Coal Miner Killed In Mine Near Astoria

Jesse Gruber Crushed By Cave-in In Mine On Sylvester Markley Farm

Jesse Gruber was instantly killed in a low vein coal mine on the Sylvester Markley farm, ten miles southeast of Astoria, in Kerton township Monday afternoon at about 2:30 o'clock, when soapstone fell on him while he was driving a seven foot entry.

The mine was being operated by Ernest Rose, also of Astoria. Mr. Rose took charge of the mine the first of last week and Mr. Gruber had commenced work Monday morning. After Monday the men intended to form some kind of partnership.

Coroner Mark S. Nelson of Canton, conducted an inquest at the Shawgo Memorial home Tuesday evening. The following composed the jury: A. N. Price, J. H. Gruber, Dave Phillips, Ernest Bubb, Keith Parry and Carl Whittenberg.

The first witness to be called was Ernest Rose, who was in the mine at the time of the accident. In part Mr. Rose said: “I went to work in the mine on the Sylvester Markley farm a week ago Monday. It is a low vein, from 34 to 36 inches thick. Mr. Gruber was out of work and I gave him a job. It was his first day. We were driving an entry 7 foot wide. We were back about 35 feet. We had put in two shots and was preparing to put in another. We had timbered up and I had sounded the roof before the accident. I was working within five feet of him. He was drilling a hole to put in a shot when a large quantity of soapstone fell without any warning. I was knocked against the face of the coal by the fall. I hurried out and called for help. A McLean boy came and we went into the mine and removed the slate. Mr. Markley also came in. It took us about 30 minutes to remove the slate and to get him out of the mine. He was dead. I think death was instantaneous. I think about five tons of slate fell. It was about 16 inches thick, 12 feet long and 7 feet wide. He was completely covered up with the exception of his head and neck. He never spoke a word, only made a moaning sound. After we got him out of the mine we called Dr. A. A. Fuson of Summum, who came and examined him. Then we secured permission from the coroner to remove the body to the Shawgo Memorial home in Astoria. There was no one else in the mine excepting myself and Gruber. I have a miner's certificate. Mr. Gruber has had mine experience.”

T. M. Guthrey of Farmington, state mine inspector, was the next to testify. He said he visited the mine, went in and examined it and in his opinion the cross timbers were too light to support the roof which was the cause of the accident.

Dr. Fuson was next called and he testified that he was called to the Markley mine at about 3 o'clock and saw the dead man. “I examined him. I noted his injuries which was in the region of the hips and abdominal cavity.”

Sylvester Markley, owner of the land on which the mine is located, testified that he heard Rose call for help and went in the mind and assisted in removing the slate. He said Mr. Rose was operating the mine.

After hearing the evidence, the jury returned a verdict to the effect that death was accidental.


Jesse Gruber, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Gruber, was born April 6, 1898. At the time of his death he was aged 38 years, 8 months and 1 day. He was united in marriage to Bessie Bucher in 1916, who with seven children survives, Olijean, Iona, Mary, Max, Edward, Stanley, and Robert. He is also survived by his father and one sister, Mrs. O. A. Bloomfield, both residing in Astoria.

Funeral services will be held Thursday afternoon at 2 o'clock at the Church of the Brethren, conducted by Rev. E. F. Caslow of Virden. Interment in Astoria cemetery.


Published in the Argus-Searchlight on 12/9/1936


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