Tragedy at the No. 9 Mine
On November 20, 1968, the small town of Farmington, West Virginia, became forever associated with one of the worst coal mining disasters in history. On this day, 99 men went to work at the Consolidation Coal Company No. 9 mine. Of those, 78—ranging in age from 20 to 63 years old—lost their lives. The mine was sealed with 19 bodies still inside.
The book No. 9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster is the product of author Bonnie Stewart’s three-year investigation into media accounts of the event, state and federal inspection records, sworn testimonies, and coal mining laws. The nonfiction book recounts the disaster, the conditions that allowed it to happen, and the progress made in mining safety regulations since. Stewart grippingly outlines the shortcuts and money-savers that emanated from a “coal first, safety second” mentality. She tells the tragic stories of the men whose lives were cut too short.
No. 9 is a must-read for anyone interested in West Virginia history or coal mining. In the wake of other mining disasters, including the April 2010 blast at the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, that killed 29 men, it is clear that the issues in Stewart’s book are as relevant today as they were in 1968.
Stewart previously taught journalism at West Virginia University and has worked at The Indianapolis Star as well as The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California.