On March 8, 1960, a slate fall reportedly started a coal fire at the Island Creek Coal Company mine at 22 Holden. Carbon monoxide gas resulting from the fire would eventually claim the lives of 18 miners.
Twenty men were trapped by the slate fall and fire, but snow and cold temperatures on the surface hampered efforts to extinguish the flames. Two miners, Kyle Blair and Willis Carter were reportedly with the group of 20 miners and decided to crawl through a narrow passage to try to find a way out. Eight days after the slate fall and resulting fire, the bodies of the remaining 18 men were found.
For years, the absence of a memorial has left a blank page at the end of the disaster’s history. While mining is still active at the 22 Holden mine, the community which was built to house the mine’s workers has been demolished. A road now sits where rows of coal company houses once held miners and their families.
With the intent of preserving the history surrounding the Holden 22 mine community and the disaster while memorializing the 18 lives lost, the Holden 22 Miners Memorial Committee (HMMC) was formed in 2014.
In June, 2015, the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority deeded a property along 22 Mine Road to the HMMC. The Logan Banner was recently granted access to the site which is situated across from the new National Guard Logan-Mingo Readiness Center.
The site that will eventually be home to the Holden 22 Miners Memorial is currently in development. A concrete pad was poured in September and plans to erect a brick structure on the pad are currently in motion.
A memorial stone has already been carved and stands ready to be installed when the structure is finished. Eventually, the group hopes to build a shelter apart from the memorial and landscape the area.
A press release from HMMC quotes the group’s president, Isom Ooten as saying, “This memorial…has been set aside for families, friends and neighbors who lived in the coal camp community of 22 Holden.”
The group is currently seeking donations to help allay the memorial’s construction costs. Donations can be sent to: Holden 22 Miners Memorial Fund Inc. PO Box 22 Holden, WV 25625. Make check payable to: Holden Twenty Two Miners Memorial
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]