Willa Soncarty
Registrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
This headstone at Linwood Cemetery honors Sunlight mine explosion victims Louis and Giovanni (John) Andreatta. Louis and Giovanni Andreatta were brothers, while a third Andreatta, Emil (Ermino), was a brother-in-law.

The roar of an explosion shook the mining town of Sunlight at 5:40 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, 1897. Frantic women raced to the coal mine, hoping that their worst fears would not be realized. Twelve men were trapped, and possibly had perished, in the Sunlight coal mine.

Some of miners who had just left their shift for the day rushed back into the mine, trying to locate their fellow workers. Dust, debris and deadly gases met the men at the mine’s entrance. Once inside, the miners found all twelve of their fellow workers dead, killed immediately by the concussion of the blast.

A small log cabin in Sunlight acted as a makeshift morgue. Newspapers covered the 12 mutilated bodies while paper tags on dead miners’ feet served for identification. As blood from the bodies pooled outside the cabin, caskets purchased by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. were brought in to prepare for burials.

The 12 bodies were taken to St. Stephen’s Catholic Church at 10th Street and Blake Avenue for funeral services. After Father McAleney read a burial service for each man, the remains of John Mattivi; Joe Cassagrande; John, Emil and Louis Andreatta; Anton Eppich; John Joanning; Louis Rissi; Anton Martintoni; Louis Zaunin; Francis McCloud; and Theodore Pallassi were laid to rest in Linwood Cemetery on Sept. 5, 1897.

A six-man jury did not find a definitive cause to the blast that killed so many men. The Sunlight mine explosion, however, would exemplify the dangers of the coal mining profession ” a profession at which many willingly risked their lives every day.

“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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