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Milford Mine facts

Milford Mine facts

■ First named the Ida Mae, the Milford Mine was about three miles north of Crosby.

■ The first shaft was sunk in 1918 with actual mining beginning in 1923.

■ Total tonnage of high-grade manganese taken from the mine equaled 143,210 tons.

■ Forty-one miners lost their lives in the mine disaster on Feb. 5, 1924. Thirty-three miners were married, leaving 88 children without fathers.

■ By Feb. 8, three women were still unaware their husbands were dead. Two were giving birth and a third lay ill. The last body was recovered on Nov. 4, 1924.

■ Following the disaster, which received state and national attention, an investigation into the deaths was shrouded with stories of a cover-up.

■ Two days after the mine was flooded, Gov. J. A. O. Preus said he would call a conference of the state calamity board to provide meals for the miners’ families and the rescue work.

■ On Feb. 28, 1924, Gov. Preus appointed a five-member committee following requests by the Duluth Federated Trades Assembly and the state federation of labor.

■ On March 1, 1924, The Farmer Labor Record newspaper in Brainerd was extremely critical of the mine management and poor work conditions.

■ The mine was reported to be a “dry” mine with very little water but reports of an engineer working in the mine contradicted that assertion. Author Berger Aulie, a lifelong Cuyuna Range resident and author of “The Milford Mine Disaster” said every photo has miners in hip boots and rain slickers.

■ County mine inspector August Swanson reported the disaster came when a small pond to the east of the shaft undermined the workings and broke into the mine.

■ The state committee found no fault that led directly to loss of life in the mine, but did find fault in having only one shaft leading out of the mine instead of two exits.

■ The state committee refuted a charge the underground mine was pushing under Foley Lake. The committee reported a surface cave-in of six or eight feet at the mine’s easternmost end tapped into mud with a direction connection to the lake — said to be 300 feet to 400 feet away.

■ Pressure from the lake behind the cave-in provided the push behind the rush of mud, the committee reported. And the lives of 41 men, many who traveled across an ocean for a life in America would end in the blackness hundreds of feet below the surface.

■ The miners came from Minnesota, Austria, Finland, Germany, Yugoslavia, Michigan, Canada and Scotland.

■ “Every night I cried for my daddy, which finished breaking my mother’s heart,” said Lois Clausen, in an oral history interview on March 22, 1994. She was 7 when her father died in the Milford Mine disaster.

■ The Duluth Herald reported on Feb. 7, 1924 that all hope for the entombed miners was given up within a half hour of the catastrophe. “There has been no rise of the waters since and only an occasional air bubble coming through the black mud disturbs the otherwise quiet surface.”

■ “Capt. Evan Crellin, in his 30s, met his death because of his refusal to leave the mine while some of his men were behind,” the Duluth Herald reported.

The Herald reported “Crellin was near the shaft when the water first rushed into the upper level but told Harry Hosford, Matt Kangas, Jacob Ravonich, Frank Hrvatin Jr., Carl Frals and Mike Zakatnik, who were with him, to rush on ahead. ‘I’ll go back and get some of the other boys,’ he told them.”

■ “Minor Graves, coming up right behind Emil Kainu in the dash out of the bottom level of the mine, was caught in the onrushing water and mud and was unable to extricate himself. Hanging on to the ladder, Graves could not pull himself up and Kainu, who was the last man out of the mine, saw his comrade drop into the mud,” The Duluth Herald, Feb. 7, 1924.

■ Two days after the disaster, one of the widows was described as a tragic figure. Mrs. Valentine Cole, was described in tears and wailing as she sat in a little one-room shack, covered with tar paper. She had a 4-month-old baby in her lap and a 4-year-old son at her side.

■ Survivor Frank Hrvatin, then 16, worked in the mine with his father. His father reportedly said good-bye to his son when the water and mud rose about the older man’s feet and legs. After the rush to the surface, Hrvatin said survivors dropped to the ground and it was all over in 15 minutes. “I knew then I would never see my dad no more,” he said years later. “They were all dead.” The Dispatch reported young Hrvatin yelled a warning to the miners, then saw his father run through the flood “only to perish when the mud licked up his footsteps and drew him into its slimy embrace.”

■ Black oozing mud chases seven men as they fled for safety up the shaft ladders, the Dispatch reported, noting it was “the greatest catastrophe in the history of the Cuyuna Iron Range and in fact for any northern range.”

■ Cost of recovering the bodies was estimated at $1,000 per day, according to the findings of a committee appointed to investigate the tragedy.

■ In a Crow Wing County mine inspector’s report in 1925, it was reported $250,000 was spent to recondition the mine in order to reopen it.

■ In 1932, the mine closed because of lack of demand for manganese ore during the Great Depression.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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