattle. The firm operated Mines No. 1 and 7 (or Bruce) and the Gem at Franklin, the Coal Creek Mine at New Castle, and the Lawson Mine at McKay. The mines were all on the line of the Columbia & Puget Sound Railroad. The president of the firm was J. D. Farrel; vice president and general manager, W. E. Pierce; general foreman, William Hann; mine foreman at the Lawson mine, Ben Allen.

The Lawson mine, located at McKay, King County, Washington, produced 107,750 tons of coal in 1902, and worked 301 days of the year with 178 employees.


C. F. Owen, Report of the State [of Washington] Inspector of Coal Mines for the Years 1901-1902 (Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, Inc., 1903), 44-47, 33-34.

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