White Ash Memorial Plaque A plaque and exhibit near the entrance to the Colorado School of Mines athletic fields memorialize the White Ash Mine disaster.

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Golden's Worst Tragedy

On an early September day in 1889, ten coal miners drowned in the deadliest disaster in Golden's history. It was nearly 4 pm, the end of the day shift at the White Ash Mine at the end of Second Street (now 12th Street) south of Clear Creek only blocks from the center of town. Seven hundred thirty feet beneath the earth, two men at the bottom of the vertical mine shaft signaled to be winched to the surface. Eight other men were finishing their shift in a horizonal tunnel that followed a coal vein north under Clear Creek from the mine shaft.

It was well known that the nearby Loveland Mine on the other side of Clear Creek had filled with water after shutting down eight years earlier. There was supposed to be a 90-foot thick wall of solid rock separating the abandoned mine from the operating one. There wasn't. An underground fire, possibly the same one that had shut down the White Ash Mine for a few days three years earlier or maybe emanating from burning at the White Ash Mine dump, had worked its way northwest along a vein of coal that connected tunnels in the two mines far below ground. Suddenly, 3,000,000 cubic feet of water broke through and poured into the vertical mine shaft 250 feet above the hapless miners. Overnight, a thousand distraught friends, family and rescue volunteers congregated at the site of the disaster, but there was nothing to be done. Days later, it was determined that recovering the bodies was not feasible. The miners were forever entombed. The Golden Globe wrote, "Several of the families are left without means of support for the future, and are in needy circumstances."

It wasn't long before a new White Ash Mine and a new Loveland Mine, located north of the original mines, were once again extracting high quality coal from the White Ash coal vein. The sites of the new mines are now city parks, appropriately named New Loveland Mine Park and White Ash Mine Park.

Today a bronze plaque mounted on a red granite stone near the original White Ash Mine shaft memorializes that fateful day. Walk west along the Clear Creek trail; cross the creek at the Billy Drew foot bridge, then walk west on 11th Street, south on Maple and west on 12th toward the School of Mines athletic fields. From the memorial, it's a short hike along the School of Mines Geology Trail or back along 12th Street to Maple Street and then right to the fascinating School of Mines Geology Museum at 13th and Maple Streets.